New Castle News

December 14, 2013

John K. Manna: City school board contest saw plenty of campaign spending

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — This has been an unusual year for politics in Lawrence County.

It’s been a highly uneventful year, except perhaps for those who won election to public office. They are probably very happy, maybe gleeful. And maybe there are some wondering why they ran for office in the first place.

But what has made it an unusual year is the amount of money candidates for the New Castle Area School Board spent on their campaigns.

Usually, spending by school board candidates ranges from zero to in the hundreds of dollars. This year, however, several were in the thousands. Not only that, but some were among the top spenders in the county.

In fact, George Gabriel, former New Castle superintendent, topped all candidates by spending $7,850 on both the primary and general election campaigns.

That’s the kind of money usually reserved for candidates running for offices that provide remuneration, such as for district attorney.

Actually, District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa spent less than $6,000 to get re-elected. He spent so little because he had no opposition.

Four years ago when he had an opponent, Lamancusa spent more than $50,000 on the fall campaign. So, it stands to reason that he would have dwarfed other candidates this year if he had had opposition. And then I wouldn’t be writing this.

Two other school board candidates, Mark Panella and Steve Fornataro, also outspent candidates for other offices for the year.

If Councilman Thomas Smith had survived the primary, he may have outspent these two men or possibly all three board candidates. For the primary alone, he spent $5,132.

It needs to be noted that none of the three school board candidates spent much for the general election because they were essentially shoo-ins. Most of the spending came during the primary campaign.

Nonetheless, is this heavy spending for a school board seat an anomaly or the new normal?