Cognetti becomes Scranton's first female mayor

Register now

Paige Cognetti, who campaigned as a fresh face in corruption-plagued Scranton, Pennsylvania, was elected the city's first female mayor on Tuesday.

Cognetti, a Democrat running as an independent, topped a field of seven looking to fill out the term, through January 2021, of Bill Courtright, who resigned in July and pleaded guilty to three felony pay-to-play public corruption charges. Courtright will face sentencing in Williamsport later this month.

Cognetti, 39, from Beaverton, Oregon, is a former public school official who was a senior advisor to the undersecretary for international affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department in the Obama administration.

While on the staff of Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, she helped write a report critical of the Scranton School District.

Cognetti said she would work to improve Scranton’s finances and budgetary transparency.

Being fairly new to Scranton may have worked in her favor, Cognetti told reporters after the election. She railed against machine politics throughout her campaign in a city home to generational Democratic dominance. Presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden hails from there, as does senior U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

"People are hungry for a fresh perspective," she said. "My husband's family has been here for many, many generations so that paired together is something I believe was really powerful. I think people are ready to move on from the corruption."

Scranton, the 77,000-population seat of Lackawanna County, has struggled with chronic budget imbalance and unfunded pension liability. Its credibility in the capital markets plummeted in 2012 when it missed a bond payment to the local parking authority amid a political dispute.

The city has been looking to exit the state-sponsored Act 47 program for distressed communities, in which it has labored since 1992.

City Council member Kyle Donahue, also a Democrat running as an independent, finished a distant second in the field of seven and conceded early.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Joseph Ganim easiiy won re-election over Republican John Rodrigiez in a general election shrouded by lawsuits over Ganim's 270-vote Democratic primary win over state Sen. Marilyn Moore.

Moore, who sued over the primary absentee-ballot count, was a write-in candidate on Tuesday.

The Connecticut Supreme Court declined Monday to postpone the general election over allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the Democratic primary. The court, in its final ruling, may clarify standards for future election-result challenges.

Ganim’s victory will give him his second term since staging a political comeback after his conviction on felony corruption charges. He was also mayor from 1991 until 2003. Ganim upset incumbent Bill Finch in the 2015 Democratic primary.

In New Haven, 20 miles away, Justin Elicker unseated Mayor Toni Harp in a repeat of the Democratic mayoral primary. Harp, 72 and seeking a fourth term after 20 years in the state Senate, ran under the Working Families Party in the general election.

Elicker, 41, is a former executive director of the New Haven Land Trust and a former teacher.

"This victory is resounding," Elicker said in his victory speech, "It's resounding across the city, and it sends a message; it’s a message for change."

Gov. Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal endorsed Elicker.

Moody’s Investors Service in July revised its outlook on New Haven’s general obligation bonds to stable from negative while affirming its Baa1 rating, three notches above junk.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin won a second term. Bronin, a Democrat and forner Gov. Dannel Malloy's chief counsel, brokered a state bailout to help keep the capital city out of bankruptcy. The so-called contract assistance deal made $540 million of Hartford debt a general obligation of the state.

Fall River, Massachusetts, reeling from federal fraud and extortion charges against its current mayor, will have a new face at City Hall on Jan 1. Paul Coogan, a School Committee member, won 80% of the vote to 13% from write-in candidate Cathy Ann Viveiros.

Incumbent Jasiel Correia II, who suspended his re-election effort after his indictment for allegedly shaking down marijuana vendors, was still on the ballot and totaled 7%. Massachusetts voters elected to legalize cannabis in 2016.

Correia, 27, indicted separately last year for his involvement in a scheme to defraud investors in a smartphone app company, has taken a leave from his job until it expires, and ceded daily operational functions to City Council president Cliff Ponte.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Elections Luke Bronin City of New Haven, CT City of Scranton, PA Connecticut Massachusetts Pennsylvania