Powell to run for district attorney next year

By Borys Krawczeniuk | The Times-Tribune

Attorney Mark J. Powell plans to seek the Democratic nomination for Lackawanna County district attorney next year, a move almost certain to ensure a spirited contest for a county post that Republicans have ruled for more than four decades.

Mr. Powell, 52, of Moosic, announced his long-rumored candidacy Monday at a kickoff party at the Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel before about 125 people. He promised he would act independently, try cases regularly and run the office with sound financial practices in mind. Mr. Powell said he would target the opioid addiction crisis and child predators and protect the elderly.

“In 2017, we will have the opportunity to break away from one-party rule in the office of district attorney,” Mr. Powell told a gathering of family, friends and supporters. “With your support, we can make 2017 a truly historic year.”

Mr. Powell also addressed what could become a campaign issue if he is the Democratic nominee, especially because the likely Republican nominee will be a longtime assistant district attorney with plenty of experience prosecuting crime. Mr. Powell never prosecuted a crime but specialized in criminal defense work. He said he will likely be the only candidate certified as a criminal law and civil law specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and with a master’s degree in trial advocacy.

Only 3 percent of lawyers nationwide earn the civil and criminal certifications, he said.

“I have spent a lifetime preparing for this job,” he said. “In the last 26 years of my career, I have built a rock-solid foundation in the courtroom, the classroom and the community.”

No other Democrat announced a candidacy. Incumbent Republican District Attorney Shane Scanlon is expected to run for his party’s nomination and former First Assistant District Attorney Eugene Talerico announced plans to run for the Republican nomination, too.

No Democrat has served as district attorney since early January 1970, the last few days of Joseph Cimino’s eight years in office. Republicans have held the seat since, though several, including Andy Jarbola, Michael Barrasse and Mr. Scanlon, started out as Democrats.

County Democratic Chairman Chris Patrick already declared winning the office as his top priority next year.

Democrats occupy all the other county row offices. County Commissioner Laureen Cummings is the only other elected Republican county official.

Mr. Patrick said Mr. Powell gives Democrats their best chance to win the office in a long time.

“I see a lot of people rallying around his candidacy,” Mr. Patrick said.

County Republican Chairman Lance Stange Jr. said he expects the Republican grip on the office to continue.

“We’re going to work very hard to make sure that it does,” Mr. Stange said.

Mr. Talerico said he was not surprised by Mr. Powell’s entry into the race, but said he’s focused on winning the primary election next May before taking on a Democrat.

“I feel my background demonstrates I’m the most qualified for the position,” he said.

Attempts to reach Mr. Scanlon were unsuccessful.

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