Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton is ready for a battle against State Representative John Yudichak to replace retiring Senator Ray Musto in Pennsylvania’s 14th Senatorial district. Leighton says he expects to raise and spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $500,000 to win the seat that covers parts of Luzerne, Carbon, and Monroe counties.
“I respect the job that Senator Musto did, and when he announced at the end of January that he was going to retire and not seek re-election, it opened up a door. I feel I can be of great assistance to all the communities in this district,” Leighton said when he sat down with us at the Barnes and Noble bookstore on South Main Street. “It is a very large district that takes up a large part of Luzerne and Carbon Counties and a few townships in Monroe. I feel the experience I had as a legislator, serving three terms on Wilkes-Barre City council and six and a half years as the chief executive, I can take that experience to Harrisburg.”
“I can help the communities in the 14th district grow as I have helped Wilkes-Barre City grow. As a mayor, you are in the trenches,” Leighton continued. “You know how to get things done. You know how to go to Harrisburg and bring back funding that helps revitalize a town. This revitalization is not only in the downtown, but the infrastructure of the whole city.”
“Most of the district is an aging area, where the streets are older, sewer lines are collapsing and they need attention. Unfortunately many towns can’t afford to fix these problems. I know what it’s like to rebuild a town. I know how to bring groups together,” Leighton said. “I know I can work with all the elected officials, the residents, and the business community to help these towns become better places to live.”
“Well even as the mayor of a strong Democratic community and a strong Democratic county, you have people who don’t want to partner with you, and that is why Wilkes-Barre has seen failures over the years,” Leighton said when asked how he hopes to overcome hyper-partisanship that seems to exist today in Harrisburg. “You need leadership that can work both sides, work with the political parties, but more importantly work with the different groups that compete with each other. The perfect example is the Barnes and Noble, where we’re sitting right now. This would not have happened unless we were able to bring Kings and Wilkes together. That’s just one example.”
“When you look around, you see that the city has partnered with many non-profits to get projects done. Just look up and down South Main Street.,” Leighton said. “We worked with Wilkes to take over the call center. You go up North Main Street, we took down two blighted buildings and a restaurant, and now you have a $20 million multi-purpose building that houses college students, a day care, classrooms, and a restaurant. That doesn’t happen with out Kings’ cooperation, the city’s cooperation, and private partnership. You look to the riverfront, you have cooperation between the federal, state, county, and city government..”
“When I get to Harrisburg, it’s time to sit down with both parties and we have to make the state of Pennsylvania better for all of us,” Leighton added. “We need to start working together, and I believe partnerships can be developed to benefit the entire state.”
Leighton, 49, is a graduate of Bishop Hoban High School, and he has a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Kings College. He was first elected to Wilkes-Barre City Council in 1991. He was re-elected two times. In 2003, he was elected Mayor of the City of Wilkes-Barre and was re-elected in 2007.
Favorite Movie: “Miracle on 34th Street”
Last Book Read: “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt
Most Admired President: John F. Kennedy
Ideal Job: Being part of a family real estate business
Best Picture Prediction: “The Blind Side.”