May 21 The mayor of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's
cash-strapped capital, faces off on Tuesday against two fellow
Democrats in a primary election that will likely determine who
leads a city that has become a poster child for financial
Democrats in the city of 50,000 must choose between Linda
Thompson, a first-term mayor with low approval ratings, and
challengers Eric Papenfuse, an independent bookstore owner, and
Dan Miller, the city's comptroller.
The winner of Tuesday's primary will be the presumed victor
in November's general election in the heavily Democratic city.
There is no Republican primary, but at least one independent
candidate is slated to run in the fall.
A questionable 2007 bond deal to finance upgrades to the
city's trash incinerator put Harrisburg on the hook for what is
now at least $340 million in debt, though some reports peg the
figure at $370 million.
Harrisburg faces a cumulative deficit of at least $13
million. It is struggling to pay for basic services and has had
to skip at least $9 million in debt service payments.
After trying unsuccessfully in 2011 to file for bankruptcy,
the city is now under the financial control of state-appointed
receiver William Lynch. Lynch is trying to sell or lease several
city assets under a court-approved fiscal recovery plan.
It was under the former mayor of 28 years, Steve Reed, that
the city inked the incinerator financing deal. The city's
current mayor, Thompson, ousted Reed in the fall of 2009.
Reed was also at the helm when the city misstated some
information on financial disclosures, leading the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission to charge the city with fraud
earlier this month.
Problems with late financial disclosures allegedly continued
once Thompson took over. No individuals were named in the case
and the city made no payment under its settlement with the SEC.
Thompson has a strong base in the city's majority
African-American population. But former staffers have said her
aggressive style and controversial statements created a toxic
atmosphere inside her office.
The one poll taken so far, published May 13 by Susquehanna
Polling and Research for the local ABC News station, had
Thompson trailing by a wide margin, with just 13 percent of the
vote. Miller and Papenfuse were tied at 30 percent each, but
some 23 percent were undecided.
Fifty-seven percent of those polled strongly disapproved of
Thompson's performance on the job. The poll has a margin of
error of 5.6 percent.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.