By Michael Sadowski
May 21 The embattled mayor of Pennsylvania's
financially crippled capital of Harrisburg was ousted on Tuesday
when she lost the Democratic primary to the owner of an
Mayor Linda Thompson's loss to Eric Papenfuse comes after a
tumultuous term in which her outbursts and statements caused a
loss of confidence in her administration.
Papenfuse is likely to win the general election in this
heavily Democratic city in November, but he must still face off
against independent candidate Nevin Mindlin.
There were also more than 400 Republican write-in votes for
a variety of candidates.
Papenfuse won with more than 38 percent of the nearly 6,500
votes. City Comptroller Dan Miller came in second with 32
percent, and Thompson trailed with about 28 percent. The
remaining votes went to the other candidates.
Thompson once referred to Miller - Harrisburg's first openly
gay elected official when he was on the City Council - as a
"homosexual, evil little man," according to local media reports.
In subsequent stories, she did not deny the comment.
In her concession speech Thompson said: "I don't feel this
is a failure. I did the people's work over the last
The central Pennsylvania city of nearly 50,000 became a
poster child for municipal financial mismanagement because of a
questionable 2007 bond deal to finance upgrades to the city's
trash incinerator. The borrowing 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 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. 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.
At a victory party in his Midtown Scholar Bookstore,
Papenfuse addressed his supporters.
"Long work lies ahead of us, and with your help,
Harrisburg's best days are ahead of it," he said.