The Lead

Pa. state Sen. Blake to take econ development job with Cartwright, sparking NEPA special election

By: - February 15, 2021 12:54 pm

State Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, flanked by state Reps. Marty Flynn, left, and Kyle Mullins, right. (Courtesy of Pa. Senate)

*This story was updated at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, 2/15/21 with additional information

State Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, will resign his office March 8 to take a job with northeastern Pennsylvania’s congressional representative.

Blake, first elected in 2010, will now work to bring federal economic development dollars back to Scranton and its surroundings under U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District. 

Cartwright is set to chair a Congressional appropriations subcommittee this session that manages $70 billion in federal funding for economic development, law enforcement, and science.

Speaking at a press conference in Scranton on Monday morning, Blake said he already did not plan to run for reelection in 2022. So the job offer from Cartwright “fully advanced by some months something that would have been inevitable.”

A benefit of the new job, Blake added, was he could be home with his wife every night instead of in Harrisburg.

Before becoming a senator, Blake worked on economic policy for years in the public and private sectors, including a stint as the acting secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development under former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Until this year, Blake was a member of caucus leadership, before he was defeated in internal elections as part of a wider reshuffle that brought progressive women into the caucus’ inner circle.

Blake represents the 22nd Senate District, including Lackawanna County — home to Scranton — as well as parts of Luzerne and Monroe counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Blake’s resignation will set up a special election to pick a replacement. Its exact timing will be determined by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. 

Two other legislative special elections are already scheduled for the state’s May 18 primary. Special elections have cost taxpayers an average of  $178,000 each since 2014, according to a 2019 PennLive report.

The Republican and Democratic candidates for the race will be picked by the elected party committee members, not registered voters. 

It has been Democratic Party policy in recent years to pick candidates for districts that stretch across multiple counties, such as the 22nd, in public meetings. The Republican meetings are usually closed to the public.

The district hasn’t been represented by a Republican since 1970, although former President Donald Trump performed well there in 2016.

At least three Lackawanna County Democratic representatives — Marty Flynn, Kyle Mullins, and Bridget Kosierowski — are expected to vie for the Democratic nod. Both Flynn and Kosierowski confirmed their interest to the Capital-Star.

Kosierowski added that her primary focus at the moment is serving on a newly formed legislative vaccine task force set up by Gov. Tom Wolf last week.

A victory by any of the lawmakers would then prompt another special election to represent their respective district.

Picking candidates for special elections can be a covert and complicated process. A state lawmaker wants to change that

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.