Blake to direct Cartwright's district office with jobs focus

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Feb. 16—SCRANTON — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright's greatest expectation of his new hire, state Sen. John Blake, is simple: produce jobs.

Blake, D-22, Archbald, will resign his Senate seat March 8, the day he starts working as Cartwright's new district director with an emphasis on economic development. They formally announced the moves at a joint news conference Monday at the former Oppenheim Building in downtown Scranton.

"There are those who say the best social program is a job," Cartwright, D-8, Moosic, said. "And I'm one of them. And John Blake is another one. This is a remarkable opportunity for us in Northeastern Pennsylvania to put John Blake to work doing economic development. Economic development is a $50 phrase: it means more jobs."

The job description for Blake and his decades of government-based economic development experience includes finding worthy ways to spend all the federal money Cartwright promises to bring home in his new House post. Late last month, Cartwright, a House Appropriations Committee member, took over as chairman of the committee's Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, which oversees more than $70 billion in federal spending.

Blake, 60, first elected to the Senate in 2010, said Sunday he grew weary of sitting in a Senate where Democrats always sat in the minority, which thwarted their many legislative hopes. That and the ongoing health struggles of his wife Louise convinced him he wants to work closer to home. He already planned to retire from the Senate next year. He first talked to Cartwright shortly after the November election about working for President Joe Biden's administration, but then Cartwright brought up the district director post.

With Cartwright's growing influence in Washington, D.C., he can do more for the region "than I can do in the minority in Harrisburg," Blake said during the news conference. "It's really about that, because that's what my life has been about."

Blake spent a decade as executive director of the Lackawanna County Redevelopment Authority in the 1980s and 1990s, several years as a vice president and community development manager at PNC Bank, and more than seven years as Gov. Ed Rendell's northeast regional director and in top jobs in Rendell's state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Blake will get a raise from $90,335 as a senator to $110,000 a year working for Cartwright. He will replace Bob Morgan, district director since Cartwright first joined Congress in January 2013. Morgan will leave at the end of the month for another opportunity he declined to disclose, and said he has no hard feelings about his departure.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will schedule a special election to replace Blake. The special election will likely coincide with the May 18 primary. Fetterman has already scheduled a special election for that day to fill a vacancy created by the Jan. 17 death of Sen. David Arnold, R-48, who represented all or parts of Lebanon, Dauphin and York counties.

Democratic and Republican parties in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Monroe counties will choose nominees for the special election. The exact nature of the process remains unclear with party chairmen saying they expect to determine that soon.

The special election winner will serve only until Blake's term expires Nov. 30, 2022, unless reelected earlier that month.

The potential Democratic candidates include:

State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton, who confirmed he will seek the nomination and said his seniority in the local House delegation should give him a leg up. Flynn first won his House seat in 2012, and is serving his fifth two-year term.

State Rep. Kyle Mullins, D-112, Blakely, Blake's one-time legislative director and long considered his apparent heir. He first won his seat in 2018, and is serving his second term.

State Rep. Bridget Kosierowski, D-114, Waverly, who won her first full House term in November after winning a special election for the state in March 2019. Kosierowski, a nurse recently named to a state COVID-19 vaccine task force, said that's taking up her time, but she's "certainly weighing my options."

Attorney Francis McHale, of Scranton Democrat, a former state Worker's Insurance Fund official, said he plans to seek the nomination. McHale unsuccessfully sought the 112th House District seat Democratic nomination when Mullins won.

The potential Republican candidates include:

Lackawanna County Commissioner Chris Chermak. In his second year as a commissioner, Chermak said he's considering seeking the party's nomination.

Scott Twp. Supervisor Mike Giannetta. Giannetta, Chermak's running mate for commissioner in 2019, lost that race amid some controversial Facebook posts. Though Giannetta has said he is eyeing a county judgeship race in 2023, he said he will seriously consider a Senate bid.

Cartwright represents the 8th Congressional District, which includes all of Lackawanna, Pike and Wayne counties, most of Luzerne County and part of Monroe County.

The 22nd Senate District includes all of Lackawanna County; Avoca, Dupont and Duryea boroughs and Pittston Twp. in Luzerne County; and Barrett, Coolbaugh and Price townships in Monroe County. The district is entirely within the 8th Congressional District.

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9147