Blake to resign state Senate seat for post with Cartwright

·4 min read

Feb. 15—Longtime state Sen. John Blake will resign his job March 8 for a new position with U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright.

Blake, 60, confirmed only his resignation and its date, but multiple other sources confirmed he will work for Cartwright. Blake and Cartwright are scheduled to appear jointly at a news conference today at 11 a.m. in downtown Scranton.

Repeated efforts to reach Cartwright were unsuccessful.

"I've given my all to it (the Senate seat)," Blake said Sunday in a telephone interview with The Times-Tribune. "My passion and my joy in the job has ebbed over the past couple of years."

A special election will be scheduled to replace Blake. Democratic and Republican parties in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Monroe counties will choose nominees for the special election. The winner will serve only until Blake's current term expires on Nov. 30, 2022, unless reelected earlier that month.

With a stellar reputation as a dedicated public servant, Blake, D-22, Archbald, elected senator in November 2010, said he grew frustrated with Democrats always remaining in the Senate minority. He hoped the November election would change that, but Republicans maintained their majority.

That minority status prevented him from accomplishing more, he said. A desire to remain closer to home to help his ailing wife also fueled his decision, he said. They had already decided he would not seek reelection next year. The loss of a Democratic leadership post after the November general election only confirmed it was time to move on, he said.

"At the same time, being able to come home to my wife every night, it's a big deal for me," Blake said, choking back tears. "And I hope that the people understand that it's been really difficult to make this decision."

A veteran of three decades working behind the scenes in state and local government, Blake emerged as the surprise winner of a six-person May 2010 Democratic primary election to replace state Senate Democratic Leader Robert J. Mellow, who decided to retire after 40 years in office. Mellow later served more than a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiring to use Senate staff and other resources to raise campaign money and conspiring to cheat on taxes on the sale of the building that housed his Blakely Senate office.

During his election campaign, Blake highlighted his corruption-free decades of service in government. In winning, Blake defeated several better-known or better-financed candidates, including former Lackawanna County Commissioner Joseph J. Corcoran, for whom he once worked; insurance executive Charles J. Volpe; state Rep. Jim Wansacz; Scranton Mayor Christopher A. Doherty; and Scranton School Director Christopher Phillips.

That November, he easily defeated Republican Frank Scavo to win the Senate seat. He handily defeated Republican Joe Albert in 2014 and Scavo again in 2018 to win two more four-year terms.

A football star at Valley View High School before playing at Villanova University, Blake served as executive director of the Lackawanna County Redevelopment Authority and worked there for almost a decade. He served as a middle manager in the state Department of Community Affairs under Gov. Robert P. Casey and followed that with a short stint as executive director of the county's tourism bureau, where he helped found the Steamtown Marathon, according to his resume at the time.

In 1998, he was chosen from among 9,000 applicants nationwide to a community builders fellowship at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia. During his time there, he completed executive education in public management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

He left HUD to work for three years as vice president and community development manager for PNC Bank, then earned a second master's degree in 2001 in finance from the University of Scranton.

In 2003, Gov. Ed Rendell named Blake director of his northeast regional office in Scranton, a job that entailed serving as a liaison to business, local government and the academic community. In 2007, he became chief operating officer for the state Department of Community and Economic Development in Harrisburg. He served as department acting secretary between October 2008 and February 2009.

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. Blake's salary this year is $90,335.

Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter.