Edward Kleha of Shenandoah stepped down Sunday as chairman of the Schuylkill County Democratic Party, weeks before the Primary Election to be held May 17. The announcement was made at the party's convention held in Ashland.
A couple of months ago Kleha had alerted the party's executive committee that he was going to resign, as was reported in the TIMES NEWS, and he waited for someone to step forward to offer to serve but no one has volunteered. Kleha has served as chairman for the past 13 years and his greatest triumph was four years ago when his party captured the courthouse and for the first time won the Register of Wills Post. They also won the Controller's, Clerk of Courts and Prothonotary offices and elected the majority county commissioners. Two years prior they won the district attorney and retained the sheriff's posts. Last year the Democratic Party was able to re-elect its congressman but suffered defeats in the state house of representatives.
However, the pendulum started to swing the other way nationally last year for the Democrats who lost a great number of congressional seats, although the 17th Congressional District, which includes Schuylkill County, retained its Democratic Congressman and they lost a number of gubernatorial seats and the trend seems to be continuing this year as the voters want the deficit spending and balance budgets.
The Democrats have a tough road to travel to keep control of the courthouse as the Democratic majority commissioners experienced deficit spending in the past two years and had to dip into a special fund built up by past boards of commissioners which was earmarked for use in case of an unforseen disaster. Also the continuing squable between the Democratic Commissioners and the Democratic Controller has not helped the party and the two incumbents, Mantura Gallagher and Francis McAndrew, decided not to seek re-election.
The Executive Committee plans to hold a special meeting shortly hoping to pick a successor. At Sunday's meeting the committee endorsed all Democrats who are unopposed in the Primary Election, with the exception for the Magisterial District 21-02-01, which covers Frackville and Ashland area, which is vacant. Attorney Karen Byrnes-Noon, who is an assisant district attorney, was endorsed.
Other candidates endorsed were:
Bradley Petchulis, controller, although the current controller is a Democrat, Melinda Kantner, who announced she will run in the general election in November as an Independent; Peter J. Symons, who four years ago switched from a Republican to Democrat, seeking re-election for prothonotary; Stephen Lukach, who has served seven terms as Clerk of Courts, seeking re-election; Michael McCord, seeking re-election as Register of Wills; District Judge James K. Reiley, seeking election to a revised district, 21-03-97 covering Pottsville; and Joseph Lipsett, seeking re-election as coroner.
Two Republican judges, Cyrus Palmer Dolbin and Charles M. Miller, running on the retention ballot, received endorsements, however, two Democratic candidates who annnounced as candidates for a vacant seat on the county bench caused by the retirement of Judge D. Michael Stine, an open primary was declared by the committee.
District Attorney James P. Goodman and former District Attorney Claude A. Lord "Cal" Shields are the candidates. They are not seeking to fill Stine's unexpired term but seeking a 10 year term starting next January. Stine's current seat remains vacant.