Nothstein, Gerhard triumph
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Wayne Nothstein, second from left, and Tom J. Gerhard, stand with their wives, Donna, left, and Sue Ann, right, at the Carbon County Republican headquarters in Lehighton, last night.
The Republicans will be regaining control of the Carbon County Commissioners' office.
The turnover came as a result of a major upset in which William O'Gurek, a Democrat and the current chairman of the board of commissioners, was defeated in Tuesday's balloting.
Victorious were Republicans Wayne Nothstein and Tom J. Gerhard and Democrat Charles Getz. Nothstein and Getz are incumbents. This is Gerhard's first venture into county politics.
Nothstein was the top vote-getter with 7,055 votes, while Gerhard netted 6,542 votes. Getz received 5,296 votes, and O'Gurek got 5,142 votes.
Four years ago, Getz and O'Gurek were re-elected with 6,349 and 5,883 votes respectively. In that 2007 election, Nothstein was second with 5,885 votes.
Tuesday's election results are deemed unofficial until verification within the next week.
There also are some outstanding absentee ballots that are not part of yesterday's tally.
The race for commissioners in Carbon County became very heated in the past few weeks.
The Republicans had sent via the mail a series of cards that specifically targeted O'Gurek.
Both Nothstein and Gerhard said the mailings were done by the state Republican Committee and not the local Republican board.
"I am not totally happy with them myself," Nothstein said of those mailings, "but I am not going to apologize for what somebody else did."
"Billy and I ran a campaign being positive," said Getz. "I am just shocked that our opponents would put out six different brochures about Billy O'Gurek and they're all lies."
He remarked, "I have never, in 50 years, seen a race in Carbon County as dirty as this has been."
O'Gurek of Summit Hill, who has been a county commissioner since 2004, was gracious in his defeat.
"When you put yourself in a competitive environment, such as the political arena, I think your goals should always be to do the best you can and do it with class and dignity," O'Gurek said. "In that respect, I believe my candidacy was successful. My head is high.
"This is a time which is obviously sad for some people. We live in a great democracy and the will of the people prevailed," he added.
"I will always be thankful and appreciative of the wonderful friends I have made though my years of public office."Getz was livid, specifically because of the negativity that surfaced late in the campaign.
He quoted his mother, who he said told him, "You can watch somebody who steals, but you can't watch a liar."
"They are unbelievable," Getz said of the Republican opponents. "Mr. O'Gurek is a gentleman. I think we ran a great campaign. We felt if we had to be negative, we didn't want to be candidates.
"They should be ashamed of themselves," he concluded.
Nothstein's win was an early birthday present. He turns 63 today.
He is married to the former Donna Weaver. They live in Lehighton.
"I just want to thank everybody," said Nothstein.
"We want to make ourselves available to the community," he pledged. "I feel the (present) commissioners were not always available at some of the functions."
Nothstein admitted that the state committee aimed their material at O'Gurek because it felt he was the most vulnerable.
The mailings attacked O'Gurek on the county's purchase of the Packerton Yards, a former railroad property; on the sale of Weatherwood, the county home for the aged; and on voting for salary increases.
Gerhard, 55, is married to the former Sue Ann Raynock. They reside in Packer Township. They have two daughters, Jennifer, 31, and Kathy, 28.
He is the son of former county commissioner, Thomas C. Gerhard.
He said when his father chose to enter county politics, he had lost in his first attempt, then won during his second campaign.
He said he made it a little competitive with his father, trying hard to win in his first round.
"I'm extremely excited," said Gerhard. "It just goes to prove that hard work pays off."
He attributed the win to the fact that he and Nothstein have been campaigning as a team since February 2010.
Gerhard said that finishing fourth in the vote totals during the May primary election made him more determined.
"In the primary, I came in fourth place. That was expected. I think that made me work so much harder.
"There were a lot of nonbelievers out there," he said. "I just want to thank everyone out there who supported this team. A lot of people worked hard behind the scenes."
He said he did a lot of door-to-door campaigning and feels that the biggest issue was the Packerton Yards, followed by the lack of jobs in the county.
Of the mail campaign, he said, "The mail campaign was done by the state committee. They believed Wayne and I had a strong team. We capitalized on the Packerton Yards (controversy) when we were campaigning because we believed most people were against the Packerton Yards.
"I believe Wayne and I were the right candidates," he said. "We are going to represent the people, not the party."
A breakdown of results by community for county races will be placed on the Carbon County Board of Elections website next week, possibly by Tuesday, said Lisa Dart, director of the Election Bureau.