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The Rising: Chris Doherty, Saving Scranton and 2010

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty is trying to recreate his successes in Scranton in the 2010 governor's race. Photo by Jen Chaney of the Washington Post

When Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty (D) first heard that NBC had a television show pilot purporting to be set in his hometown, he was worried.

"Writers from Hollywood determining how people are going to see my city" made him cringe, acknowledged Doherty who was born in Scranton and has served as its mayor for the past seven and a half years, in an interview with the Fix as part of our "Rising" series.

But, instead of piling-on a city that had seen its fair share of bad news over the past decade, "The Office" wound up helping Scranton -- largely due to Doherty's decision to embrace the show.

The Rising

Doherty hosted an "Office" convention in Scranton over the summer that drew more than 2,000 participants and drew national news coverage -- "Today Show" weatherman Al Roker hosted the program from the convention. "It gave us a platform to tell our story," said Doherty.

That story?

Doherty, elected in 2001, took a city on the verge of economic collapse and without a bond rating, and immediately brought in $500 million in new construction investments -- including the state's first new medical school built in 50 years -- to draw jobs to the city and to keep young people who grew up in the Electric City (great nickname) at home.

While Doherty was working to bolster the city's infrastructure, he was also doing the little things to make the city more livable. That included a significant expenditure on Scranton's parks; "They say something about who we are," said Doherty. (Are you paying attention, Leslie Knope?)

The results are palpable. Doherty rattles off recent accolades for the city -- named one of the best places in Pennsylvania to raise a family by Businessweek magazine, one of the fastest growing real-estate markets in the country by Money magazine -- with a clear pride for what he has helped accomplish.

With his successes in Scranton as the foundation, Doherty has entered the crowded Democratic primary field for governor -- an underdog against better known candidates like state Auditor Jack Wagner, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and former Rep. Joe Hoeffel.

For the moment, Doherty is unbowed by his long-shot status, calling the primary "wide open" and adding: "People are only known inside their region."

Polling in the race suggests Doherty is, largely, right. A recent survey done for Hoeffel, who is not yet an announced candidates, showed him at 15 percent with Wagner and Onarato taking 12 percent each. Doherty received six percent and businessman Tom Knox, who ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007, took five percent.

The Doherty forces -- he has inked media consultants Tad Devine and Julian Mulvey, pollster Margie Omero and communications adviser Mark Nevins -- argue that northeastern Pennsylvania (particularly the Scranton-Wilkes Barre media market) has proved crucial to statewide victories by the likes of Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) and President Barack Obama and strengthens his hand in the 2010 primary fight.


But, first Doherty must prove he can raise the money necessary to be competitive with his rivals. Onorato is the financial heavyweight in the race with more than $4 million in the bank at the end of June. Wagner, surprisingly for a statewide elected official, had just $325,000 in his campaign account. Knox has considerable personal wealth and is expected to spend in the seven-figures on his bid.

Doherty, to his credit, seems to grasp that reality. "My challenge is to raise money and make the argument that government does play a role in peoples' lives," he said. (His campaign touts that he has raised more than $1 million combined for his 2005 and 2009 re-election races but raising cash for an incumbent's re-election in a city is a very different thing from collecting cash in a divided primary for governor.)

What's clear is that if Doherty can get his fundraising apparatus off the ground, the Scranton story he has to tell is a compelling one. "We can take what we did in Scranton and build it," he promises.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 28, 2009; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  The Rising  
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Mayor Doherty has moved this City on a fast track forward. We have never seen such growth in all the years I've lived in this city which is 55 years +. The city is politically charged. Northeastern PA is known for a strong work ethic and low wages. Mayor Doherty has finally compensated his educated, knowledgable appointees with the appropriate salaries. Some of the City population believe they are over paid.
The real estate values here are still a great value with great neighborhoods. With growth comes problems. I acknowledge that we have some problems, but on the whole this is a great place to raise a family.

Posted by: twintwo2 | September 30, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Not understanding why the Washington Post would be interested in Chris Doherty. It never ceases to amaze me the connections he has. Everything in that article is smoke and mirrors since I live in Scranton and experienced first hand what Doherty has done to this community. He has pitted the haves against the have nots. He purchased the bond rating for $1 million and more than three years ago our rating went back down to junk. He ran on a platform of term limits (two terms) and now is going for his third. He has increased the budget by threefold while running significant deficits and borrowing multi millions, yet we are considered a distressed city pursuant to state law. His economic investments have all failed; the city is a ghost town, and he increased job positions in his administration and gave raises to impact the budget to more than $18 million. He is a miserable failure of a mayor, but a masterful politician backed by a well oiled machine.

Posted by: ScrantonGirl | September 29, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Her book is actually shooting straight UP the Amazon and Barnes & Noble web sites.

Posted by: JakeD | September 29, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Palin's finished. She's not going anywhere except downward.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 29, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 29, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I liked that character in the first "X-Men" movie.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 29, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 29, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Fix, I'm glad you found another Democrat for The Rising. Here are some women you might consider:

Deb Markowitz, running for gov of VT; Kim McMillan, running for gov of TN; Kathryn Taylor, Mayor of Tulsa; Beverly Perdue, gov of NC; Jari Askins, lt gov of OK running for gov; Darcy Burner, ran for congress in WA; Susan Bysiewicz, running for gov of CT; Maureen Reed, running against Michelle "the Devil on the Face of the Earth" Bachmann; Diane Denish, lt. of NM, running for gov; Kim McMillan, running for gov of TN; Jennifer Brunner, running for the Senate in Ohio; Jen Nedeau; Mary Schapiro of the SEC; Amaya Tune, DNC press coordinator and now with the AFL-CIO; Mary Vernor, Mayor of Spokane; Sui Lang Panoke of Women Politics media; Traci Viselli, blogger and activist; Ann McLane Kuster running for congress in NH; Margaret Anderson Kelliher, running for gov of MN.

A lot of women like to serve locally and stay there, so they serve on city councils and school boards and might make it to mayor. This lack of national ambition might preclude them from The Rising, but here is a starting list of women in poitics who are working on or towards a national level. Everyone else can pitch in with their local favorites. When you overlook women, you overlook more than half the country.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 29, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Dear Washington Post,

There are no public libraries in Philly, Derrion Albert was brutally murdered by 3 kids who the system obviously failed, I can go on for days. Do some reporting. I don't care about speed bumps in ritzy neighborhoods. Sorry.


Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | September 29, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

* A need to be the center of attention.
* Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Or, maybe it was Midland, Michigan (you'll have to ask Mike if he ever returns under his own log-in name ; )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

He also claimed he'd been invited to the Bush inaugural and posted some photos to prove it. They too were traced to another source, and just like JakeD with his claim of being able to post here from an iPhone, the guy went on for page after page trying to explain how a professional photographer's pics came from the troll's camera.

These guys are a dime a dozen and they all lie like crazy.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

And I think Mike is in Midland, WASHINGTON, not Texas.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Jake, I want to see the receipts for the i phone, the boat and the 'vette.


Extravagant claims are the norm for gooper trolls. The one that I took down on NetSlaves claimed a Gulfstream private jet. Even posted a picture of himself in the cockpit, which was traced within minutes to a promotional pic on the company web site.

GOP trolls seem to think they're the only people on earth who know how to use Google.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The poll is tanned, the pole is rusty

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

The rusty poll and the empty Scranton Club are nice backdrops for the picture !!!

Posted by: TheScrantonGuardian | September 28, 2009 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Too bad that I am not running for President and none of those items are required under the U.S. Constitution ; )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Jake, I want to see the receipts for the i phone, the boat and the 'vette.

No, that's not good enough. I can't believe just a piece of paper. I need the original LONG form registration with a senior representative from the California DMV to verify it's authenticity. And they can't be a Republican because I don't believe those liars. I want a Democrat. Same for the boat and the phone: receipt, sales clerk, notary, registration. Nothing less. And in person, here in Pennsylvania, and then to Virginia for BB to see, and then to Texas for Mark and Mike to see, and everyone else's house, too.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 28, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

@DDAWD I'll sell you one of mine cheap.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

My car is almost old enough to vote! *sniff* they grow up so fast.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 28, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Careful, nodebris, because telling people here things about yourself -- where you grew up or even your architectural preferences -- means there's "zero doubt" that you've got some kind of major personality disorder ; )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

My mother's family was from Scranton, and I spent a bit of time there. It was like one of Bruce Springsteen's more depressing songs. Good bones though -- surrounded by the Poconos, colleges, beautiful buildings (Frederick Law Olmsted designed the Library gardens). It was a hoot this last election to hear Hillary and Joe all bragging about their Scranton roots. Fingers crossed, and a toast to the man who can help the city back to its feet.

Posted by: nodebris | September 28, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

With only two days before our deadline, we need to double our efforts and send a message to Washington that we don’t want the government in charge of our health decisions.


Pat Toomey is just another Republican liar.

Obama's healthcare doesn't put government in the healthcare business, it puts government in the health insurance business. Government will not be making healthcare decisions.

Toomey is a liar, but then he *is* a Republican.

As for the "we" part, by any real measure "we" do indeed want the government to have a part in health insurance and by more than two to one, "we" want a public option.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Getting back to PA politics, I just received the following e-mail:

"Less than three weeks ago we started a grassroots campaign to raise $30,000 before September 30 to combat the government takeover of health care. Our efforts have been very successful, but the fight over health care is not over.

With only two days before our deadline, we need to double our efforts and send a message to Washington that we don’t want the government in charge of our health decisions. Can you help me send this message today and donate $30 - or whatever amount you can afford - by making a secure online donation before September 30?

This is a critical deadline for our campaign and I recorded a short video to remind you of what we are up against next November.

Over the course of the last eight months we have witnessed the most fiscally reckless behavior in the history of our country.

As the Democrats continue push the government takeover of health care, spend at record levels and kill more American jobs, it’s very important that our campaign remain in the thick of the battle.
Please help us fight back against the Democrats' reckless agenda and make a donation of $30 today.

This is going to be the most hotly contested campaign in 2010 and the Democratic leaders in the Senate are prepared to do anything to protect one of the left's most ardent supporters, Arlen Specter.

If we are going to be successful, united and prepared for next year I need your help today.

Can I count on you to donate $30 or whatever amount you can afford to give today?

Thank you again for all of your help and generosity thus far,


Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I am not "lying" about my boat -- or my iPhone, regardless of whether you can or cannot access WaPo using the same -- are you sure that you having to post on everything I post isn't a "personality disorder"? I obviously couldn't care less for the admiration of those like you.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The fact that you spend so much time telling people here things about yourself, the fact that it's so urgent for you to be the center of attention here every god damned day, the fact that you think anyone here gives a damn if you live or die, the fact that you make such a tiresome big deal over the delayed gratification of unanswered posts .. you've got some kind of major personality disorder and there is zero doubt about it.

The fact that you lie about absolutely everything just underscores how insecure you are.

A septuagenarian who depends on the admiration of strangers? You should slit your wrists.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Proving that I am not lying is hardly a personality disorder.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

"The symptoms include:

* Exhibitionist behavior.
* Constant seeking of reassurance or approval.
* Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotions.
* Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval.
* A need to be the center of attention.
* Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification.
* Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear superficial or exaggerated to others.
* Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are."

I think we have a winner here

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Drindl, I don't have a boat, a covette or a porsche, but have I ever told you how youthful and beautiful I am? When I'm out with my millionaire husband people think I'm his Trophy Wife! They can't belive I'm 39, let alone 53! I guess it's my size 6 figure and high, firm puppies. Anyway, here I am in my Main Line mansion ringing for the maid! I can't wait for my darling managing partner husband to come home tonight. It's Monday and I'm wonder how many diamonds he's bringing me. Monday is Diamond Day!

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 28, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Everyone on the internet has a new corvette or porsche and a boat.


.. and a cozy retired life, and an adoring wife, and money to send to a dozen GOP candidates all over the country, and an iPhone that can do comments on WaPo ...

Nobody believes a word you write, Jake, everyone here knows you're just a lying loser with no life.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Gutsy move for a Pennsylvania politician to wear a shirt with another state's name on it.

Posted by: dognabbit | September 28, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse


I don't have a Porsche : )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

I lived in Scranton Pa prior to moving to ohio. Other mayors before to Chris Doherty did things to help move the city forward, but what Chris Doherty did was to run the city like a buisness. Finances were brought into order, which is something Scranton desperatly needed. Financially, they no longer the theme of jokes through out the state. Shoot, I remember a previous mayor of scranton completely stopping the plowing of roads in the middle of a snow storm. No other city in the state did this, just scranton. Why? They didn't have the money to pay for it.
That is how bad off Scranton was.

I was just home in June of this year, and yes. There are many empty store fronts within the city. But you also can see the new constuction as mentioned in this article. It takes time.

Now if we could just get this type of progress in Cleveland Ohio where I live now. So much potential, like Scranton has. So much wasted, like Scranton use to do.

Posted by: LiberalBasher | September 28, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Everyone on the internet has a new corvette or porsche and a boat.


Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

As a native Scrantonian who has lived in DC for years, it's great to see good press about my hometown. Chris Doherty has done a tremendous job as Mayor of Scranton. The city is a different place now than it was a decade ago. I wish him well.

Posted by: charlotte12 | September 28, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Of course government does play a role in peoples' lives -- just not every role, unless someone is trying to murder someone else -- that's the only distinction that conservatives are making.

P.S. I purchased my new Corvette convertible yesterday from GOVERNMENT Motors and have 58 days to "break it in" before returning it for a full refund so they can sell it as a "used" car ; )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

That shirt isn't going to help him win the votes of any Nittany Lions fans.

Posted by: justjoeking | September 28, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

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