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Leechburg man takes on busy election season

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Sunday, May 19, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

A former Leechburg mayor and school board member is committing “political suicide” by seeking election to three offices at the same time, a pollster and political scientist says.

Attorney Chuck Pascal will appear on Tuesday's Democratic primary ballot in races for Leechburg mayor, council and Leechburg Area School Board.

“The point is that, politically, this would normally not fly,” said G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College.

Madonna said that in 30 years he has never heard of anyone running for three offices simultaneously.

“It would be fascinating to see what the voters think of that. It is highly unusual,” he said.

“Normally, to do that is political suicide,” he said. “Some would say he doesn't really want to be a member of council, he wants to be mayor, and they would criticize him for being overly ambitious and running for an office in which there is an inherent conflict.”

Pascal faces a challenge in Tuesday's primary only in the race for Leechburg mayor. His opponent is Leechburg Councilman Shawn Lerch; incumbent Mayor Tony Roppolo is not on the primary ballot.

Pascal, who was mayor from 2006-09, refused to talk about the mayor's race. Lerch, who is not seeking re-election to his council seat, has not returned numerous calls for comment about his campaign for mayor.

Pascal had been a Leechburg Area school board member for 16 years. Questioned at a recent board meeting, Pascal said he doesn't see any problem with what he is doing.

Pascal said he wants to return to public service. He said he filed for the multiple offices because of a lack of candidates in the races.

“We need to at least fill the ballot,” he said.

Pascal could win nomination to all three offices, but can claim election to only one.

He cannot be mayor and a councilman at the same time, nor can he be a school board member and serve in either borough office, said Wendy Buzard, director of Armstrong County Elections.

The state's School Code prohibits one person from serving on a school board and holding offices including mayor and councilman, along with many others.

“You can run for as many offices as you want to run for,” Buzard said. “If he wins more than one in November, he'll have to pick one or the other. He cannot hold more than one elected office.”

Pascal said he has not decided which office he will claim should he win two or three. He will make that decision over the summer, he said.

“I'm letting the public make these choices,” he said. “The choices the public makes and how they make them will determine which office I take.”

Representatives of the Democratic Party in Armstrong County and at the state level did not respond to requests for comment.

Leechburg officials had little to say about Pascal's multiple campaigns.

Leechburg Council President Tony Defilippi, a Republican, called Pascal a “good guy,” who did a good job as mayor and on the school board.

School board President Terry Knepshield, also a Republican, said he didn't have a comment on Pascal. Their school board tenures overlapped.

“I make it a point not to comment on what other people's intentions are,” he said.

Former Leechburg Area School Board member Kathy Vargo is seeking to rejoin the board. She said she has asked Pascal which office he intends to claim, if he wins more than one.

“He either does not answer, or says he doesn't know what he would do,” she said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701

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