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Lignelli survives write-in campaign for Donora mayor

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 2:36 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Donora's Mayor, John 'Chummy' Lignelli.

Although he lost his write-in bid for mayor, John Lunt had a vow for Donora residents – he'll be back.

And he promised that the next time he'll have something he lacked in Tuesday's general election, a political organization.

According to the unofficial vote counts Tuesday, Mayor John Lignelli defeated Lunt, 520 to 453.

The Washington County Elections Bureau reported that Lignelli received 520 votes and that the 479 write-in votes were cast, not specifying for whom. The Valley Independent read election results posted at each of the borough's polls Tuesday night and found the following results:

• Donora 1 – Lignelli, 78; Lunt 66.

• Donora 2 – Lignelli 133, Lunt 98.

• Donora 4 – Lignelli 124, Lunt 118.

• Donora 5 – Lignelli 112, Lunt 94.

• Donora 7 – Lunt 76, Lignelli 73.

Donora's third and sixth precinct were merged by Washington County into neighboring precincts years ago.

Other write-in votes for mayor were cast for Robert Trubiani, Don Pavelko, Lucas (with no other designation) and Tyler Menzler. One person cast a write-in vote for “neither of them.”

The Valley Independent's totals included one tally for “S Lunt.”

Lignelli called the race “a tough battle,” saying he was equally mystified by the votes the challenger received and the amount of money Lunt spent in the write-in campaign.

In contrast, Lignelli said his only expenditure was handbills distributed by poll volunteers. A few newspaper ads for Lignelli were sponsored by council members, he said.

Lignelli said his pollworkers even refused his offer to buy them lunch Tuesday, choosing to work on his behalf for the betterment of the borough.

John Lunt cried foul, claiming initially that 13 voters asking for help writing in his name had pollworkers instead cast straight Democratic Party tickets for them.

He later claimed that occurred 22 times at one poll, Donora 7, at St. John Episcopal Church.

“This was the most corrupt election Donora has ever had and despite that, we kicked their ass,” Lunt said. “If they played right, we would have won.”

Lunt claimed he won two precincts – Donora 7 and Donora 4. However, according to the write-in votes counted by The Valley Independent and a Lunt pollworker late Tuesday, Lignelli won Donora 4 by a 124-118 margin. Lunt won Donora 7 by a 76 to 73 margin.

Lunt claimed a Lunt for Mayor float was denied access to Halloween parade last month.

He claimed the borough moved the date of the Halloween parade at the last moment to interfere with a Lunt election rally. The borough, however, began publicizing the date of the parade – as a part of the 65th anniversary of the Donora Smog event – in September, weeks before the parade.

Lunt said he is “definitely running again.”

“We're going to form our own organization,” Lunt said. “Council will have to answer to us. The next election for council, we're going to have eight different people running.

“We're going to take Donora back.”

Lignelli was elected to a sixth term as mayor.

“We've got a tough job ahead of us,” Lignelli said. “We're going to try to see what we can bring into Donora to satisfy the needs of the people.”

Although they battled for the mayoral post, both Lignelli and Lunt agreed on priorities for Donora – attracting a bank and grocery store to the borough.

Lunt vowed to buy the former 1st Federal Savings Bank building in Donora.

To do so, he would apparently have to buy it out from under the noses of borough officials, who are attempting to acquire the building to attract a bank to Donora, which as recently as a year ago had three banks.

“Our private organization's going to work outside the box to buy this bank building,” Lunt said. “We're not giving up. We're here for the people. “Someday, I'm going to be mayor.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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