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Campaign stops have costs, opportunities

Past and recent visits by candidates can be both a plus and a minus, depending on venue, timing.

Revello’s Café was already known throughout the region for its pizza and other food, but Sen. Hillary Clinton’s recent visit has added to the popularity of the Old Forge restaurant by bringing in more business.

FRED ADAMS/THE TIMES LEADER

Fuel and service for charter flights, about $15,000. Renting out the high school gym for a rally, $250. The value of a presidential candidate’s visit? Depends who shows up.

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty is still waiting for a check to the city for the July 30, 2004, visit of John Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards.

A crowd estimated at 17,000 swarmed the courthouse square to see the Democratic duo, actor Ben Affleck and other local politicos on a sweltering summer afternoon.

“We probably spent $15,000,” Doherty said. “The campaign said they would reimburse us, but …”

This time around, visits from Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama haven’t been as costly. The two have made stops in the Electric City more than a month before the April 22 primary.

Neither has yet set foot in Wilkes-Barre, but they’re likely to be back in Northeast Pennsylvania as they campaign to clinch a victory in the state and to secure the party nomination. To do that they’ll dig into their campaign coffers to rent venues for rallies, fuel their charter aircraft and feed and lodge their campaign staffers.

The one or two slices of pizza Sen. Clinton had at Revello’s Café in Old Forge were on the house. She brought her campaign to the self-proclaimed pizza capital of the world on March 10 and it’s been good for business, said owner Pat Revello.

He lives nearby and has seen cars with out-of-state plates and new faces in his popular Main Street restaurant.

“Hillary made it great,” Revello said. Instead of barging in unannounced, the meet-and-greet-and-eat event was planned and the restaurant prepared for it. “She set the tone by signing autographs and shaking hands. She set the tone, it was really nice.”

From there she traveled to Scranton High School for a raucous rally.

“We charge our normal fee, $250 for the gym,” said Michael Sheridan, chief executive officer of the Scranton School District.

School was out of session by the time she arrived and the night maintenance crew was on hand, he added. “It really wasn’t a big piece of change” to host the event.

Had the event been on the weekend when school’s closed, things would have been a little different.

“Using schools is not a bad idea,” Sheridan said. The school gets noticed and the students have the opportunity to see and meet the candidate. And even sing for her.

The senior chorus prepared a song for the senator that could possibly be used during her campaign, Sheridan said. The chorus reworked the song, “Ain’t no party like a Scranton party, cuz a Scranton party don’t stop,” from the television show, “The Office,” about the fictional Dunder Mifflin paper company in the city.

“They took it and made it, ‘Ain’t no party like a Hillary party,’” Sheridan said. “They’re going to record it next Tuesday.”

Clinton, whose father, Hugh Rodham, grew up in Scranton, returned later that week for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and walked the route with a cordon of police officers.

“There was no increased cost on that,” Doherty said. The city had 60 officers scheduled for parade-day duty.

Sen. Obama followed two days later, stopping for a closed-to-the-public taping of a television show at Whistle’s Pub & Eatery and then speaking at the Society of Irish Women’s dinner at the Radisson Hotel.

The three visits by the candidates have been “more of a plus than a negative,” Doherty said, giving the city “great exposure.”

Wilkes-Barre played host to former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday when he stumped at Coughlin High School for his wife. The city picked up the tab for extra police protection, said Marie McCormick, deputy city administrator. “We grant overtime for police,” she said, but those figures have yet to be tabulated.

The candidates’ comings and goings have required extra security at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

“It’s a minimal expense,” said Barry Centini, airport director.

Including the March 16 stop by Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach or Irish prime minister, to attend the Friendly Sons dinner in Dickson City, the airport has spent approximately $400 for nearly 20 hours of additional work for the security staff.

While it costs the airport money, FirstFlight, the company that services and fuels the aircraft flying the candidates around, makes a few bucks.

FirstFlight’s Ron Ricciardi estimated the revenue at $15,000 with most of that for fuel. The company, known as a fixed -base operator in the airline industry, hasn’t had “any incremental costs” associated with the visits, he said.

However, it’s reaped secondary benefits from having its name and logo noticed by the flight crews, the candidates and the crowds that show up to catch a glimpse of them.

“It’s like chicken soup,” Ricciardi said. “It can’t hurt.”

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