Republican Walter Griffith and Democrat Bob Morgan could face a third challenger in the Luzerne County Controller’s race because Dupont resident Wil Toole has gathered enough nominating signatures to run as an Independent.
Toole filed his candidacy paperwork Monday. He needed 982 signatures from county registered voters of any party to get on the ballot, or 2 percent of the highest county candidate vote count in the last election. Toole ended up collecting 1,521 signatures.
“It’s a chore to come up with that many,” said the 65-year-old former Pittston city clerk/administrator.
He’s been eyeing the Controller’s Office for years and was highly critical of past controller Steve Flood. Toole applied for the seat when former controller Maryanne Petrilla became a county commissioner in 2008, but Gov. Ed Rendell never nominated anyone. Toole had planned to run for controller as a Democrat earlier this year but then changed his mind. He has since changed his registration to Independent.
Griffith said he is “kind of disappointed” that Toole switched parties to get on the ballot after a heated primary election. Morgan ran unopposed in the primary, while Griffith had to fend off four other Republican opponents.
“If he’s a Democrat all his life and just switches to run, that says a lot about his integrity,” Griffith said. “It’s just one more person that people will have to do their homework on.”
Morgan said he briefly reviewed Toole’s nominating petition Monday and said it was signed by many “old guard” political figures in county politics.
“Clearly this is an attempt by the old guard of the county to take control of this election. Mr. Toole is being nominated by the old guard,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he will consult with a lawyer to determine if there are any defects in Toole’s petition. “I’m considering my options. I will take this to court if we have to,” Morgan said.
Griffith also planned to review the petition today.
Toole offers a different take on his party switch, saying he’s decided the controller shouldn’t be “carrying a party banner.”
“I don’t have to worry about political party pressures. I don’t owe allegiance to any party,” Toole said.
Toole served as Pittston city clerk/administrator from 1985 to 1997 and as Pittston’s Democratic committee chairman from 1978 to 1997. He also worked for a finance company for more than 10 years and in the accounting office of the county Human Resources Development Department.
Nanticoke Mayor John Bushko will serve as Toole’s campaign chairman. Pittston City Treasurer Kathy Cunard will be campaign treasurer.
Four other Independent candidates filed paperwork Monday to be placed on the November ballot: Dale Skursky, Exeter Council; Bill Denman, Larksville Council; and Gil Dominick and Francis Casarella, Wyoming Area School Board.