Primary season 2020: but thinking about 2021

logo Latest in a series of new posts on elections logo

Monthly meeting of the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee tonight.

About the primary.

Got me thinking about the primary.

Not the 2020 primary. But the 2021 primary.

Gadfly thinks 4 current City Council members will be on ballot in 2021: Callahan, Negron, Crampsie Smith, Waldron.

But the big enchilada is the mayoral election.

Councilman Callahan has had occasion twice in recent months during City Council meetings to remind us that Mayor Donchez won’t be in office when certain things come to fruition — and that we don’t know who will be.

Now Mayor Donchez is only in the 7th inning — lots of time to do good left. So it’s too early to render him invisible.

But with about a year left before candidates have to file for the primary, you have to believe that some people are thinking about running for mayor. And maybe more than thinking. Planning. Organizing. Fundraising.

Gadfly doesn’t have his ear to every ground, but it’s been said that Councilmen Reynolds and Callahan may run for mayor, maybe even Councilwoman Negron.

That thought reminded me that I had not looked at the Council financial disclosures for a while. Did you ever do that? Go here.

Some interesting things to see there. Take a look. Agree?

Gadfly was pleased to support everybody in last year’s Councilperson-ic primary and plans to do so again. Was fun. Gadfly wants to help people be informed voters. He’s in the business of providing information. And he thinks that all the coverage as well as the candidate participation in the Gadfly 8-week mini-essay series during last year’s primary was helpful in that respect.

But Gadfly really looks forward to the mayoral race next time. He hopes it is competitive. More on that later.

The May 2021 primary will be special because we will obviously want to select a great mayor. But it will be extra-special for Gadfly because he thinks it will mark the climax of his project. A good time to fold his wings.

So while there are most likely people right now thinking about entering the 2021 primary for mayor, he hopes that some people also might be thinking of donning the gadfly wings.

Every town needs a gadfly.

And he hopes that followers will be paying attention to the Council dynamics he lays out for you.

For one or more Council members may be running for mayor sooner or later.

Which brings Gadfly back to the wage equality meeting on the proposed ordinance.

Heading there again in next post.

Vote meaningfully today!

logo 8th in a series of new posts on candidates for election logo


Election Day
Tuesday November 5

7AM as I post — polls open!

Gadfly knows, yes, yes, there are important electoral races for judge, district attorney, school board, etc., that will be decided today.

Speaking of school board, follower Karen Beck Pooley is on that ballot.

But Gadfly will pretty much always circumscribe his focus around the mayorality and Council — offices that he will be close to and see in action.

And there’s really no “race” in these races today.

But Gadfly expects you to vote.

And he has suggested to you an “exercise” to make your Council vote interesting today.

An exercise to make your vote “count.”

Use your vote as a referendum on at least the three incumbent Council members who will be automatically installed today for lack of competition.

Refresh yourself on their platforms and positions from the May primary.

Gadfly tips his hat again for these serious, thoughtful responses.

Michael Colon – Gadfly statements for May 2019 primary
J. William Reynolds – Gadfly statements for May 2019 primary
Paige Van Wirt – Gadfly statements from May 2019 primary
Grace Crampsie Smith – Gadfly statements for May 2019 primary

Mix in — using your reading of Gadfly the past five months — what you know of their performance since then.

Do some homework again. Some thinking again.

Ok, if you are whining that you are busy, Gadfly suggests that you at least look at prompt 7.2  on the statements they did for Gadfly, the one about A Vision of/for the City.

Gadfly thinks that might be the most important prompt.

Elections are new beginnings. Leaders inspire us with their visions. They shape the narrative. They turn us on.

Or should.

What are their visions of past, present, and, most importantly, future Bethlehem?

Then vote or withhold a vote as if it counted in the final analysis.

You don’t have to vote for all three incumbents on the 4yr seat or the one on the 2yr. seat.

Discriminate. Choose.

You will feel better.

And they will be watching.

Gadfly doesn’t know his way around the archives very well, but here is one place where you can find Northampton County votes tallied in past elections.

Here. for instance, is the May 2019 primary tally.

Election results

On the basis of past statistics like this, some wonk will project how many votes will be cast today, and you can bet the candidates will be looking at their numbers in the various precincts around town.

A smaller number than expected will be noticed.

Take the opportunity to send a message today — either a pat on the back or a wake-up call.


Election Day
Tuesday November 5

Gadfly, “what do you mean by ‘fight the good fight’?”

logo The latest in a series of posts on City government logo

In urging you to vote tomorrow, for several days Gadfly has tried to fix your attention on our City Council persons.

You may know from attending City Council meetings or viewing them online that Gadfly usually yackity-yacks during the public comment periods.

And that he virtually always urges Council to “fight the good fight.”

Gadfly has been asked what he means by that.

He guesses the term isn’t as known as he thought.

To fight the good fight is a term/practice biblical in origin.

It means to do what is morally right.

It means to do the right thing and to try to get others to do the same.

Someone who is fighting the good fight is working tirelessly to improve the world around him or her.

Gadfly wants Council “to fight the good fight”!

Election Day
Tuesday November 5

Other really important races being decided on Tuesday

logo 5th in a series of new posts on candidates for election logo

Gadfly followers:

I just want to point out that there are other really important races being decided on Tuesday besides City and County Councils. There are two contested positions for Judge of the Superior Court of PA (two running from each party). Those of you who followed the Congressional redistricting should know how important judge seats are – while that was decided by the state Supreme Court, the Superior (and Commonwealth) Court may be the bench for future Supreme Court positions. There is also an important local Northampton County race for Judge of Common Pleas Court, in which you can vote for two out of three candidates – and it is hotly contested. There is also a highly competitive race for District Attorney in Northampton County (to replace Morganelli who is running for Judge), as well as for County Controller. Please go out and vote on Tuesday!

Benjamin Felzer

Election Day
Tuesday November 5

Gadfly election exercise

logo 2nd in a series of new posts on candidates for election logo

Election Day Tuesday November 5!

You know how Gadfly feels about participation — BE THERE!

But, frankly, Gadfly, whose focus is narrowly on Bethlehem, is not the whirling dervish he was for the primary in May.

No mayoral election. No “real” Council election. No competition for these seats. No local  choices there to be made.

Yep, yep, other important races — my phone is blowing up, my mail box stuffed with flyers, my front door a bulletin board for canvassing candidates.

But Gadfly just doesn’t feel all that engaged.

What to do?

Gadfly reminds you that Council is a likely pool for mayoral candidates in the next election, and, in any event, current Council members are likely to want to keep going on in their positions.

So we should always be paying attention, always gathering information.

Let’s remember that the soon-to-be-automatically-elected Council members did a very remarkable thing for the primary (that “very” is redundant, dammit, you should know better, Gadfly).

Successful candidates Colon, Reynolds, Van Wirt, and Crampsie Smith wrote 8 mini-essays — one each week — in response to Gadfly prompts in the run-up to the election.

Well, unsuccessful candidates Carpenter and Saltzer — Gadfly hopes you remember them and their energetic efforts — did that same very remarkable thing too. Tip o’ the hat to them, for sure.

Gadfly is still humbled by that amazing totally voluntary cooperation.

The goal was to get beyond stump speeches and sound bites and to help voters be much better informed about candidate positions when it came time to vote.

And feedback indicated to Gadfly that followers appreciated the effort that the candidates put in.

So let’s remember those probably sweated-over mini-essays.

But let’s go a step further.

Let’s literally refresh ourselves on their words, see how we feel about them now, and let’s hold those successful City Council candidates to those words.

Say it. Mean it.

No coasting down Victory Lane.

So here’s what Gadfly is suggesting for an election exercise.

He will compile and re-publish the 8 mini-essays for each soon-to-be-elected running unopposed City Council candidate one at a time over the next 4 days, beginning today.

You have the recent 5-month context as a point of reference for these three incumbents re-elected: Colon, Reynolds, Van Wirt.

Followers know that the Gadfly blog has much information on these three incumbents from their activity on Council, and Gadfly has been urging you to pay attention.

You are not obliged to vote for all three on Tuesday.

If you like what an individual’s been doing, vote twice for him or her (just k-i-d-d-i-n-g!).

If you have some reservation on one or more, withhold your vote accordingly.

You are not obliged to vote for all three.

I’m sure the candidates will be looking at total numbers as well as numbers from specific wards and comparing them to projections in this “off” year.

You might be able to use your vote to send a message.

Either I like what you’re doing. Or — ha! — you’d better shape up.

Get the idea.

Make your vote or lack thereof count.

Make this “dead” local Council election interesting for you.


Mentally make the candidates still earn your vote.

Scrutinize again what they presented on Gadfly during primary time.

Alphabetical order.

Michael Colon coming up!

Election Day
Tuesday November 5

Gearing up for election! Candidate event Thursday night

We’re a one-hoss town. City Councilors running unopposed, right?

But lots of other seats in play.

Lehigh Valley for All

Thursday, Oct. 10, 6:30-8:30
Candidate Speed Dating Event
Meet the candidates you can vote for in November
Bring a friend

Steelworkers Union Hall
53. E Lehigh St.

Terry Houck, Abe Kassis, Dave Harrington,
Tony Bassil, Luke Verdes, Dan Engle (?),
Zakiya Smalls, Dan Hertzel, Bob Elrich,
Ray O’Connell, Willie Reynolds,
reps for Amanda Hawkins-Green and Dan McCaffrey,

Kevin Lott (?), Kim Shively,

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Driving hometown v. outsiders wedges between city residents is disconcerting and unhelpful (73)

(73rd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Karen M Hicks, Bedlum Resident.


The attempt of Ms. Martin to privilege B’hem hometown locals v. “outsiders,” especially “elites” (her word) really sticks in my craw. When I first came here 35 years ago, I went to an informal gathering and was a told by the organizer that I should get to know another woman also at the meeting, because she, too, was a “newcomer.” I asked the woman how many years she lived here and she responded 10 years. So there. Driving wedges between city residents over this election cycle is disconcerting and unhelpful. I’m restraining myself from using stronger and unfriendly words here. An attempt to divide our community in this manner is too reminiscent of the toxicity going on in the US at large. Get over it. We’re all here to make Bethlehem a livable, hospitable, and great place to live, respecting everyone we share this lovely and livable city with.


“we really do need an ethics in government ordinance and campaign finance reform” (72)

(72nd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.


I agree that these transfers are problematic — as are campaign contributions by individuals who do business with the city or seek regulatory relief from the city.

So we really do need an ethics in government ordinance and campaign finance reform.


After the dust settled — campaign dust, that is — here are the election results (71)

(71st in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Tabulation taken from WFMZ

The 4yr position:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Paige Van Wirt i 2,608 24%
J William Reynolds i 2,602 24%
Michael Colon i 2,459 23%
Carol Ritter 2,379 22%
David Saltzer 848 8%
Total 10,896

The 2yr position:

Candidate Votes Percentage
Grace Crampsie Smith 2,096 51%
Will Carpenter 1,462 36%
Ashley Daubert 546 13%
Total 4,104

“The practice of using campaign funds breeds cronyism and is not in the interest of democracy” (70)

(70th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.

Dear Gadfly,

Since Ms Martin mentioned me personally [comment, post #58; see also post #68], I feel I must reply. The important difference in our contribution to a candidate is that our livelihood does not depend on securing largess from the city in the form of contracts, permits, licenses, tax abatement (TIF, CRIZ) and other benefits that can flow to those who seek to influence public officials. We are advocates for good government, were actively involved in a grassroots effort to establish common sense ethical guardrails that would protect Bethlehem from the devastating corruption experienced by Allentown. The practice of using campaign funds breeds cronyism and is not in the interest of democracy. What we want from our local government is to be independent of special interests and make decisions that benefit the city rather than special interests. This is admittedly not an easy task because of the very real effort by various entities to cultivate relationships with local officials for the purpose of influence; campaign contributions are a major way to do so. If you want to know more about high standards in municipal ethics, please visit As for being originally from Bethlehem or not, everyone should be in favor of good government and sound democratic practices whether one is from here or not.


(Elise Martin, if you are reading this, your email doesn’t work — would you please contact the Gadfly? Thanks.)

The beauty of this fascinating discussion about campaign funding “is that all are exercising their right to express their opinions without fear of censorship or imprisonment” (69)

(69th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Stephen Antalics is Gadfly #1.


My, oh my, fascinating, all this discussion about campaign funding. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s flip a coin! The beauty of all this is that all are exercising their right to express their opinions without fear of censorship or imprisonment. Is it not great to live in a republic form of government? Next Monday we will celebrate a holiday whose origin is based on those many who served and died to preserve that freedom that we exercise today. I hope you expressed that freedom and your thanks by having voted today!!


Reply to the “fake news” post (67)

(67th in a series of posts on candidates for election)


I’m not sure how to reply to this post (#62), but I’ll try.

First, I’ll assume for the purposes of this reply, that the writer has first-hand knowledge of the Ritter campaign funding by the Friends of Bryan Callahan and Councilman Callahan. Loan or not, the concern is that candidates for Council should be independent thinkers and not someone who can be counted on to vote a certain way. Unfortunately, there should be some concern by the voters whether Ms. Ritter is truly independent. BTW, either Ms. Ritter or Councilman Callahan could have explained things as did the writer. They did not.

Second, the reason that Ms. Van Wirt and Mr. Carpenter are self-funded (or even if private individuals donated to either of their campaigns — and I have no knowledge about that at all) is to preserve their independence and avoid even the appearance of a lack of independence should they be elected. I fail to see how self-funding or individual donations are somehow wrong.

Third, you don’t have to be a life-long resident of Bethlehem to know where the City today comes from: the hard work and foresight of prior administrations and the citizens who stuck it out. That said, that is not a qualifying factor in securing a Council seat. It certainly helps inform decisions, but that kind of research is what I would expect any intelligent Council person to undertake when assessing a matter requiring Council action. We should be electing candidates who have knowledge and experience in dealing with the issues facing Bethlehem. Responsible development is one of them and both Ms. Van Wirt and Mr. Carpenter have that experience and the power of independent thinking to address that issue and others.

Finally, do Ms. Ritter, Ms. Crampsie Smith, and Councilman Callahan embrace the divisiveness of the writer (#62)? I hope not, but wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear from them directly on that.

Augustus Wolle

(Augustus Wolle is a pseudonym, but the identity of the author is known to Gadfly.)

Why keep our own little machine politics system? (66)

(66th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Local citizen of West Bethlehem, Sarah Andrew.

I love Bethlehem, and being from Bethlehem, and living in west Bethlehem, and all things Bethlehem. I was born and raised here with a few years’ hiatus in D.C. and Chicago, and could not wait to move back to raise my family. I consider myself middle class and come from a working/middle class background and that is important to my identity and values.

That said, it’s not a skill to be “from Bethlehem.” We have our own little machine politics system, and I don’t see why it benefits us to keep it that way. If we love Bethlehem, don’t we want to open our arms to other folks who see what we see in it, and welcome their views and opinions? Is everyone who moved from out of town an “elitist.” (Ugh, that word. What does it even mean?)

Every candidate from Bethlehem has been acting like whoever loves it the most deserves to be on City Council. We get it, you love it here. Hey, so do we! That doesn’t, by itself, qualify anyone for the job. A council position is not and should never be a birthright. As campaign financing goes, I do take issue with a totally self-funded campaign. But sharing funds among candidates is also distasteful at best — council members should be accountable to the public, not in debt to each other.


It’s not about Carol but the principle (65)

(65th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.


I know Carol and like her a lot. It’s about the principle of this for me. If a $4,000 contribution from one elected official’s campaign fund to another candidate’s campaign fund is a loan to that candidate, then it should be reflected as such on the report. That’s all. It wasn’t!



“Hopefully she will return the money” (63)

(63rd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Steven Diamond, DO, MBA is a Medical Examiner of Hunterdon County, NJ, and a forensic pathologist. He is a board member of multiple international start-up companies and is the Medical Director of clinical trials laboratories.


As a physician, I have been taught that you never put yourself in a position where your decisions are questioned as self-serving. I believe the recipient of the Callahan money shows poor ethical understanding.
Is this a sign of how that person will function on the council? Hopefully she will return the money.


“The problem with blogs like this is that they often spew fake news” (62)

(62nd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

The problem with blogs like this is that they often spew fake news. Did anyone reach out to the parties involved to ask about the situation? NO! You are seriously ok with typing things that are not true and not factual. I know both Councilman Callahan and Carol Ritter very well. The facts are that in order to run a good campaign, you have to pay for signs, walk pieces and mail pieces. They cost money. I don’t think it’s a secret that Councilman Callahan and Carol Ritter have the same views on how to keep moving Bethlehem forward. I also know that people like Van Wirt and Carpenter have no clue where Bethlehem was just 15-20 years ago.
The facts are that Councilman Callahan gave the Ritter campaign a $4000 loan that is being paid back in full. The facts are that Carol Ritter and her campaign wanted to do 3 mail pieces to let the voters know who she is, where she came from (Born and raised in Bethlehem) and what her vision for the future of Bethlehem is.
The facts are that the Ritter campaign is waiting on some more contributions to come in to cover the cost of the mail pieces that had to be paid by last week to ensure the mail pieces dropped in time before election day.
More fake news and hysteria from the Van Wirt clan. What troubles me is that these same people, who are so upset over the campaign loan, didn’t have a problem with Van Wirt self-funding her last campaign to the tune of $9,000 and Carpenter self-funded his campaign with over $4000? Is it Ok that Carpenter received thousands of dollars from Steve and Barbara Diamond? It sounds like the historical elites only want the wealthy to be able to run campaigns and run for political office!!!
The facts are that people like Michael Colon, Olga Negron, Adam Waldron, Willy Reynolds, Brian Callahan, Grace Crampsie Smith, and Carol Ritter are middle-class residents who love and care for Bethlehem and have as much right to run and fund their campaigns as does Van Wirt, Carpenter and the other elitists who think they know what’s best for Bethlehem.
Unions, developers and yes even other council members have as much right to help elect good people to represent Bethlehem and to keep moving the City forward from the disaster of the Steel closing. I trust the people who were raised here and know Bethlehem better than Van Wirt who just moved here.


Seriously consider the Callahan campaign contribution issue before voting for candidate Ritter (61)

(61st in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Election Day is Tuesday May 21

That’s today!

Not everybody in Bethlehem reads the Gadfly blog. Yet. We can hope.

But Gadfly is pretty certain that candidate Ritter and Councilman Callahan both are aware of it.

And one way or another would have heard about Gadfly’s invitation this morning to address several questions about the $4000 contribution.

So Gadfly is left very troubled.

Thus Gadfly suggests that anyone considering voting for candidate Ritter should seriously think thrice upon thrice upon thrice.

Response to doctor.rock (60)

(60th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Gadfly is struggling with time and equipment while on the road, trying to be back in time to vote tomorrow.

He can’t seem to add a link here to the campaign finance reports on the City Council web page. Best he can do is suggest you go back to post #50 and find the link there.

Gadfly thinks doctor.rock in post #55 is way off base.

There are three candidate Ritter reports.

1) The main report doesn’t seem to have a date, but it has contributions through 5/6,

2) A “late” report dated 5/13.

3) A “late” report dated 5/20.

The Councilman Callahan contribution is in the 2nd document.

Or am I hallucinating?

So Gadfly doesn’t know what doctor. rock is talking about.

And will not publish him again without identification.