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WAMPUM, PA. Write-in candidate beats mayor in spring primary



Published: Wed, June 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The current mayor is planning his own write-in campaign for the November election.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- One of Pennsylvania's youngest mayors may have a very short term in office.

Dustin Piatt, 21, of Wampum appeared to be a shoo-in to keep the job he was appointed to last month after the death of Democratic Mayor Mike Rychlicki.

However, Lawrence County election officials said Tuesday that a tally of write-in votes found that another man won both the Democratic and Republican nominations for the job in the spring primary election.

Jeff Steffler, 43, beat Piatt by garnering 65 Democratic votes and 34 Republican votes. Piatt, who was on the ballot as a Democrat, got 56 votes.

The small borough just outside of Ellwood City has 412 registered voters, according to Lawrence County election officials.

Why he ran: Steffler said he hadn't thought of running for office until he learned that Rychlicki, 71, wasn't seeking another term as mayor. Rychlicki later died.

"We were good friends. I lived right behind his flower shop for a period of 10 years. I'd have never run against him," Steffler said of the former mayor.

When the post became vacant after Rychlicki died in May, Steffler said he applied to council for the job. They decided to appoint Piatt, who was the only candidate for the office on the spring primary election ballot.

Steffler said he went door-to-door informing his neighbors that he wanted the job.

"I was surprised. The whole town was very supportive. I had a lot of supporters," he said.

Marlene Gabriel, Lawrence County elections director, said Steffler's write-in campaign is one of the few that has ever been successful on both Republican and Democratic ballots in the county.

Incumbent response: Piatt, who will serve as mayor until December, could not be reached to comment, but his father, Albert, says he is not giving up on the job.

He said his son is planning his own write-in campaign for the fall election.

"I think some people think he's too young, but he's been working with council and they have been getting along. I think he has been doing a real good job," the mayor's father said.




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