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LAWRENCE COUNTY Jockeying for good ballot position



Published: Fri, March 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The luck of the draw determines ballot positions.

By NANCY TULLIS

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Diane D'Amore Mangino emerged from the county commissioners meeting room flashing a smile, her index and middle fingers forming a V.

Mangino, an Enon Valley Democrat, was signaling to supporters that her No. 2 draw means her name will appear second on the May 20 primary ballot among 11 Democrats in the running for Lawrence County commissioner. She hopes the V will also stand for "victory."

Mangino and other candidates seeking various offices in Lawrence County this spring were hoping for a bit of the luck o' the Irish in the annual ballot lottery Monday at the courthouse.

Mangino had the support Monday of Mick Abbinati, a transplanted Allegheny County resident who said he's been assisting in various campaigns for more than 20 years. He said that after helping with campaigns in Allegheny County, he prefers the more friendly, intimate atmosphere of Lawrence County campaigning.

"I've seen some races that were cutthroat, downright nasty," he said. "It's much better here. I love this town. This is a fun event."

Year of the woman?

Abbinati predicts 2003 will be a good year for women seeking office.

"People are seeking change," he said. "Look at the governor's race. We have a woman [Catherine Baker Knoll] as lieutenant governor, and that is opening a lot of doors for women across the state."

Susan Bongivengo, looking to unseat Lawrence County Treasurer Gary Felasco of New Castle, hopes Abbinati's prediction is right.

With only her name and that of Felasco on the ballot, Bongivengo doesn't believe her No. 2 draw will have much effect in her race. She said, however, that the lottery system is a very fair way to determine how to list the candidates' names on the ballot.

The whole process took about 90 minutes. As candidates were called into the commissioners meeting room to draw numbers from a green plastic hat, other candidates and supporters greeted one another and talked excitedly as they waited in the hall for their turn to draw.

Council drawing reset

The drawing for New Castle City Council had to be rescheduled for today. After several candidates had drawn their numbers and left, one of 10 candidates drew No. 11. Officials realized too late that there was one number too many in the hat.

Thomas Fee, a New Castle Democrat, came dressed in the spirit of the day. He wore a bright green blazer complemented with a shamrock print tie.

"It's a fun day, and great weather," Fee said. "I'm a little bit Irish, so I had to dress this way."

Fee, a former commissioner, councilman and state legislator, said he bowed out of politics four years ago because of his wife's ill health. Her health has improved, so this year, he decided to give the commissioners race another try.

Frank Augustine of New Castle is seeking a seat on the Shenango school board. He said the ballot lottery is a chance to meet people and size up the competition in a fun atmosphere.

Augustine drew the No. 6 spot of seven candidates on both the Republican and Democratic ballots and took his fate in stride.

"You just have to get out and meet the people," he said. "If you're a good candidate, they'll look for your name, no matter where it is on the ballot."




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