Two independent candidates have stepped up to challenge embattled Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s bid for a fourth term.
Tembo, 54, said he wants to challenge Pawlowski not because of the mayor’s alleged involvement in pay-to-play contracting, but because of the city’s quality of life.While there’s a building boom going on in Allentown, Tembo said the development hasn’t delivered homes or products that many Allentonians can afford. In fact, he said, many are looking for work or need better jobs.
Tembo said he has been a Republican and a Democrat — he volunteered for Pawlowski on prior campaigns. Neither major party, Tembo said, has addressed those community needs.
That’s why he said he decided to run as an independent. The paperwork puts him in the King Solomon Tembo Party, a name one of his three daughters came up with.
Tembo said he owns an income tax business in Allentown and is a hotel and restaurant consultant and a member of Kenyan Community in the North East.
Ingram, a former member of the Allentown Planning Commission, has been on the fringes of local politics the past six years. He ran for City Council in 2011 and applied for vacancies on council and Lehigh County executive.The 68-year-old west Allentown resident said Pawlowski has achieved many positives for the city during his 12-year tenure as mayor. With the mayor now facing charges, however, Ingram said the city needs to move on and unite under nonpartisan leadership.
“With what’s happened in the last two years, it’s unfortunately tarnished the whole thing,” Ingram said, referring to a federal investigation into the city’s contracting practices.
Pawlowski last week pleaded not guilty in federal court to 54 counts of fraud, bribery and extortion. Federal investigators say the mayor orchestrated a pay-to-play scheme in which he sold city contracts and influence for campaign contributions. Since 2015, nine people have pleaded guilty and implicated the mayor, who has maintained his innocence and pointed to accomplishments in office.
Ingram, a commercial real estate appraiser, said he would use his management experience to reorganize City Hall. He also would advocate for redevelopment in areas outside the Neighborhood Improvement Zone, including the former Allentown State Hospital.
Pawlowski is not compelled to withdraw his name from the ballot simply because he faces criminal charges. He could only be removed as the party nominee if convicted of a crime or by voluntarily withdrawing himself as a candidate.
Ray O’Connell, a City Council veteran who lost the Democratic primary to Pawlowski by 342 votes, plans an announcement Thursday on the upcoming election and Pawlowski’s refusal to resign.