City Councilman Bob Donchez officially launched his campaign for mayor this morning, touting his 17 years of experience in city government in front of about 150 supporters at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem.
“Bethlehem … like most cities faces challenges. Strong, experienced and mature leadership will be needed,” Donchez said. “I believe my past leadership and my vision for the future can and will continue to move Bethlehem forward.”
Donchez said he intends to outline his vision for the city over the course of the campaign, but outlined his four top priorities: “a fiscally responsible and transparent city government, strong public safety, smart economic development and thriving and safe neighborhoods.”
If elected, Donchez said he will appoint a community task force of “knowledgeable community leaders” to review all aspects of city government.
A Democrat, Donchez, 62, is currently serving his fifth term on City Council. For eight of his 17 years on Bethlehem’s legislative body, he served as council president.
He said his late father, John Donchez, who was a Bethlehem Police detective, instilled in him his dedication to public service.
A retired social studies teacher in the Allentown School District, Donchez is now chief of staff for state Rep. Daniel McNeill, D-133. He held the same job for former state Rep. Joseph Brennan for six years.
Twice, he used the words “strong, experienced and mature” to describe his leadership style, an apparent effort to evoke a clear contrast with primary election opponent and fellow Democratic Councilman J. William Reynolds, who is half Donchez’s age.
Reynolds formally kicked off his campaign on Jan. 8, attempting to cast himself in the mold of Bethlehem’s last two mayors – Don Cunningham and John Callahan – who were both young councilmen who he said offered the city a new kind of leadership in the wake of Bethlehem Steel’s demise.
With the help of supporters, Donchez reached a little further back into the city’s history to find his leadership model – Paul Marcincin, who was the city’s chief executive from 1978 to 1987.
State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18, said Donchez has “the same gentlemanly approach” as the late Marcincin. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Marcincin had been a mentor to both he and Donchez, who were childhood friends growing in South Bethlehem.
Donchez was a co-chair of all three of Marcincin’s mayoral campaigns. Boscola and Morganelli are co-chairs of Donchez’s campaign.
Donchez and Reynolds are currently the only apparent candidates for mayor. No Republicans have announced an intention to run. Candidates can begin circulating petitions on Feb. 19.
Callahan, who is required under the city’s home rule charter to step aside after two terms, attended Donchez’s campaign kickoff, but said that does not mean an endorsement.
The current mayor said he also plans to attend some of Reynolds events and has no plans to endorse either Democratic candidate.