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Luzerne County Republican state House candidates quarrel over withdrawal offer

State Rep. Mike Cabell, left, and challenger Jamie Walsh
State Rep. Mike Cabell, left, and challenger Jamie Walsh

A Republican candidate for a Luzerne County state House seat contends he was offered future campaign money to drop out of the race.

Jamie Walsh said Rep. Mike Cabell’s campaign manager offered $10,000 for a future state Senate campaign if he would withdraw from their 117th House District contest.

 “With this offer, you want to call it a bribe or an offer or whatever you want to call it, it’s me do something in exchange for something … That's corrupt. I'm sorry. It's corrupt,” Walsh said.

Cabell vehemently denies he or his campaign manager, Jason Holly, offered any money. He accuses Walsh of lying about that. He acknowledges offering future, unspecified political backing because both have similar views on issues. He figured he and Walsh could work together on the issues.

“When I alluded to that, I wasn't necessarily alluding to a Senate seat or a rep seat. It could have been county council, it could have been, could have been school board. It could have been anything,” Cabell said.

 Walsh denies lying. Cabell’s campaign manager, Jason Holly, could not be reached for comment.

 Offers of future support to get one candidate out of a multi-candidate race aren’t unheard of. They aren’t illegal, but the offers usually don’t come up publicly.

 “That happens all the time,” Cabell said.

 Democratic political consultant Ed Mitchell said no one ever did that in a race he handled, but he’s heard of the practice. Usually, a party official handled it, he said.

“Over the years, I think that was a type of a situation you may hear regarding party officials, you know, because they seem to have the ability to organize to do something for you,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell is unsure an offer of support would matter much.

 “It's a situation today where it's everybody's a maverick, and I don't know what kind of support this representative would be able to offer,” he said.

Walsh first brought up the offer publicly a few weeks ago at a debate in Mountaintop. He said he waited so long because debates in January and February were called off, and he wanted to publicly confront Cabell.

He said Cabell’s campaign manager made the offer Dec. 5 when the two sides met at a Dallas, Luzerne County, restaurant.

“And finally, his campaign manager had stated to me, ‘Hey, listen, it doesn't really sound like you and Mike disagree on very much. And we could really use the money that we would use to run against you, we could really use that to help other areas in this area of people that are running races, and I'd rather Mike not run against another Republican,” Walsh said. “And so he said, ‘What if we made you the leading candidate in 2026 for Lisa Baker seat? And we'll cut you a $10,000 check for your campaign. And I said, ‘Absolutely not. I would never take a deal like that.’”

 The Senate race would be in 2028, not 2026. Baker, re-elected last year, hasn’t said if she plans to seek another term then.

Cabell says he only offered future support for an unspecified campaign and to work together on their common issues.

“I was like Jamie, I don’t know what you think here, but let’s just, let’s work together on some of this stuff,” he said.

 “And that was it,” Cabell said. “That was the end of the conversation.”

Cabell said no money was discussed.

“Never,” he said. “Like I said, there was discussion of support, but the clearest thing ever is that there was no money offered whatsoever.”

The two men will square off in the April 23 primary election. The winner will likely become the next 117th district representative because no Democratic candidate filed for the seat.

The 117th district includes most of the townships and boroughs in roughly the western and southern part of Luzerne County. The salary this year is $106,422.33.

Borys joins WVIA News from The Scranton Times-Tribune, where he served as an investigative reporter and covered a wide range of political stories. His work has been recognized with numerous national and state journalism awards from the Inland Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association.

You can email Borys at boryskrawczeniuk@wvia.org