ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who gained national attention by targeting illegal immigrants living in his small northeastern Pennsylvania city, cruised to the Republican nomination for a third term on Tuesday — and unexpectedly won the Democratic nomination, too.
Barletta trounced GOP challenger Dee Deakos with nearly 94 percent of the vote. And he beat former Mayor Michael Marsicano for the Democratic nomination by staging a last-minute write-in campaign, all but guaranteeing himself another term, unofficial returns showed.
"I think the message is clear," Barletta said. "The people of Hazleton want me to keep fighting for them."
The Republican mayor said Democrats kept telling him they wished they could vote for him in the primary. So, about a week ago, he mailed instructions to Democratic voters on how to write in his name.
Marsicano, a retired airline pilot who was Hazleton's mayor from 1996 to 1999, had appeared alone on the Democratic ballot.
Barletta, a businessman who took office in 2000, proposed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act last year after four illegal immigrants were charged with shooting and killing a man.
The measure, on hold due to a legal challenge by Hispanic groups and individuals, was approved last summer and emulated by other towns and cities. It would penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them.
Barletta said he was gratified, particularly given that Democrats hold a 2-1 registration edge over Republicans in the city of more than 30,000.
Also Tuesday, two Hispanic candidates lost their primary bids for two open seats on the Hazleton City Council. One of the candidates, Rudy Espinal, is a plaintiff in the illegal immigrant lawsuit.