Former Scranton Mayor McNulty Has Died

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SCRANTON -- Former Scranton Mayor James Barrett McNulty has died, according to sources at City Hall.

James Barrett McNulty was born in Scranton on February 27, 1945, the eldest of six brothers and sisters.
And it was clear early on that politics was in his blood.

Jim McNulty first joined the staff of Congressman Dan Flood,  before helping Republican Gene Peters win the Scranton mayor's office in 1969.
By 1974, he was deputy mayor.

By 1975 he was running for Lackawanna County Commissioner.

He finished fourth in his first race, but Jim McNulty would make a name for himself two years later, ironically, in another race he lost.

In 1977, McNulty ran in the Democratic primary for mayor of his hometown. He lost by 502 votes to Gene Hickey.
Undaunted, the young McNulty ran a flamboyant campaign, based on the popular "Rocky" movie, a campaign that used stickers for voters to write in McNulty's name on the ballot.

He brought youth and energy to an uphill battle, and when the sticker votes were counted and recounted, McNulty ended up losing to Hickey again, by just a few hundred votes.

But McNulty  the fighter would no give up. When Hickey was sworn in as the new mayor, McNulty challenged the election results in court.

In 1979, he ran again for county commissioner, and won his first campaign for the Democratic nomination. But he finished fourth in November, and despite five campaigns in five years, Jim McNulty had been elected to nothing.

That all changed in 1981. An undaunted McNulty charged back into the Democratic primary for mayor, and beat the incumbent Gene Hickey in a three-way race.

He showed plenty of confidence at the polling place in November.

McNulty was sworn in as Scranton's 26th mayor in January 1982.

During his administration, the old Lackawanna Station reopened as a hotel,  plans began to emerge for the economic development of Montage Mountain, and he and other officials, including former Governor Scranton even flew to Vermont to bring a train museum to Scranton called Steamtown.

When a giardiasis scare hit the city in 1984, McNulty got headlines by trucking in an 80,000 gallon tank of clean water, and by  flying to Washington to testify about the quality of Scranton's drinking water.

McNulty also made news by collecting the garbage himself during a Scranton DPW strike.

And as he attended the installation of former Scranton Bishop John O'Connor in New York City later that year.

James Barrett McNulty , with his trademark red rose in the lapel, seemed a shoo-in for re-election in 1985. But McNulty 's greatest political disappointment was still to come.

After beating back a challenge in the Democratic primary,  McNulty made public splashes by courting department store owner Al Boscov to open a store in Scranton.

And for his hands-on response when Hurricane Gloria hit the city in September, including a confrontation with the water company over the quality of the city's drinking water after the storm.

By the time the election night came around, McNulty 's headline grabbing wasn't enough to get him reelected.

Republican David Wenzel beat McNulty by just 120 votes.

Jim McNulty 's term as mayor of Scranton was brief, but unforgettable.

After leaving office, he became a respected political consultant, and frequent commentator on TV.

He proposed to Evie Rafalko on primary election night 1989 and married her at 6 p.m. on the day after Valentines Day in 1991.

McNulty made one final run for office, losing in a crowded field in the Democratic primary for mayor in 1989. His wife, however found great political success as Lackawanna County's long-time recorder of deeds.

Jim McNulty , who seemed born to be a politician, ost far more elections than he won. But he left an indelible mark on the city he loved.

7 comments

  • Philip Gelb

    Philip Gelb Jim James Barrett McNulty was instrumental in helping my brother Steve and myself develop and build Farley’s Restaurant. If it were not for his support, encouragement and movement he started to rebuild Scranton We would built Farley’s in Florida or California at the time. He was very generous with his time especially given our relative youth I was 22 and my brother was 25 at the time, he had confidence that we would get it done and was a great motivator and friend. My condolences and prayers to his family.

  • Rory

    Condolences to Jim’s wife, Evie, and the McNulty family! He was a friend and a caring Mayor. He was a colleague who promoted the arts as he produced Summer Theater on the Snowmobile offered all around the city for free! His aesthetic and vision for the city began so many wonderful projects, many of which we enjoy today. He will be missed, and remembered with kindness and a smile!. God Bless!

  • Larry DeGreen

    I did not live in the city but what I saw is this mayor loved worked hard for all the citizens of Scranton . This beloved mayor sure will be missed. RIP

  • ScrantonBorn

    I do not have enough eloquent words to express my feelings on the loss of our beloved Mayor. He was a true champion for the city of Scranton. He worked tirelessly throughout his life for the betterment of our city, Scranton was in his DNA. He was a hometown boy through & through. He was a true visionary and we will never see another person like James Barrett McNulty in our life time. I am grateful to have called him my friend along with the many thousands of people that have also called him friend. Thank you for your tireless spirit and incredible strength Jim.
    You never stopped believing in the city of Scranton and it’s people. Your spirit lives on now that your work here is done.
    God Bless you

  • Sam

    This man had
    Perseverance that’s for sure,
    And keep your lousy remarks to yourself,
    Be considerate and not inconsiderate
    The man has passed on

    • Bobby Arvon

      No one loved Scranton more than Jimmy there us no negative remarks needed case closed no one will ever be like him

Comments are closed.