ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The mayor of Pennsylvania's third-largest city won a fourth term Tuesday despite facing federal corruption charges that could land him in prison.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, a Democrat, beat Republican real estate developer Nat Hyman. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Pawlowski had about 50 percent of the vote and Hyman 43 percent.
Pawlowski denied accusations that he accepted more than $150,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for city contracts, asking voters in the heavily Democratic city to return him to an office he's held since 2006. Hyman said he ran "to try and pull Allentown out from under the cloud of scandal."
"We've got a lot of great things on the horizon," Pawlowski told cheering supporters at a local Lebanese restaurant after election results were announced. "We have a great city that is growing, that is expanding. We're going to keep moving this city forward."
Pawlowski, a Chicago native, was the city's economic development director before winning the top job a dozen years ago. He presided over the revitalization of downtown — hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of projects including a new hockey arena, gleaming office buildings and upscale apartments — thanks to a valuable tax incentive program passed by the state Legislature especially for Allentown.
Pawlowski won re-election in 2009 and again in 2013.
It was during unsuccessful runs for governor in 2013 and the U.S. Senate in 2015 that prosecutors say he abused the power of his office, making it clear to vendors that he expected campaign contributions in return for contracts.
Following a two-year investigation of City Hall, prosecutors in July charged him with 56 counts, including bribery, conspiracy, fraud, extortion and lying to the FBI.
Pawlowski pleaded not guilty and resisted calls to step down, insisting: "I know I'm innocent. I know I did nothing wrong." His lawyer called the charges "outrageous." A trial is scheduled for January.
Hyman, his opponent, is an Allentown native who started the Landau chain of jewelry retailers as well as the large real estate firm that bears his name and has developed more than 1 million square feet in the city.
Two other candidates ran as independents. Allentown's Democratic city council president, Ray O'Connell, waged a write-in campaign.