Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lebanese Lobby Next year is shaping up to be quite a year for politicians with Scranton roots.

Lebanese Lobby ::: Lebanon: "Next year is shaping up to be quite a year for politicians with local roots.

©The Times-Tribune 2005

First, there's the possibility — most say likelihood — that former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton of North Abington Township will be the Republican candidate for governor against Democrat incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell of Philadelphia.

Second, state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. of Scranton is the favorite to win his Democratic Party's nomination to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Penn Hills.

It would surprise no one if U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, who spent part of his childhood in Green Ridge, jumps into the 2008 presidential race. He's clearly thinking about it.

As anyone who pays attention to politics knows, a potential Casey-Santorum match-up would be a battle royale between two of the state's political heavyweights, whose race is already attracting attention nationwide.

It just might not be the only big-name U.S. Senate race next year featuring someone with local roots.

Looking to deflate her 2008 presidential race aspirations, Republicans are recruiting candidates to knock off Democrat Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

They might turn to Jeanine Pirro, 54, the three-term district attorney of Westchester County, New York, a Republican who announced her bid for Mrs. Clinton's Senate seat Aug. 9.

Now, everyone knows that Mrs. Clinton's father, Hugh, was a Scranton native who moved his family to Illinois, where Mrs. Clinton was born.

What you might not know is that Ms. Pirro's father, Nasser “Leo” Ferris, grew up here, too.

Longtime local political gadfly John Gustin, 83, brought this to our attention. He and Mr. Ferris went to school together at No. 16 Lafayette School, which stood at 228-240 N. Chestnut Ave. Nasser Ferris lived on Ninth Avenue. He later married Esther Awad. Jeanine Pirro is one of Nasser and Esther Ferris' daughters. Nasser's half brothers were Tom and Fred Joseph.

Emil “Mike” Murad, Esther's first cousin, said the family has Lebanese roots . Charles Awad, Esther Pirro's father, was born in Lebanon where Nasser traveled and met Esther before returning here. The Ferrises lived in Scranton at least five years after Nasser, an Army veteran, returned from World War II. They moved to Elmira, N.Y., where Charles Awad had settled, in the late 1940s, Mr. Murad said. Jeanine Pirro was born in Elmira. Leo helped Charles sell mobile homes, Mr. Murad said.

“It was here in this town that I learned that we have an obligation to take care of people who can't take care of themselves,” Ms. Pirro told a crowd gathered in Elmira for her announcement, according to the Elmira Star-Gazette.

No mention of Scranton. Jeanine Pirro never lived here, Mr. Murad said.

Mr. Murad, who now raises horses that run at Pocono Downs, said he lived in Elmira and ran a car wash there for much of his life. He moved back to Scranton in 1990, but watched Jeanine Pirro grow up in the New York town because the families were close. He last saw her a few years ago when she visited Scranton for Fred Joseph's funeral, he said.

Ms. Pirro is considered by many a maverick, known for her aggressive prosecution of hate and bias crimes, elder abuse, environmental crime, youth and gang violence, animal abuse and Internet pedophiles, according to her biography. You might have seen her as a commentator on CNN, Fox News Channel, The Today Show, Good Morning America and 60 Minutes. She has written a book, “To Punish and Protect Against a System that Coddles Criminals,” published last year by Simon & Schuster.

“She's brilliant, she's tough, she's extremely articulate, and she has all the skills needed for higher office,” Gov. George Pataki told The New Yorker magazine for a profile of Ms. Pirro, according to her DA web site.

Unlike Mrs. Clinton on the Democratic side, Ms. Pirro is hardly assured of earning the Republican nomination.

Her potential opponents, according to The New York Times, include former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, Edward Cox, the son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon, and William Brenner, a tax lawyer from Sullivan County, N.Y.

Efforts to reach Ms. Pirro were unsuccessful.

Her family is excited about the possibility of her taking on Mrs. Clinton.

“I hope she can beat Hillary,” Mr. Murad said. “She's my cousin. I'd love to see her there (in the Senate). How many times do you have a cousin run for the Senate?”

©The Times-Tribune 2005"


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