With one seat vacant and two incumbents stepping down, close to a dozen candidates are vying to become magisterial district judges in Tuesday’s primary.
Two candidates are running to fill the seat in the Cecil-centered magisterial district that had been occupied by Traci McDonald-Kemp, who was elected to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas in 2019. With Judge Ethan Ward declining to seek reelection in the district that encompasses much of the southwestern portion of Washington County, four candidates are running to replace him, and Judge Robert Redlinger’s retirement in the district that includes the city of Washington and surrounding communities has drawn three candidates into the contest.
In addition, Judge Curtis Thompson is running for a sixth term in the district that includes Scenery Hill and Avella.
Magisterial district judges deal with day-to-day legal issues such as landlord-tenant disputes, arraignments and civil matters involving relatively small amounts of money. The salary for all 512 magisterial district judges in Pennsylvania is a uniform $93,338. Candidates have to be 21 years old, registered to vote and a resident of the district in which they are running. If a winning candidate does not have a law background, they have to pass a certification exam after four weeks of training.
The candidates in the four area magisterial districts are:
In District 27-3-02, Thompson has held the seat for 30 years and is facing competition from Ronald Tardivo, a Cokeburg resident and former bakery owner and police officer. Thompson and Tardivo will be on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. District 27-3-02 includes Beallsville, Bentleyville, Cokeburg, Deemston, Ellsworth, Kammerer, Marianna, North Bethlehem, Scenery Hill, Somerset, West Bethlehem, West Pike Run and part of Eighty Four.
Meanwhile, District 27-3-06 has produced judges that have gone on to serve on the Washington County Court of Common Pleas. Along with McDonald-Kemp, Valarie Costanzo and Paul Pozonsky also made the leap. Kristin Clingerman, a 2017 candidate for a seat on the common pleas court and former Washington County assistant district attorney, is running in the district this time around, as is Lou McQuillan, chief of the Mt. Pleasant Township Police Department. Both candidates have filed in the Democratic and Republican primaries. The district encompasses Cecil, Hickory, Lawrence, McDonald, Mt. Pleasant, Muse, Robinson, Southview, Venice and Westland.
In District 27-1-01, the candidates to replace Redlinger are Robert Dulaney, who is currently a service porter for Budd Baer Auto Group in Washington; Kelly Stewart, who has held jobs with Washington County Juvenile Probation Office, and with the offices of the district attorney and register of wills; and Patrick Puskarich, a sergeant deputy in the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. All three candidates will be on the Republican and Democratic ballots. The district includes the city of Washington, North Franklin and Gabby Heights.
With Ward’s departure from the bench, the contest in District 27-3-10 is pitting four candidates against one another: Jason Moore, who is employed with Craig Moore & Son, a family trucking business; Scott Bernett, the owner of Tri-State Restoration Services Inc., a Washington-based fire restoration company; Dan Stanek, a former Washington police detective; and John Bruner, a former South Strabane police detective and current police officer with the Chartiers Valley School District. Moore is running on the Republican ballot, while the other three are running on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. The district includes Amity, Amwell, Blaine, Buffalo, Claysville, Crothers, Donegal, Dunns Station, East Finley, Glyde, Green Hills, Hopewell, Independence, Lone Pine, Morris, Prosperity, South Franklin, Taylorstown, West Alexander, West Finley and West Middletown.
There are 11 magisterial districts in Washington County, and elections in the districts are staggered between off-year elections.