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Chester County Officials, Judges Take Oath of Office

(From a press release)

The installation of newly-elected Chester County officials and judges took place at swearing-in ceremonies this past weekend, in Courtroom 1 of the Chester County Justice Center.  On Friday, December 29, five new judges and two judges retained by voters took the oath of office to serve on the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

On Saturday, December 30, three county commissioners, and the new District Attorney, Sheriff, Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills and one Magisterial District Judge were also sworn-in.

Chester County’s new Board of Commissioners are Josh Maxwell, Marian Moskowitz, and Eric Roe. Christopher de Barrena-Sarobe is the County’s new District Attorney and Kevin Dykes is the new Chester County Sheriff.  Michele Vaughn begins her second term as Register of Wills, and Diane O’Dwyer begins her term as the County’s Recorder of Deeds, having previously served as Acting Recorder.

From left to right: Magisterial District Judge Tim Arndt, Register of Wills Michele Vaughn, Recorder of Deeds Diane O’Dwyer, Sheriff Kevin Dykes, District Attorney Chris de Barrena-Sarobe, and Commissioners Eric Roe, Josh Maxwell, and Marian Moskowitz.

Tim Arndt was sworn-in as the new Magisterial District Judge for the Honey Brook District Court. Debbie Bookman, who was unable to attend the ceremonial swearing-in event, begins her second term as the Prothonotary for Chester County.

The five new judges, elected to serve 10-year terms on the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, are Sarah Black, Nicole Forzato, Fredda Maddox, Thomas (Tip) McCabe and Deb Ryan.  Judge John Hall, currently serving as President Judge, and Judge Patrick Carmody are the two judges retained by voters.

As noted by President Judge Hall at the Friday swearing-in ceremony, “The addition to the Chester County bench of the five newly-elected Common Pleas judges constitutes the largest number of judges added at one time to the court since it was created in 1791.

“As a percentage of the 14-member court, these five judges will represent over one-third of the bench, the largest proportional change to the court since the appointment of Judge William Waddell in 1887.”


Delaware Valley Election Preview

Voters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties head to the polls on Tuesday to decide several races across the Delaware Valley.

A Montgomery County judge, Republican Carolyn Carluccio, is in the most high-profile race in the state. She is facing Democrat Dan McCaffery for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Carluccio is president judge on Montgomery County’s Court of Common Pleas. McCaffery, a Philadelphian, sits on the state Superior Court. The pair are vying for an opening left by last year’s death of Chief Justice Max Baer.

Around $22 million has been spent on the Carluccio-McCaffery race. That includes donations from labor groups, the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association’s political action committee, and the Commonwealth Leaders Fund. Despite the spending, a recent Franklin & Marshall Poll found that 7 in 10 registered voters don’t have an opinion on either Carluccio or McCaffery.

Democrats would remain in control of the court if Carluccio would be elected, but it would be a slim 4-3 majority. Should McCaffery win, the court would keep its 5-2 Democrat majority.

Other statewide elections include the Superior Court judge race featuring Democrats Jill Beck and Timika Lane and Republicans Harry F. Smail Jr. and Maria Battista. There is also the Commonwealth Court race between Republican Megan Martin and Democrat Matt Wolf.

Voters in all the counties are electing Common Pleas judges and nominees for various row offices.

Delaware County voters will decide a variety of important races. Three seats on the county council are up for grabs, including those currently held by three Democrats: Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D., Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, and Christine A. Ruther. They are being challenged by Republicans Joy Schwartz, Jeffrey O. Jones, and Upland Borough Mayor William Dennon.

Republican attorney Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski has made concerns about rising crime the centerpiece of her race against incumbent Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, a Democrat.

The fiscally-flailing City of Chester is almost certain to get its first new mayor in seven years. City Councilman Stefan Roots defeated incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland in the Democratic primary in May. Roots will face independent Anita J. Littleton.

Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. To see a sample ballot, click here.

Bucks County elections have been peppered with controversy, including Democratic candidates putting the name of popular Republican District Attorney Matt Weintraub on their own campaign signs — without his permission.

“I was disappointed to learn that my name has been used by the Marseglia-Harvie campaign without my authorization or permission,” Weintraub, who’s running for Common Pleas judge, told DVJournal.

That would be Bucks County Commissioners Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia and fellow Democrat County Commission Board Chair Robert Harvie Jr., who are seeking second terms in office. Pamela A. Van Blunk, currently serving as Bucks County Controller, is running as a team with Republican Gene DiGirolamo, who is seeking a second term. Van Blunk and DiGirolamo have also made rising crime the centerpiece of their campaign.

There are also multiple races for the Central Bucks School District board, as well as other school boards across the DelVal. School District 1 voters will be picking between Democratic incumbent Karen Smith and Republican challenger Dr. Stephen Mass. District 2 features incumbent Republican Dana Hunter, the current school board president, against Democrat Heather Reynolds. In District 3, it’s Democrat Dana Foley against Republican Glenn Schloeffel. District 6 is a race between Republican Aarati P. Martino and Democrat Rick Haring. District 8 features Democrat Susan M. Gibson against Tony Arjona.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Sample ballots can be accessed here.

Montgomery County will see a major change in its leadership with the election of two new commissioners to the three-seat board. Jamila Winder, who was appointed to fill out the remainder of Val Arkoosh’s term, is running for election as a Democrat. Lawyer Neil Makhija, who ran for state representative in Carbon County in 2016, is running as a Democrat. Republicans Thomas DiBello, a businessman, and Liz Ferry, an Upper Dublin commissioner, are also seeking voters’ approval.

Other major contests include the sheriff’s race between Democratic incumbent Sean P. Kilkenny and Republican Ed Moye.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Sample ballots can be found here. People looking to see if they can vote in the election can get more information here.

Chester County’s polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

A referendum expanding the Honey Brook Township Board of Supervisors from three to five is creating local buzz.

There will also be a new District Attorney in Chester County. Ryan L. Hyde is running as a Republican against Democrat Christopher de Barrena-Sarobe.

There could also be turnover on the County Board of Commissioners. Incumbent Democrats Josh Maxwell and Marian Moskowitz are running for re-election. They are facing Republicans David C. Sommers and Eric Roe. The Democrats, who became the first Democratic majority to run the county in 2019, tout their record of inclusivity, affordable housing, and the environment. But the Republicans point to the escape of convicted murderer Danilo Cavalcante from the county prison despite a previous escape by an inmate using the same method, as a reason to question Maxwell and Moskowitz’s competency. Both serve on the Prison Board, along with Sheriff Fredda Maddox, also a Democrat. who is running for Common Pleas Judge. Her Chief Deputy Kevin Dykes, a Democrat, is being challenged by former sheriff’s deputy Republican Roy Kofroth.

A sample ballot can be found here.

Bar Association Asks Voters to Retain Delco Judges

On Monday, the Delaware County Bar Association held an unusual press conference, announcing their members wholeheartedly endorse the judges running for retention.

This move comes after the Delaware County Democratic Committee, in an unprecedented move, voted to tell its members not to vote not to retain three Common Pleas Court judges: Richard M. Cappelli, Barry C. Dozor and William Chip Mackrides.

“As attorneys, we recognize that it is in the best interests of justice that we support a strong and independent judiciary. And that judicial independence is more than a mere ideal. It is a cornerstone of our democracy and the rule of law,” said Patrick Daley, bar association president.

“We must vigilantly support judicial retention as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical matter,” said Daley. “An independent judiciary guards against political interference in legal cases that come before the court, and it ensures that our judges remain impartial stewards of the law, owing fealty to the law and our constitutions, rather than to a political party or partisan interests,” Daley added.

Colleen Guiney, chair of the Delco Democrats, said her organization is not opposing any individual judge but instead wants to change the system. Judges are up for retention votes every ten years.

Since these judges were elected, the county has moved on, and there is more “transparency and equity,” she said. The court system uses up half the county budget, she said. And the current bench “does not reflect those changes.”

“There have been lots of challenging situations,” she said. As it is now, “it’s more about patronage and personal convenience,” she said.

The party’s Facebook page says the court “costs taxpayers money and clogs our justice system.”

“The Democratic Party is recommending a No vote on retaining Common Pleas Court judges so Delco voters have a chance to elect new judges at the next municipal election,” the party said.

Guiney said about half of the voters don’t vote on the retention question.

After the press conference, Daley said the bar has members of both parties and is a nonpartisan entity, so he could not comment directly about the Delco Democrats’ recommendation not to vote for the sitting judges.

Capelli was elected to the Common Pleas Court in 2013. He had served as a magisterial district justice for 21 years before serving as the county’s first child advocate. He also assisted the DA’s Office in founding a special prosecution unit, the bar association said in a press release.

Dozor was appointed to the Common Pleas Court in 2001 and was elected in 2004. He is a lifelong county resident and graduated from Haverford High School and West Chester University. Currently the head of the civil division, he was also a family court judge and introduced the “one judge-one family” assignment protocol to provide consistency in litigation. He also served on the criminal bench and was assigned all the opioid litigation for the state of Pennsylvania. The bar voted 91 percent to retain Dozor.

Mackrides is also a lifelong county resident with an accounting degree from Villanova and a law degree from Loyola University. He was elected in 2013 and practiced law in the county and statewide for more than 33 years. The bar voted by 91 percent to retain him.

“The Delaware County Republican Party vehemently condemns the outrageous and partisan attack launched by the Delaware County Democrats on qualified, nonpartisan judges ahead of the upcoming November election,” said Frank Agovino, chair of the Delco GOP. “The Delaware County Democratic Committee’s recent decision to recommend non-retention marks a dangerous departure from the long-held tradition of non-partisanship in judicial retention elections.

The judges targeted for non-retention…have a lengthy record of distinguished, nonpartisan service. Furthermore, they have all been endorsed by the Delaware County Bar Association – a nonpartisan organization –for retention, with 90 percent in favor of retention. Their impeccable qualifications and unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law have earned them bipartisan respect and support.”

He called the Democrat’s recommendation to their voters “an overt power play to manipulate the judicial branch for political gain, all because these judges were once endorsed by the Republican Party.”

Agovino noted that in the past, Guiney had “respected the traditional practice of retaining judges unless they engage in egregious misconduct. This recent action is utterly at odds with Democrats’ purported commitment to safeguarding democracy, protecting norms, and preserving institutions.”

Guiney said the move to not recommend judicial retention was in response to many voters, who do not want to wait longer for change.

“We are a bottom-up, not a top-down organization,” she said.

Bucks County GOP Announces 2023 Recommended Candidates

The Bucks County Republican Committee announced its team of recommended candidates for the 2023 county elections.

The local Republican committee members held area meetings to screen candidates for Court of Common Pleas, county commissioner, register of wills, treasurer, clerk of courts, and coroner and then voted on their recommendations.

These regional votes were confirmed by a vote of the Executive Committee, made up of representatives from across Bucks County. The candidates listed below earned the overwhelming support of the Bucks County Republican Committee.

“We are proud to recommend to the voters of Bucks County this qualified, experienced, and dedicated team of candidates,” said Bucks County GOP Chair Patricia Poprik.  “Our strong ticket of candidates is ready to get to work protecting our community, supporting our families, and restoring fiscal discipline to county government.”

Republicans in Bucks County are hoping to repeat 2021’s elections, where the GOP candidates won all the open county races.  While Republicans in Delaware and Chester counties are struggling to keep those counties purple and Montgomery County is at this point solidly blue, Bucks County has been leaning Republican.

Back L to R): Charles Stockert, Matt Weintraub, Jeff Hall-Gale, Gene DiGirolamo (Front L to R): Sherry Labs, Pamela Van Blunk, Robyn Goodnoe

The party endorsed DA Matt Weintraub for Common Pleas judge.  Weintraub, who lives in Doylestown, is a Bucks County native with over a quarter-century of experience as a prosecutor. He has prosecuted more than 100 criminal cases, including the successful prosecution of the killers of teenager Grace Packer and musician Danny DeGennaro.  In another controversial case, he was also instrumental bringing Cosmo DiNardo to justice for murdering four young men in Solebury Township.

As district attorney, he has also worked with community partners to combat the opioid epidemic and to reduce the overall number of prosecutions by diverting more offenders into treatment programs at the earliest stages of their involvement with the justice system.

Poprik called Weintraub “exemplary.”

His clear mission is the relentless pursuit of justice and keeping Bucks County families safe, Poprik said.

Gene DiGirolamo has served as Bucks County Commissioner since his election in 2019. During his first term, Commissioner DiGirolamo delivered results for Bucks County families on the issues that matter most, said Poprik.

Continuing his decades-long advocacy on behalf of drug treatment and prevention programs, the Bensalem resident was selected to represent Southeastern Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Opioid Misuse and Addiction Abatement Trust.

Additionally, DiGirolamo was instrumental in providing security at the county’s election drop boxes, she said.  By championing the policy that each drop box is monitored by a camera and staffed by ballot clerks, DiGirolamo has helped to protect the integrity of our local elections, she said.

DiGirolamo has also been a voice for fiscal responsibility on the Board of Commissioners, fighting to protect taxpayer dollars, she said.

Before he was elected county commissioner, DiGirolamo served as Bensalem Township auditor and spent 25 years representing the 18th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The Bucks GOP also endorsed Pamela Van Blunk for commissioner.

Van Blunk currently serves as Bucks County controller acting as the fiscal watchdog. Van Blunk, a Doylestown resident, said that she believes that Bucks County families deserve someone fighting for them every day.  As the controller, she has seen firsthand the challenges the county faces.

From holding county government accountable and promoting responsible economic growth to combating the opioid crisis and keeping our streets safe, Van Blunk promised to make Bucks County an even better place to live, work and raise families.

Before taking office, she was, and is, an experienced litigation attorney. Van Blunk attended law school as a single mother with three young children, graduating cum laude from Widener University’s Delaware Law School. She received her B.S. from Rutgers University Newark College of Arts and Sciences.

For treasurer, the Bucks GOP endorsed Sherry Labs.

Labs, of Plumstead Township, has served as tax collector for her community for the past 26 years. A leader both in the County and State Tax Collector Associations, Labs has worked diligently for the taxpayers of Bucks County, Poprik said.  Labs previously served as the second deputy in the county Treasurer’s Office and will bring experience and professionalism to the office, Poprik added.

The Bucks County Republicans tapped Robyn Goodnoe for register of wills.

Goodnoe brings to the race nearly a decade of experience in county government, including five years working in the Register of Wills Office. During a routine audit of the department by the Pennsylvania office of the Auditor General, the report found that “Robyn’s records are superb.” Goodnoe, a Richland Township resident, will bring this professionalism and attention to detail to the position of register of wills, said Poprik.

Jeff Hall-Gale is the endorsed candidate for clerk of courts. A Lower Makefield resident, he is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.  After graduating from Villanova University School of Law, Hall-Gale clerked for a Franklin/Fulton County Court of Common Pleas judge, where he learned how Pennsylvania’s court system operates.  Hall-Gale is a former investigator for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Office of Attorney Ethics and currently works in private practice at an area law firm.

The GOP endorsed Hilltown resident Charles “Chuck” Stockert, for coroner. A former deputy coroner in the Bucks County Coroner’s Office, Stockert earned numerous state and national certifications.  Stockert has spent his life serving our community, including as a local fire Chief, EMT, and police officer in Telford and Franconia said Poprik.

She said he also has experience working for Steeley Funeral Home providing compassionate care for grieving families.

“Chuck will bring an intimate knowledge of the County Coroner’s office, as well as decades of public service,” said Poprik.

These recommended candidates will be joined on the ballot by statewide candidates Judge Carolyn Carluccio for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Judge Harry Smail Jr. and Maria Battista for PA Superior Court, and Megan Martin for Commonwealth Court.  The candidates for statewide office were endorsed at a meeting of the Republican State Committee in early February.

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