Election 2013: Democrats hold on to row offices in Washington County

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Saying they wanted to begin putting a dent into the longtime Democratic control of Washington County row offices, the local Republican party fielded two candidates Tuesday.

Neither succeeded in unseating an incumbent, but party leaders felt they had a reasonable chance for success and were buoyed by an increase in Republican voter registration and the past two presidential elections, when county residents voted for GOP candidates.

In recent years, the county's traditionally 2-1 Democratic voter registration edge had narrowed to about 1.4-1, and the party had success in certain offices, such as district attorney.

But by and large, Democrats still rule at most county row offices and they will continue to do so for the next four years, as incumbent Controller Mike Namie and Register of Deeds Debbie Bardella won re-election victories Tuesday. Other elected officials, including Sheriff Sam Romano, were unchallenged this year.

Mr. Namie, 49, of Canton, won a fourth term in office with an unofficial vote total of 16,625.

He was being challenged by Republican businesswoman Angela Carrier, 44, of Peters, who said she would improve the office with more data available online and weekly email blasts to keep taxpayers informed. Ms. Carrier had 11,239 votes, or about 40 percent of the vote to Mr. Namie's 60 percent.

Mr. Namie, who called himself a "watchdog for taxpayer dollars," has been in office for 12 years and served as deputy controller for 11 years before that.

The controller, whose office had been recognized as "one of the best controller's offices in the state," by the Pennsylvania State Association of County Controllers, said he was gratified with the win Tuesday.

"I'm thankful and honored to be selected to serve another term as county controller," Mr. Namie said Wednesday morning. "I'll continue to serve the taxpayers of Washington County with honesty and integrity."

Ms. Bardella, 58, of Speers, defeated GOP challenger Nancy Carr, 53, of Washington by an unofficial total of 15,749 votes to 12,279 votes, or 56 percent to 44 percent, respectively.

Ms. Carr, who previously sought the Washington mayor's office, was critical of the incumbent for also serving as the director of the county's combined county tax assessment and tax claims office.

Ms. Bardella said she worked full time as the Recorder of Deeds and had no problem overseeing the tax offices and their staff. She won a fifth term in the office, where she worked her way up the ranks from a clerk position immediately after high school.

Judicial candidates Michael Lucas and Valarie Costanzo previously won nominations from both parties, and both were easily elected to the local Common Pleas Court bench, rounding out the group of four current judges. The county has been employing senior judges from across the state to hear cases since the unexpected retirement last year of judges Janet Moschetta Bell and Paul Pozonsky. Judge Pozonsky is facing charges that he stole cocaine that had been stored as evidence in his office.

Mr. Lucas, an assistant district attorney for 16 years, said he was grateful for the opportunity given to him by voters.

"I would like to thank all the voters of Washington County for showing that trust in me," said Mr. Lucas, 45, of Carroll. "I'll work as hard as I can to validate that trust."

Mr. Lucas walked away with 19,295 votes, while Ms. Costanzo, 43, who has served as a Cecil district justice for 14 years, had 20,034 ballots cast in her favor.

Peters school board changes

In another race of interest, the Peters Township school board got a major makeover Tuesday, with three new members elected and one incumbent losing his seat while another retained hers.

Incumbents Lori Cuervo and board President Cindy Golembiewski lost re-election bids in the May primary election and longtime incumbent David Hvizdos was removed from office Tuesday with 1,046 votes. The three were members of a minority faction that split the board on several key issues. The other member of their group, Lynn Erenberg, was not up for re-election.

Winning were incumbent Sue Smith, who handily was re-elected to a second four-year term with 1,828 votes, and new board members: Lisa Anderson, a lawyer who received 1,962 votes; Rebecca Bowman, a civil engineer and lawyer with 1,870 votes; and Jamison Hardy, a pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, with 1,601 votes.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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