Bench field narrows to six for four Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas seats

Six candidates will vie for four open seats on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in November's general election.

Those six separated themselves from a crowded field of 13 candidates in Tuesday's primary election.

Bill Ward, who was appointed to an open seat on the bench in June 2012 by Gov. Tom Corbett, led the Republican ticket, and deputy district attorney Mark V. Tranquilli led the Democratic side.

"I'm gratified by the voters of Allegheny County who have supported me and look forward to the campaign in the fall," Judge Ward said.

Mr. Tranquilli, a veteran prosecutor now on leave as head of the county district attorney's homicide unit, said he made his campaign more about his qualifications and less about politics.

"It's very gratifying and humbling that the people of Allegheny County recognized my qualifications and 20 years of experience," Mr. Tranquilli said.

He qualified on both the Republican and Democratic tickets, as did Paul Cozza, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Common Pleas Court in August 2011.

The others rounding out the Democratic ticket are Jennifer Satler, a former public defender now in private practice, and Eleanor Bush, who works for the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption & Permanency Network.

On the Republican side, Philip J. Murray, of Upper St. Clair placed fourth to make his way onto the ballot in the general election. A partner with the Pittsburgh office of Dinsmore & Shohl, Mr. Murray practices in complex civil litigation.

Ms. Satler, who placed second on the Democratic ticket, is not overly concerned that she failed to qualify for the Republican ticket in the general election.

"I just do not see the voters electing four men," Ms. Satler said. "There's definitely a place or two here for a strong female candidate. We need to have a well-balanced ticket."

She stayed home Tuesday and celebrated with her baby, husband, dog and a bowl of black cherry ice cream.

"What probably made the difference for me was my message -- with the mailers and commercials -- it all really combined to make an attractive message to the voters," Ms. Satler said. "I'm thrilled with it. I can't wait."

Ms. Bush, who works as a legal training division manager for the state's adoption network, finished in the fourth slot for the Democratic ticket.

"This was a large field with strong candidates who ran good campaigns," she said. "I'm so grateful to the voters in this county who have shown such strong support and heard my message."

Ms. Bush, of Squirrel Hill, has spent her legal career working with children and families.

"I think that distinguished me from the rest of the field, and that resonated with the voters," she said.

Mr. Tranquilli, who was celebrating with his poll workers at a gathering on the South Side, said they heard from voters during the day that they liked his message of "What's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong" from his commercials.

"Judges should be held to a higher standard," he said. "That's the message I wanted to get out."

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Paula Reed Ward: or 412-263-2620. First Published May 22, 2013 5:00 AM


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