3 poised to win both parties' nods in Common Pleas race

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Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph K. Williams III, the only sitting judge on the ballot, was leading in unofficial but nearly complete returns in the competition for the five Democratic nominations for the local bench.

With just under half of the ballots counted, Mr. Williams, 57, was just out of the running on the Republican ballot as 15 candidates vied for nominations for the five seats that will be filled in the November election. Ten of the hopefuls were cross-filed on both the Democratic and Republican ballots while five sought nominations only as Democrats.

In the nearly complete tabulation, Mr. Williams was followed on the Democratic side by state Rep. Don Walko, 55, of the North Side, District Judge Susan Evashavik DiLucente, 46, of Forest Hills; Philip Ignelzi, 52, of McCandless, and Arnie Klein, 47, of Upper St. Clair.

The leading candidates on the Republican ballot were Mr. Ignelzi; Michele Zappala Peck, 48, of Mt. Lebanon; Alex Bicket, 52, of Mt. Lebanon; Ms. Evashavik DiLucente; and Mr. Klein.

While they all trailed Mr. Williams on the Democratic ballot, Mr. Ignelzi, Ms. Evashavik DiLucente, and Mr. Klein were poised to receive both major party's nominations. If they could hold those positions on both ballots through the final counting, those three would be significant favorites, though not absolute certainties, to win one of the five spots in November.

On the Democratic side, the leaders were followed by Mr. Bicket; Michael Marmo, 54, of Ohio Township; Ms. Zappala Peck; Leah Williams-Duncan, 43, of the North Side; Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough, 53, of Shadyside; District Judge Carolyn Saldari Bengel, 42, of Harrison; Michael S. Sherman; 46, of Ross; Joseph V. Luvara, 53, of Carnegie; Jennifer Satler, of Washington's Landing; and Jeffrey K. Eisenberg, 48, of Point Breeze.

Falling short of the Republican nominations were Mr. Williams; Ms. Saldari Bengel; Mr. McGough; Mr. Walko; and Mr. Marmo.

Insofar as the Democratic primary was a test of the party's organization, and the worth of its committee members' endorsement, the organization passed, although not with a perfect score. Four of the five Democratic nominees held the party endorsement. Only Mr. Ignelzi managed to crack the recommended slate. Mr. Marmo was the only Democratic organization candidate who fell short of the party's nomination. The local GOP does not hold an endorsement separate from its primary.

Mr. Ignelzi captured nominations on both sides with the aid of the largest campaign budget among the candidates. Among the other big spenders in the race was Ms. Zappala Peck, who was rewarded with second place on the GOP ticket. She finished out of the running on the Democratic sides, however, despite her ample spending and the advantages of one of the better-known names in Democratic politics. The Mt. Lebanon lawyer is the daughter of former state Supreme Court Justice Stephen A. Zappala, and is the sister of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

The two Democratic nominees who failed to capture spots on the GOP ballot bring the strengths of different kinds of incumbencies to the November contest. Mr. Williams, as he did in the primary, will appeal to voters with the credential of being the only sitting member of the Common Pleas bench. Mr. Walko, a veteran state representative, will hope to capitalize on the political ties he has amassed in a ling career in the Legislature. Mr. Bicket, the remaining Republican nominee, has a tougher road in against the county's Democratic majority, but will again be able to point to his highly recommended designation from the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Politics Editor James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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