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Yet Another Allegheny County Judgeship On The Line This November

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County voters who take part in this fall’s election can help decide a bonus judicial race beyond the nine they had on the primary ballot: Common Pleas Judge Guido DeAngelis notified officials late last week that he will not be seeking retention for another 10-year term.

Democrats and Republicans have until Sept. 13 to submit the name of an additional nominee to run under their banners.

A call to DeAngelis’ chambers was not returned Monday morning. But a county spokeswoman confirmed his withdrawal, and hopefuls are already said to be lining up for this seat. Among them is Tom Caulfield, a Magistrate District Judge who finished 10th in a 39-candidate Democratic field last May. That means he would already be the party’s nominee had the seat held by DeAngelis been on the ballot.

“That’s basically my campaign slogan,” said Caulfield, whose current district includes Forest Hills and nearby suburbs east of Pittsburgh. He said he spoke with party leaders during the weekend about the opening, and had heard of interest from other candidates as well. “It’s a question of asking [party leaders] to consider honoring the will of the voters, as expressed at the polls this spring.”

First elected to the county bench in 2001, DeAngelis has handled cases in juvenile and criminal court. His retirement had been rumored for some time.

Eileen Kelly, who chairs the county Democratic Committee, said plans were in the works for selecting a nominee. The party will do so using its rules for special countywide elections, which call for a vote by the chairs, vice chairs, and secretaries in each political ward or local committee. More than 400 party officers would be eligible to participate, Kelly said.

Details about the logistics of that vote are pending, but Kelly said votes likely could be cast and would be tallied in person, as the party did for its endorsements earlier this year.

"I think the committepeople will think about who sought the endorsement and how they did in the primary,” Kelly said. That would bode well for Caulfield and a pair of other Democrats who received the party’s endorsement, attorneys William Caye and Patrick Sweeney, without landing one of the nine seats available in May.

Observers also say contenders for the Democratic nod include Mik Pappas, who has championed the cause of ending cash bail as a district judge and who finished just 9 votes behind Caulfield in May, and Zeke Rediker.

Sam DeMarco, who chairs the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, was not immediately available Monday morning.

With nine seats already up for grabs prior to DeAngelis’ announcement, this year already figured to transform a county bench that is over three dozen judges strong. The May primary was notable for the emergence of an eight-member slate of candidates hoping to press for a reform of the justice system. And now the field has increased by another 11 percent.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.