The spotlight in next Tuesday's General Election in Schuylkill County is centered on the races for district attorney and county sheriff; however, voters should take a keen interest in the races for the three state courts because the political balance of the Supreme Court could be a crucial factor in the decennial redrawing of legislative districts which will follow the 2010 census.

Under a constitutional amendment approved by the state legislature in 1968 redistricting plans are crafted by bipartisan panels and could be challenged in court. The polling places open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Two district judges are also seeking to be elected and have no opposition.

In the contest for four year district attorney term is between the incumbent, District Attorney James P. Goodman, the Democratic candidate, and attorney Christine A. Holman, Republican. Both are experienced lawyers in criminal law. Holman served for a period of time as an assistant district attorney and if elected would be the county's first female district attorney.

The contest for county sheriff is also between an incumbent, Sheriff Joseph G. Groody, Democratic, and challenger, Dale R. Repp, the Republican standard-bearer. Groody will be seeking to be elected to a full four-year term as sheriff as he was appointed to the position to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Francis McAndrew, who was elected county commissioner two years ago. Both are veteran police officers.

Groody was an officer in Ashland for 30 years and became its chief investigator. Repp was a policeman in Pottsville and reached the rank of chief and was in charge of 30 police officers.

Also running are the two incumbent candidates for jury commissioner who have no opposition. Two are to be elected. They are, Edward M. Eddie Kleha, Shenandoah, who is chairman of the Schuylkill County Democratic Party, and Peggy E. Zimmerman, Republican, a long time party stalwart.

District Judge Anthony J. Kilker, of Shenandoah, is running for his first election to a six-year term. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Judge William Slezosky, who resigned and is now seeking his first full term. Kilker is unopposed as he won the nomination of the Democratic and Republican parties in the Primary Election.

His district consists of the townships of Delano, East Union, Mahanoy, Union and North Union and the boroughs of Mahanoy City, Ringtown and Shenandoah.

District Judge David A. Plachko is seeking reelection. He also won both party nominations in the primary. His district consists of the boroughs of New Philadelphia, Middleport, Port Carbon, Palo Alto, Mount Carbon, Mechanicsville and Saint Clair and the townships of East Norwegian, New Castle, Blythe, Schuylkill and North Mannheim.

Supreme court contests

Superior Court The contest is between two candidates, Jack Panella, 54, of Easton, Democratic, and Joan Orie Melvin, 53, Wesford, Republican.

If Melvin is the winner it will restore the majority to the Republican Party, which they lost it 2007. A victory by Panella would give the Democrats a 4 to 3 edge.

Panella is currently a state Superior Court judge elected in 2004 and a former Common Pleas judge in Northampton County. He received his bachelor's degree from St. John's University.

Melvin is also a state Superior judge seeking to move up to the highest judicial ranking. She was elected in 1998. She formerly was a Common Pleas judge in Pittsburgh. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Superior Court contests

Superior Court There are nine candidates running for four seats, four Democratic, four Republican and one Libertarian.

The Democratic candidates are Robert J. Colville, 44, Pittsburgh, an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge; Kevin Francis McCarthy, 48, of Dormont, an assistant district attorney in Allegheny County; Anne E. Lazarus, 56, Philadelphia, a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge; and Teresa Sarmina, 56, Philadelphia, also a Common Pleas judge.

The Republican candidates are, Judy Olson, 51, Franklin Park, an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge; Sallie Mundy, 47, Tioga, a Philadelphia lawyer; Temp Smith, 57, Mount Lebanon, private lawyer and Paula Ott, 59, West Chester, a Chester County Common Pleas judge. The Libertarian candidate is Marakay J. Rogers, 47, York, a private lawyer.

Commonwealth court

Commonwealth Court There are four candidates seeking two seats.

The Democratic candidates are, Barbara Behrend Emsberger, 58, Pittsburgh, private lawyer, and Linda S. Judson, 51, Pittsburgh, private lawyer.

The Republican candidates are, Patricia A. McCullough, 52, Pittsburgh, private lawyer, and Kevin Brobson, 38, Harrisburg, private lawyer.

Seek retention

Two sitting judges are running for retention to the bench for another 10 years.

Kate Ford Elliott seeks to be retained for an additional term as Judge of the Superior Court and Dan Pelligrini as Judge of the Commonwealth Court. Voters who think they deserve another term vote "yes," or "no" if opposed.