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2017 election: Race for district attorney only contest for voters

There is only one countywide race for Schuylkill County voters to decide at the polls on Nov. 7.

The race for district attorney is the highlight of the 2017 election cycle.

Another countywide office, sheriff, was decided in the primary voting.

There are other elected offices on the ballot, but just the two countywide. There is also a retention vote for two sitting county judges.

County voters will also be casting ballot for judgeships on the state’s three highest courts — Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth. Also there are two state judges seeking retention and a constitutional amendment question.

Here is a brief rundown.

District Attorney

Incumbent Republican District Attorney Christine A. Holman of Barnesville, Ryan Township, is seeking her second four-year term. She is being challenged by Democrat Michael A. O’Pake of Norwegian Township.

Holman is a graduate of North Schuylkill High School, she studied marketing at Penn State, then attended the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan. Before her election as the first female district attorney in January 2014, she served as an assistant district attorney for four years, and had a private law practice in Frackville.

Holman resides with her husband and daughter. She has two stepchildren.

O’Pake is a native of Mahanoy City and a 1981 graduate of Marian High School, a 1985 graduate of Dickinson College and a 1988 graduate of Dickinson School of Law.

After graduating from law school, O’Pake began working for the Curran Law Offices in Pottsville.

In 1992, he also began working as a part-time assistant district attorney. He opened his own law practice in Pottsville in 2000. He left the DA’s office in 2013 and a year later became a public defender. He and his wife have two children.


Incumbent Democratic Sheriff Joseph G. Groody ran unopposed in the May primary and there were no Republican candidates. Groody, on a write-in, captured the GOP nomination in the primary and is unopposed on Tuesday and will be elected to his third, four-year term.

He was first elected in 2009 after serving one year as an appointed sheriff,

Groody graduated from North Schuylkill High School in 1976 and the North Vocational Technical School in 1976. Groody joined the Ashland police force in 1977, and entered the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in Hershey, graduating in 1978 with his Act 120 certification.

Groody was born and raised in Ashland, where he resides with his wife and two children.

County judges

Two county judges are seeking retention to serve another 10 years on the Court of Common Pleas.

President Judge William E. Baldwin, a Democrat, and Judge Jacqueline L. Russell, a Republican, are the two judges seeking retention. A “yes” vote is in favor of their retention.

Other county offices

Four of the county’s magistrate district judges are also seeking re-election and all secured those positions in the May primary.

All four got both party nominations in the spring to assure themselves of another six years in office.

The four are Stephen J. Bayer of Tamaqua; James R. Ferrier of Orwigsburg; Jimmy Reiley of Pottsville; and Christina E. Hale of Frackville.

State races

There is one seat open on the state Supreme Court.

Republican Sallie Mundy is being challenged by Democrat Dwayne Woodruff. Mundy was appointed two years ago to fill a vacant seat and is now seeking her own 10-year term.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas C. Saylor is seeking retention for another 10 years.

The state Superior Court has four openings with each party having four candidates.

The Democrats on the ballot are Maria McLaughlin, Carolyn H. Nichols, Debbie Kunselman and Geoff Moulton. The Republican hopefuls are Craig Stedman, Emil Giordano, Wade A. Kagarise and Mary Murray. Jules Mermelstein is the Green Party candidate for one of the open seats.

Justice Jacqueline O. Shogan is seeking retention for another 10-year term on the Superior Court.

The state Commonwealth Court has two openings.

The Democratic hopefuls are Ellen Ceisler and Irene M. Clark. The GOP candidates are Paul Lalley and Chris Fizzano Cannon.

There is a constitutional amendment question on the ballot.

The question states; Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?

Explanation: A “yes” vote supports this amendment to allow the state Legislature to increase the amount of a home’s assessed value that local taxing authorities, counties, municipalities and school districts – are permitted to exempt from taxes. The amount would increase from up to 50 percent of the median value of all homesteads within their jurisdictions to up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead.

A “no” vote opposes this amendment to allow the legislature to permit local taxing authorities to exempt up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead from taxes. Voting “no” would keep the amount that local taxing authorities are permitted to exempt at up to 50 percent of the median value of all homesteads within their jurisdictions.