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Primary Candidates Sound Off at Town Hall Forum

Thursday, May 16, 2019 @ 12:05 AM

Posted by Caleb Gilliland

1D4A1377-copyCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Eighteen candidates from five separate races were in the spotlight during a packed house at‘s Primary Election Town Hall Tuesday at the American Legion in Clarion.

(Photos by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography. For more photos and to buy prints, click here.)

The candidates are campaigning for votes in the May 21 primary election and vying to be placed on the November general election ballot.

There were over 100 people in attendance, and all proceeds from the event benefited area fire departments.

District Attorney 

In perhaps the most heated exchange of the night, candidates for the District Attorney’s office, Drew Welsh and Maria Battista, spoke of their qualifications to be elected to this position. Welsh pointed to his eight and a half years serving as Assistant District Attorney under D.A. Mark Aaron, whereas Battista highlighted her time as a Commonwealth Attorney under Governor Tom Corbett and other related experience.

Drew Welsh

Drew Welsh

During the question and answer period, the candidates debated about how to deal with the problem of drug crimes and what types of punishments they would give to first time offenders. When asked about the latter question, both candidates had similar answers with Battista stating “Jail is not always the best place” and Welsh stating “It all does depend.”

Maria Battista

Maria Battista

Both candidates will appear on the Republican primary ballot.

Common Pleas Judge

Current District Attorney Mark Aaron, Chief Public Defender Erich Spessard, and Private Practice Attorney Sara Seidle-Patton talked about their various qualifications for this position.

Mark Aaron

Mark Aaron

The candidates discussed the need to understand criminal law, with Spessard stating that 60% of all new judge cases involve criminal law.

Erich Spessard

Erich Spessard

They were also asked about where they would decide to draw the line between mercy and justice.

Seidle-Patton cited her experience working as both a prosecutor and defense attorney as helpful to this situation. Aaron stated that this was “the essence of being a judge” and that things sometimes needed decided on a case by case basis, whereas Spessard pointed to his experience as a public defender where he has had the privilege of “seeing people at their worst, and some of the worst people” which he believes will help him know where to draw the line.

Sara Seidle-Patton

Sara Seidle-Patton

All three candidates will appear on the Democratic and Republican ballots.

Clarion County Commissioners

Candidates for this position included incumbent Republicans Ted Tharan and Wayne Brosius and Democrat Ed Heasley. Also included in the town hall were Republican challenger Kirke Wise and Democratic write-in challenger Braxton White.

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All of the candidates talked about the need to improve the county owned buildings and get high speed internet into the area. They also discussed various economic topics and possible solutions to the ongoing problem of blight in the county.

District Magistrate 18-3-03 (Knox Area)

Candidates for District Magistrate 18-3-03 include Garrett Tharan, Russ Cataldo, Melissa Fulton, Jarah Heeter, Damien Avery, and Michelle Magness. Rodney Sherman is also running but was unable to attend the event due to a prior commitment.

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During the opening statement segment, the candidates pointed to their various work experiences and how this experience would make them the most qualified candidate.

Tharan, Cataldo, Fulton, and Heeter will appear both the Democratic and Republican ballots, whereas Sherman, Magness, and Avery will appear only on the Republican ballot.

District Magistrate 18-3-04 (New Bethlehem Area)

Candidates for this position included incumbent Magistrate Jeffrey Miller and challenger Michelle Ritzler.

Having been elected in 2008, Miller is seeking his third term.

Ritzler described herself as a lifelong Clarion County resident who wants to help future generations be able to call Clarion home.

Michelle Ritzler

Michelle Ritzler

When asked how they would decide to set bail as district magistrate, Miller stated he would look at their background, and Ritzler stated that she would consider the resources that they have available to them.

Jeffrey Miller

Jeffrey Miller

Both candidates will appear on the Republican and Democratic ballots.

Check back for more in-depth coverage of the Primary Election.

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