O’Brien: Not so fast


First Posted: 5/22/2013

Not so fast.

That’s what former Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds James “Red” O’Brien said after losing the Democratic nomination for the Pittston area magisterial district judge seat to Alexandra Kokura by eight votes Tuesday night.

“Eight votes is eight votes,” O’Brien, 44, said. “We still may have a win there after everything is counted.”

With all of the district’s 21 precincts reporting on the Democratic side, Kokura received 1,365 votes and O’Brien received 1,357. Girard “Jerry” Mecadon came in third with 1,283.

The official tally on Friday added one vote to Kokura’s tally, putting her at nine votes ahead. The Friday count included machine votes, provisional ballots, absentee ballots and write-ins.

O’Brien asked for an audit of votes in Hughestown and Dupont after receiving reports of calibration issues.

O’Brien said he was not satified with some of the explainations he received on how voting machines are calibrated and how the votes on a malfunctioning machine are switched out.

“I have to do some research and weigh my options,” O’Brien said. “I’m not sure yet if I’ll ask for an (official) recount.”

The Luzerne County Election Board will certified Tuesday’s votes at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

O’Brien said he’s going to wait to concede. He’s going to wait for the official count and is considering a request for a recount.

“I heard there was a problem with a voting machine in Hughestown, so there’s that,” O’Brien said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Mecadon secured the Republican nomination with 286 votes to Kokura’s 260. O’Brien received 132.

The magisterial district judge seat was vacated when Fred Pierantoni became a Luzerne County judge. The winners of the Democratic and Republican nomination will square off in the Nov. 5 General Election.

Other candidates who cross-filed are Arthur Bobbouine, Len Sanguedolce and Mark Singer, all of Pittston. Jeffrey C. Kulick, of Hughestown, and Quiana Murphy Lehman, of Dupont, appeared on the Democratic ballot only.

Votes for the remaining candidates on the Democratic ticket are as follows: Singer received 453 votes, Sanguedolce received 446, Bobbouine received 368, Lehman received 202 and Kulick received 113. Of the remaining candidates on the Republican side, Bobbouine received 128 votes, Singer received 93 votes and Sanguedolce received 63 votes.

Kokura, 30, of Dupont, gathered with a group of about 30 red-shirted supporters at the Dupont VFW. She was reluctant to acknowledge her win until she had a final number from Luzerne County.

“I tried to knock on every door and meet as many people as possible to get our message out,” she said. “And that message was I’m going to work hard, 100 percent, every day for this community.”

Mecadon, 48, of Jenkins Township, and his supporters gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Main Street in Pittston.

“It would have been nice to win on both sides, but we’re happy to be in the dance,” he said. “It was a hard-fought, well-run campaign by everyone. I thank my supporters and now I’m looking toward the fall campaign.”

The magisterial district recently became significantly larger. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court approved a plan by Luzerne County Court that added Jenkins and Pittston townships and Yatesville Borough to the district that currently includes Pittston, Dupont, Duryea and Hughestown.

Realignment of the district takes effect on June 1.

The Pittston seat is currently occupied on an interim basis by Senior District Judge Andrew Barilla Jr., formerly the longtime Swoyersville district judge. He was appointed to the seat after Pierantoni became a county judge and is paid on a per diem basis.

One early favorite for the district judge’s seat was former Luzerne County District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll, of Yatesville, but she decided not to run.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the Luzerne County Election Office for the latest reporting period ending on May 6, Kokura was the biggest money raiser and the biggest spender, followed by Mecadon and Singer. Money collected came from candidates themselves, their families and personal campaign donations.

Kokura is a special court master in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas. Following the Luzerne County corruption scandal, she volunteered to work on the Youth Aid Panel Program through the District Attorney’s Office. She does not operate a private practice.

Born and raised in Dupont, she graduated from Scranton Prep in 2000. She received a bachelor’s degree at Lehigh University and, after several years off, received her law degree from Widener University School of Law in 2009. After college, she served as an assistant to former U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski in Washington, D.C. After law school, she served as law clerk to Lackawanna County Court of Common Please Judge Thomas J. Munley.

She is married to Nick Kravitz, formerly of Pittston. Her family has resided in Dupont for many generations.

O’Brien last served as the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds before Home Rule was implemented. Born and raised in Avoca, he is a 1986 graduate of Pittston Area High School. He studied business administration and information technology at LCCC and Marywood University.

He workedd at FedEx for five years and owned O’Brien’s Pub and Grill in Avoca for seven years. He was mayor of Avoca for three years. He is married to the former Ann Snopkowski of Dupont and they have a son, Seamus, 18, and a daughter, Ella, 5. The family has lived in Pittston for the past 10 years.

Mecadon is a private practice lawyer. Born in Pittston Township, he graduated from Seton Catholic High School in 1983. He earned a bachelor of science degree in business management from The University of Scranton in 1987 and his law degree from Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del., in 1990.

His first job in the legal field was as a clerk in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Scranton. He worked for a year in Philadelphia and returned home to private practice work. He teamed with current County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mike Vough and subsequently has been in practice on his own. He is also an assistant public defender for the county and serves on the board of directors of Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce.

He is married to the former Christa DeVizia and they reside in Jenkins Township.

Times Leader staff writer Sheena Delazio contributed to this report.

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