Flannelly
Flannelly

Voters have a couple of options to evaluate candidates in the high-profile contest for an open county judge seat.

Judge Michael Flannelly and retired U.S. Rep. Todd Platts will present their cases at a Wednesday, April 24, forum sponsored by the Southern York County Republican Club and a Thursday, May 2, event organized by the York 912 Patriots.

Both candidates have cross-filed as Republican and Democrat for the May 21 primary, but both men were Republicans prior to candidacy.

Patriots spokeswoman Lee Ann Burkholder said the tea party group doesn't endorse candidates, but the event will give voters a chance to draw their own conclusions about who's best for the job.

"It's probably the highest profile race with Platts being a former congressman," she said.

Platts
Platts
"Of course, he has the biggest name recognition in this and (the race) would probably pique people's interest."

The York County Republican Party also doesn't endorse candidates in the primary.

Chairman Bob Wilson said this is the first time the party has hosted such an event for judge candidates, but this year's race is in the spotlight because the seat is open and there's competition.

Flannelly was York County's solicitor when he was appointed to the seat last July, filling the position left vacant after Judge Chuck Patterson died of a heart attack in 2011.

Platts was an attorney and a state legislator, and represented the 19th Congressional District for 12 years before retiring early this year.

Questions limited: Judge forums are limited in scope because it's unethical for candidates to answer some issues-based questions.

"Obviously, you can't answer, 'Well if so-and-so did such-and-such, what would you do?'" Flannelly said.

Flannelly said he has a few main points to emphasize during the forum.

"The fact that I'm a sitting judge, and by the time this new term starts I will have been sitting a year and a half," he said. "I spent 30 years as a lawyer, most of it in litigation."

He'll also emphasize his strong ratings from the York County Bar Association, he said.

Platts said he'll focus on his abilities to make neutral decisions, having spent 20 years "listening to both sides of the case" before deciding whether to support legislation.

He said he'll also emphasize his legal experience in helping to write laws, some of which he could be asked to interpret as judge.

Platts said he'll focus on the positive nature of his campaign and his philosophies of grass roots support and denying special interest money.

Talk of qualifications: Flannelly ran unsuccessfully for the bench three times, most recently in 2011. Though appointed last July, he must run and win the election if he wants to secure the seat for a full 10-year term.

He has said his experience makes him more qualified than Platts, who last practiced law for about a year before entering politics 20 years ago.

Platts has said he has had a law degree since 1991, but chose to use his legal background differently than Flannelly, by making laws and being a legislator. He said his qualifications should be left to the voters.

The battle for the seat might continue until November because the candidates, both of whom live in Spring Garden Township, cross-filed.

One man could win the Democratic ticket and the other could win as a Republican in the May primary, forcing the contest to the general election.

The Patriots forum includes Superior Court of Pennsylvania candidate Judge Rob Wyda.

It will be held 7-9 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at the Holiday Inn Holidome, 2000 Loucks Road.

The Republican forum will be held Wednesday, April 24, at Shrewsbury Fire Hall, 21 W. Forrest Ave. in Shrewsbury.

It starts at 7 p.m.

Both events are free and open to the public.

- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.