Under another set of circumstances, Common Pleas Judge Mike Flannelly's appointment to the bench last year might've made him a shoo-in to win a seat on the bench after three unsuccessful campaigns.
Then in February a challenger for the nomination surfaced, bearing one of the most recognized names in York County politics.
Retired congressman Todd Platts won the coveted GOP nomination Tuesday, taking 14,800 votes, or 56 percent of the vote, to Flannelly's 11,531 votes, for 44 percent.
But with both men cross-filed as Republicans and Democrats, Flannelly won the Democratic ticket with 7,551 votes, or 56 percent of the vote, to Platts' 5,951 votes, or 44 percent.
So the battle for the 10-year term won't end until November's general election, with Flannelly, a registered Republican, trying to win a victory in an adoptive party in a county where the voter registration numbers are slightly in his opponent's favor.
Money difference: Despite the potential benefit of his name recognition, Platts said after the election that he considered himself the underdog going into Tuesday's primary.
Flannelly took in four times as much in campaign donations and spent more than six times as much. According to the most recent finance reports, Flannelly raised about $147,000 to Platts' $35,000 and spent $119,000 to Platts' $19,000.
Platts, speaking to reporters after an election party at a pizza buffet, said he ran a grassroots campaign with no television or radio ads to counter Flannelly's media blitz. He said Tuesday's victory is evidence that his simpler method of campaigning still resonates with voters.
The former Republican legislator said he expected a split in the vote, as Democrats were unlikely to support a man against whom they previously ran candidates.
"I'm not surprised that they didn't choose me," he said.
After results were in, Democratic Party of York County chairman Bob Kefauver said Democratic voters "rewarded Todd Platts for his eight years of voting with George W. Bush."
Double-edged sword: Platts' political history and his time in Congress served to both persuade and dissuade voters.
Republican Robert Woerner, 67, of York Township, said he voted for the retired congressman because of his established credibility, built over a couple of decades of public service.
"When I wrote to him, he always responded to my letters," he said. "Some don't."
But 34-year-old Republican Jason Nalesnik of West Manchester Township, about to vote at Shiloh Fire Co., said it's time for someone else to have a turn.
"Platts had one job and wants to stay in politics from one thing to another," he said. "I voted for Platts in the past, but he went in on one position and now all of a sudden he wants to run for judge."
"Experience" was a buzzword in the primary, with Flannelly touting years of work as a litigator while Platts said worked to convince voters that his 20 years spent making the laws made him equally qualified.
Appointment: Last summer, Flannelly was appointed to fill the seat left vacant when Judge Chuck Patterson died of a heart attack in 2011. But he must run and win the election if he wants to secure the seat for a full 10-year term.
Flannelly was at the time of his appointment serving as York County's solicitor, a position for which county commissioners have not yet named a permanent replacement.
Platts was a state legislator for eight years and a congressman for 12, retiring at the end of his last term to keep a self-imposed term limit.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.