Many of the candidates running for countywide office made a pitch to the Bedford Business and Professional Women’s club and guests Tuesday at the Bedford Elks, telling potential voters briefly about backgrounds and why they should be supported in the May 21 primary.
Candidates for auditor, commissioner, coroner, district attorney, judge, magisterial district judge, prothonotary/clerk of courts and sheriff took their turn in their two-minutes speeches.
About 65 attended the BPW event that came on the evening of the deadline to file nominating petitions for the primary.
Uncontested for nomination to the Republican ballot, District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts said the forum was a positive event for her as a new political candidate.
“It was nice. Although it was a relatively large crowd, it was still personal and intimate,” Childers-Potts said.
Childers-Potts was sworn into office last April after the state attorney general’s office swept into the Bedford County courthouse to announce corruption charges against Bill Higgins, who later pleaded guilty to 31 misdemeanor counts related to abuse of his office.
Childers-Potts said she hopes to “rebuild the integrity of the office,” something to which her staff is committed, she said.
Becoming district attorney “wasn’t something I expected this time last year.” But she said she’s wanted to be in the district attorney’s office since she was 16.
Seventeen of 21 countywide candidates attended.
Many of them are uncontested in the primary, such as in the auditors’ race, where two Republicans and two Democrats are elected.
Republican candidates Reagan Young of Bedford and Mary Rowzer of Alum Bank, both incumbents, told the audience about their background and their responsibilities.
Incumbent Karen Walters of Manns Choice and Carol Miller of Fishertown, both Democrats, weren’t in attendance.
Currently serving as magisterial district judge, Tonya Osman of Alum Bank, who is allowed to crossfile, said hers is a round-the-clock job that she said he was “honored” to hold. No one else filed for the position in the primaries.
Republican Melissa Cottle, current treasurer, told the crowd that she has been in county government for 19 years, and became a deputy treasurer until she ran for office when Paula Sheirer retired. She took office in 2016. Cottle is running unopposed as a Republican.
Coroner Rusty Styer, a Republican, said he has been with the office for 12 years and is now in his fourth year as coroner. He also is unopposed.
In the race for the Republican prothonotary/clerk of courts nomination, Sheri Lowery, who currently works in the office, promised to serve “with the commitment that the citizens of Bedford County have come to expect of the office.”
Barb Himmler of Bedford also is running for the nomination and also works in the office. Himmler, who did not attend because of illness, said previously she hopes to continue running the office in the same manner as current officeholder Cathy Fetter, who is retiring.
One of the most competitive races is the sheriff’s office, which is a wide open field since current sheriff, Charwin Reichelderfer, is running for county commissioner.
On the Republican side, Wayne Emerick, currently chief of police for Everett Borough, asked the voters to consider his background, which includes four years as a Marine and 33 years as police officer, including the last 30 as chief.
“I have a lot to offer when it comes to leadership,” Emerick said.
Diane Nelson, long-time deputy, said she has handled every job in the sheriff’s office, whether posting sheriff’s sales or civil notices, or handling protection from abuse orders for the court to assisting with budgeting and other administrative duties.
Nelson said she is the only candidate who knows the “day-to-day activities of the office,” she said.
Erik Whisker, of Everett, said his background includes much education and training in law enforcement and experience as a deputy and as a corrections officer.
“I believe in the criminal justice system. I believe in criminal justice reform,” he said.
Two candidates are running for county judge. President Judge Tom Ling isn’t running for re-election.
Dwight Diehl, currently an assistant district attorney, and Brandi Hershey, an attorney in private practice, both said one of the important points of a judge’s job is to apply the law without bias.
Diehl served eight years as an assistant district attorney while Ling was DA. He was elected as district attorney in 1999 and served one term until 2004. He entered private practice after falling short in his bid for re-election. In 2008, Diehl was appointed by Ling to work in domestic relations as hearing officer for court conferences, which requires him to oversee hearings of spousal and child support.
Diehl said he must apply the law as it’s written “whether I like it or not.”
Hershey is entering her 20th year of law practice, which includes time as an assistant district attorney in Bedford County from 2004 to 2011, and in Blair County prior to that. She also served as a special deputy attorney general for high-level drug cases and in the Governor’s Office of General Counsel.
Because the next judge likely will be a family court judge, she said she would “balance justice with compassion” in settling the sensitive matters of family law.
The commissioners field is the most crowded on the Republican side, as four candidates are vying for two positions.
Barry Dallara, incumbent, said he believes he has fulfilled “the leadership role you asked me to provide.” Dallara was first elected to office in 2015.
His fellow commissioner, Josh Lang, said he “shares the values of the citizens of Bedford County.” Like Dallara, he was elected to his first term in 2015.
Joining Dallara and Lang on the Republican side are Dave Copley and Charwin Reichelderfer.
Reichelderfer, with 46 years in law enforcement, including 38 as an administrator, said he “has a lot of experience in county government.” He said he sometimes makes “snap decisions” but takes his time to weigh matters when needed.
Dave Copley, retired state police trooper and sheriff’s deputy, didn’t attend because of a prior commitment.
On the Democratic side, Deb Baughman of Saxton said she wants to help build a county that will ensure “our grandchildren have a future here.” She also said the county needs to strengthen the rural economy. She ran unsuccessfully for state House last year.
Troy Risbon, of Bedford Township, has been in business for 30 years. He is also seeking one of two Democratic nominations.
Following the short speeches, two members of the audience questioned Risbon on his change from Republican to Democrat. He has twice changed his registration to run for office as Bedford Township supervisor and county commissioner in 2015.
Risbon said he wanted to run to help people, regardless of party.
Nina Sweeney of Bedford, a Democrat, said she posed questions about his change in party because she thought maybe he saw something positive in her party.
She said she thought more people would ask questions of the candidates as was explained beforehand.
“I didn’t think I was going to be the only one questioning,” Sweeney said.