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Nancy Vernon elected Fayette County judge

Call it a hat trick.

Democrat Nancy D. Vernon last night was on her way to becoming the first woman to be elected to Fayette County's Court of Common Pleas, appearing to best Republican Ernest P. DeHaas III in a closely watched race.

With 95 of 98 precincts reporting, Vernon had 54 percent of the vote compared with DeHaas' 46 percent, according to unofficial election returns.

The win marks the third time Vernon has made history in the county. She was the first woman to practice criminal law in the county, and later became the county's first female district attorney.

"It's quite an honor for this to have occurred," Vernon said last night as she celebrated with her supporters at a Uniontown restaurant. "I'm happy for my friends, my family and my supporters who helped me along the way and helped make history tonight."

While campaigning, the two candidates stressed their lengthy careers practicing law.

Vernon, 54, began her 30-year career in civil law, but she has spent the past 13 years prosecuting criminal cases as district attorney. DeHaas gained courtroom experience as a criminal defense attorney early in his career before moving into private practice.

Vernon told voters her work as district attorney, combined with her previous private practice handling divorces, real estate law, child custody and other civil matters, had prepared her for the bench.

DeHaas gained courtroom experience as a criminal defense attorney early in his 36-year career before moving into private practice.

He is a partner in the Uniontown law firm Radcliffe & DeHaas.

A 10-year term on the bench opened because President Judge Conrad B. Capuzzi is nearing the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Results are unofficial until verified by the Fayette County Election Bureau.

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