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Fayette candidates can battle for post in new, consolidated judicial district

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Candidates for a Fayette County district judge's office that will close in January will be allowed to challenge the incumbent who is to preside over a new, consolidated district, according to the director of the election bureau.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an order approving the closing of the office of retiring District Judge Dwight Shaner of Franklin Township. Under the realignment order, beginning Jan. 1, jurisdiction of Shaner's office will be shifted to that of Belle Vernon District Judge Jesse Cramer.

The order indicates the vacancy for Shaner's office is not to appear on the ballot, but would-be candidates who have been circulating nominating petitions for Shaner's office will be allowed to submit them for the consolidated district, said Larry Blosser, election bureau director.

Blosser said the decision is based on directions he was provided by at least two county commissioners and Sheryl Heid, solicitor for the election board. In addition, he said an official with the state's Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts indicated that candidates who live in Shaner's district can circulate nominating petitions in the consolidated district.

Al Ambrosini, county commissioner, said because nominating petitions are due Tuesday, time constraints made it difficult to call an emergency meeting of the election board. The board, or the president judge, or a combination of both, have the authority to decide how to handle the issue, according to a spokesman with the Department of State.

Ambrosini said candidates who disagree with the decision will have the option to challenge it in court after Tuesday.

Four candidates have announced intentions to run for Shaner's office.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com

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