Bilik DeFazio leads race for Westmoreland County judge on both ballots
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
Republican Meagan Bilik DeFazio appears poised to become Westmoreland County's next judge.
Bilik DeFazio, 38, of North Huntingdon was close to securing both the Democratic and Republican primary nominations on Tuesday for Common Pleas Court, a result that would render the fall election for one vacancy on the county bench all but moot.
According to unofficial results, Bilik DeFazio appeared to defeat attorneys William “Bill” McCabe and Harry Smail Jr. on both ballots.
With 286 of 306 precincts reporting, Bilik DeFazio received 45 percent of the vote in the Republican primary and 42 percent of the vote in the Democrat primary en route to her apparent first-place finish in both races.
McCabe was second in the Democratic primary with 39 percent. Smail received 19 percent of the vote among Democrats.
Smail finished second in the GOP primary with 32 percent of the vote, while McCabe received 23 percent of Republican votes.
Bilik DeFazio said late Tuesday she was cautiously optimistic her leads would hold.
“I am beyond honored by this and proud of the campaign we ran,” Bilik DeFazio said. “I hope to join the bench we have and that they'll find me to be an asset for the county.”
Bilik DeFazio lost in a bid for judge four years ago. She finished second in a Westmoreland County Bar Association survey earlier this month, garnering “recommended” findings by 36 percent of lawyers who responded.
Bilik DeFazio ran as a Democrat in her previous campaign. In this campaign, she focused on family court issues and the strength of her diverse private law practice, which includes criminal defense work, family issues and property owner rights.
McCabe, 57, a Democrat from North Huntingdon, throughout the campaign touted his experience during his 32-year legal career.
He received the President's Award for Professionalism from the Westmoreland County Bar Association earlier this year. He finished on top in a bar association survey, with 88 percent of the responding attorneys rating him as “recommended” for the judicial opening.
Smail, 47, a Republican from Hempfield, also ran unsuccessfully for judge four years ago. This year he campaigned as a “strict constitutionalist.” He received “recommended” ratings from 20 percent of the respondents in the bar association survey.
Bilik DeFazio will replace Judge John Driscoll, who was forced to retire last year after turning 70. Driscoll is among a group of judges that has filed a lawsuit challenging the state's mandatory retirement age. The lawsuit is being considered by the state Supreme Court.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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