Westmoreland Bar Association survey ranks Michael Stewart II top judicial candidate
A Westmoreland County Bar Association survey of lawyers ranked Greensburg attorney Michael Stewart II at the top of the group of six candidates seeking two judicial openings on the Common Pleas Court.
Stewart was “highly recommended” by 50% of the 180 county lawyers who participated in the survey circulated over the last month. He was “recommended” on another 27% of the responses.
“I am just thankful that my colleagues respect me that much and that I am well received by my peers. It is a testimony to my trial experience and involvement with the bar association,” Stewart said.
Surveys were sent to 394 active bar members, according to the association’s Executive Director Diane Krivoniak.
While Stewart, a Democrat, topped the ratings, 59% of the lawyers who responded said they could not evaluate state Rep. Justin Walsh, one of three Republican candidates. Walsh was “highly recommended” by 7% and “recommended” by another 11%.
Walsh is in his second term in the state House, being elected in 2015 and winning re-election last year. He represents Monessen, Rostraver and parts of Hempfield. He has continued to work part time as a practicing lawyer. He said the bar association survey result was not a surprise.
“It wasn’t unexpected. I am very busy, so active involvement in the bar association is not to the level of the other candidates,” Walsh said. “I know for a fact my constituents know I do a good job and the most important opinion to me is from the clients I serve.”
Stewart’s 77% favorable rating topped the field of candidates. Republican Wayne McGrew, the county’s public defender, and Democratic lawyer Matt Schimizzi finished second with 64% favorable ratings. Attorney Jessica Rafferty, a Democrat, received a 60% approval rating while 42% of the attorneys said Republican Kyle Baxter was either “highly recommended” or “recommended.” She also received the most unfavorable responses with 28% saying she was “not recommended.”
Just 8% of lawyers gave McGrew an unfavorable rating.
“The results are there to give the general public additional information about the candidates. It’s just an opportunity for people who work with these candidates to provide feedback,” bar association President Joyce Novotny-Prettiman said.
Judicial candidates are permitted to cross-file for the primary. All six are running on both the Republican and Democratic ballots. The top two vote-getters from each party primary May 21 will run for the two court vacancies in November.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .