In a campaign that went from bland to bitter in a matter of a week, Alexandra Kokura beat Jerry Mecadon on Tuesday night and will assume the vacant Pittston district judge seat, according to unofficial results.
With 20 of the district’s 21 precincts reporting, Kokura earned 3,361 votes, or 53.7 percent of the votes, to Mecadon’s 2,896 votes, or 46.2 percent of the votes.
“I feel energized,” Kokura said. “I feel excited and ready to do the job. But also humbled and honored the voters took the time to cast their vote for me.”
Kokura, 31, of Dupont, will replace Fred Pierantoni, who was elected to the Luzerne County bench in 2012. Another stalwart in the local judiciary, Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello, also had held the seat.
“Those are big shoes to fill, I understand that,” Kokura said. “I respect them tremendously and I’m committed to doing this job well. I’m committed to being fair and impartial. I’m committed to accessible and holding people accountable.”
TV attack ads
In recent weeks, both candidates unveiled television attack ads.
Mecadon said Kokura used family connections in a political hiring at Pittston Area in exchange for support. Kokura criticized Mecadon for utilizing a consultant who was previously used by the two Luzerne County “kids-for-cash” judges.
The political blog, PA Politics, named the 13 most interesting races of 2013, and this race came in at 13. “This made the list because it’s plain fun local NEPA politics,” the website said.
The campaign didn’t follow traditional party lines because both candidates are Democrats in this Democratic-leaning region. Both cross-filed in the May primary.
Kokura, who secured the coveted Democratic nomination, was a relative political unknown before the May primary. Mecadon, who won on the GOP ticket, got a late start in the campaign because the state was delayed in realigning the district’s boundaries.
“The most difficult part was keeping up your energy,” Kokura said. “Making sure you get out there every single day, meeting people, making calls, going door to door. It all comes down to hard work. I worked every single day since Jan. 9.”
Both candidates loaned their campaigns in excess of $80,000 each. The six-year term pays $86,639 a year.
The seat covers Pittston city, the boroughs of Avoca, Dupont, Duryea, Hughestown and Yatesville, and Jenkins and Pittston townships. The seat is currently occupied on an interim basis by Senior District Judge Andrew Barilla Jr., formerly the longtime Swoyersville district judge.
He was appointed to the seat after Pierantoni became a county judge in 2012 and is paid on a per-diem basis.
Kokura is a special court master in Family Court of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas. She received a law degree in 2009 from Widner University’s School of Law in Wilmington, Del. In the wake of the Luzerne County corruption scandal, she volunteered to work on the Youth Aid Panel Program through the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office. She is married to Nick Kravitz, an attorney.
Kokura’s next step: “I’d like to get a good night’s sleep, but I’ll be ready in about a day.”
Mecadon could not be reached for comment.