In a campaign that went from bland to bitter in a matter of a week, Alexandra Kokura beat Jerry Mecadon on Nov. 5 and will assume the vacant Pittston magisterial district judge seat, according to unofficial results.
With all of the district’s 21 precincts reporting, Kokura earned 3,590 votes, or 53.58 percent of the votes, to Mecadon’s 3,093 votes, or 46.16 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 gathered at the VFW in Dupont with about 150 supporters and declared victory after her crew members stationed at each polling place said she had won by about 500 votes.
“Truth be told, I’m committed to doing a very good job for this community, holding people accountable, but being approachable and accessible,” she told the audience. “I’ll be there full time and that was something I said right here on Jan. 9 and it is something I will continue to say.”
Kokura, 31, of Dupont, will replace Fred Pierantoni, who was elected to the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in 2012. Another stalwart in the local judiciary, Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello, also had previously held the seat.
“Those are big shoes to fill; I understand that,” Kokura said. “I respect them (Pierantoni and Augello) tremendously and I’m committed to doing this job well. I’m committed to being fair and impartial. I’m committed to being accessible and holding people accountable.”
In recent weeks, both Kokura and Mecadon 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 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.”
Kokura’s campaign got a last-minute boost with the endorsement of retired state Rep. Tom Tigue.
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. Kokura won each precinct in the district except Mecadon’s hometown of Jenkins Township and one of two precincts in Pittston Township.
The seat is currently occupied on an interim basis by Senior District Judge Andrew Barilla Jr., formerly the longtime district judge in Swoyersville. 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.”
She said she hopes to meet with Barilla and “learn what I can. The best experience is getting in there and seeing what it’s all about.”
Mecadon, 48, is a private practice lawyer and an assistant public defender for Luzerne County.
He said he called Kokura Tuesday night to wish her well from his party at Tony’s Wine Cellar in Jenkins Township.
“It was a tough race,” he said. “I had my work cut out for me. I was the Republican nominee but I’m a Democrat.”
He said Kokura ran a good campaign. “She worked hard and she had strong support. She was a strong candidate and I wish her well.”