Andrews backs out of Blair judge race

Altoona attorney Dave Andrews is pulling out of the race for Blair County judge.

Andrews, a Republican who won the Democratic nomination in last week’s primary, said Thursday that by withdrawing now, the Democratic Party will have time to find a replacement and he will have more time to devote to his law practice.

“It’s very difficult to maintain an active law practice and campaign at the same time,” Andrews said. “At this point, I decided I want to devote my time and energy to the law practice.”

Andrews’ decision means that Republican Wade Kagarise of Hollidaysburg likely will be the lone candidate on the November ballot for the county judicial seat, unless the Democratic Party offers a replacement nominee. That’s unlikely, Blair County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Rosenhoover said Thursday, because of the county’s lopsided Republican voter registration.

For the primary, Blair County had 75,128 registered voters, with 46,466 Republicans and 28,662 Democrats. Of those who voted in the primary, 12,074 were Republican and 4,797 were Democrats.

“In my guarded opinion, there’s no way a Democrat is going to beat Wade Kagarise in the fall,” Rosenhoover said.

Kagarise won the Republican ticket with 4,635 votes. Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller of Tyrone came in second on that ticket with 3,906 votes, and Andrews placed third with 3,090 votes.

Andrews won the Democratic ticket with 1,596 votes. Miller came in second with 1,568 votes, and Kagarise was third with 1,415 votes.

Andrews acknowledged on the night of the primary that he would face an uphill battle in the fall as the Democratic Party’s nominee. But he said would take time to review the results before making a decision.

“I believe the possibility was there that I could win,” Andrews said Thursday. “But it would take a lot of time and money, with no guarantee of an outcome.”

Kagarise said Andrews’ decision will likely spare him and his supporters from another campaign.

“I was blessed to have so much help from so many people in the primary,” Kagarise said. “And I certainly didn’t want to put them through that again, so for the possibility of that not happening, I’m pleased.”

As for a facing replacement nominee, Kagarise said that’s up to the Democrats.

“If one of our Democratic attorneys wants to run, I’ll listen to what they have to say,” Rosenhoover said. “But I’m not going to sit by the phone waiting for a call.”

A partial review of Mirror archives found two races in the last 44 years in which a Democrat beat a Republican for a county post. In 1969, George P. Replogle of Roaring Spring won the job of sheriff by 13 votes over Republican contender Don Snyder of East Freedom. In 1979, attorney Oliver “Skip” Mattas, a Democrat, won the district attorney’s race by securing 41 more votes than Republican candidate William Haberstroh, who ran again later and held the post for several years.

Blair County Republican Party Chairman A.C. Stickel he was not surprised by Andrews’ decision to decline the Democratic nomination.

“I think it was the prudent thing to do,” Stickel said. “Andrews ran a campaign to be proud of, and really, all three of them ran positive, clear, honorable campaigns. There was no way the county was going to lose.”

But it was Kagarise, Stickel said, who drew the greatest support from voters with a campaign emphasizing his prosecutorial experience and a commitment to justice.

“When it comes to crime, they want a judge who will be tough on criminals,” Stickel said. “I think that message resonated with the voters.”

Andrews said he won’t rule out another run for judge, but at this time, it’s not his intent.

“I definitely had a sincere interest in the judiciary, but I still like what I do,” Andrews said. “I enjoy my law practice. I enjoy going to work every day, doing the cases I do. I still get excited over the cases I have, so from that standpoint, I’m content with what I’m doing.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.