Blair County Deputy District Attorney Wade A. Kagarise won the Republican nomination for judge of the Blair County Court of Common Pleas, defeating attorney Dave Andrews and Magisterial District Judge Fred B. Miller in what he called a "very tough race."
For Kagarise, 40, it was an emotional conclusion to a tense race that he said, "A lot of people thought we could not win."
Kagarise said that it was probably the most expensive judgeship race ever, and he said his financial resources were not as great as his opponents.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Blair County judicial candidate Wade Kagarise learns he won the Republican nomination as longtime friend Jennifer Margroun (left) and Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard look over his shoulder.
But Kagarise, as a longtime prosecutor and a Republican state committeeman, had the support of many elected officials including his boss, District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio, Blair County Sheriff Mitchell Cooper, both Republicans, and Altoona Mayor Bill Schirf, a Democrat.
Kagarise will be facing Andrews, who narrowly won the race for the Democratic nomination, in the November election.
The results for the Republican nomination were: Kagarise, 4,635; Miller, 3,906, and Andrews, 3,090.
For the Democratic nomination, the tallies were: Andrews, 1,596; Miller, 1,568, and Kagarise, 1,415.
The tallies are unofficial until the Blair County Board of Election reviews the results and certifies them to the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Kagarise and about 90 of his supporters gathered at the Cesare Battisti Club on Beale Avenue. He led in the Republican race from the beginning.
The election results came in quickly, and by 10 p.m., Kagarise had a 900-vote lead with only 20 of the 97 Blair County precincts still out.
Suddenly the race was over, and Kagarise was surrounded by his supporters, some hugging him, others shaking his hand.
Blair County attorney Michael Routch gave Kagarise a high-five, stating that Kagarise is experienced in criminal, civil and family law. He said he has worked against Kagarise in some cases and worked with him in others and said he was impressed.
He said Kagarise would make an "excellent judge."
Dave Butterbaugh, an Altoona city councilman, said Kagarise was the most conservative of the candidates, stating he is "pro-life, pro-Second Amendment."
"He will fight crime the hardest," Butterbaugh said.
"Wade Kagarise is one of the people I admire the most in my life. He is such a person of integrity. He has taught me so much how to act in a courtroom and how to treat the victims of crime," Cooper said.
When it came his turn to speak, Kagarise spoke to both Blair County Republicans and Democrats, stating, "A judge is a bipartisan job. ... The issues that face the court system are not Republican or Democratic. They are community issues."
He said the court is now entering a transition stage, pointing out the county has had the same judges in place for many years, but the retirement of Blair County Judge Hiram A. Carpenter at the beginning of the year signaled that the Blair County Court will look much different over the next decade. He said he is ready to lead that transition.
To Blair County Democrats, Kagarise said that because his financial resources were limited, he had to focus on the Republican race, but he said, in the fall he will reach out to Democrats as well as Republicans.
He announced that Schirf, who was at Cesare Battisti, will support him in the fall. This brought cheers from Kagarise supporters.
Kagarise thanked his supporters, but when it came to his colleagues in the district attorney's office, he became choked with emotion and after a long hesitation, he just nodded toward them, including Consiglio, fellow Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard and Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.