MERCER — A few minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, Ronald Amrhein said he was content with his effort, regardless of the outcome.
“We worked as hard as we could work,” he said. “I feel pretty good.”
Amrhein’s best turned out to be good enough in the primary for Mercer County Common Pleas Court judge. He won one of two nominations for both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Margaret Lucas finished first in the Democratic primary with 3,484 votes (29.7 percent). Amrhein finished second with 3,025 (25.8 percent) to claim the party’s second nomination.
Amrhein, Lucas and state Rep. Tedd Nesbit, R-8, Grove City will face off in the November general election for two seats on the county bench.
On the Democratic side, Lucas and Amrhein finished ahead of Michael Joanow with 2,848 votes, Ryan Mergl (1,341) and Nesbit (975). There were 49 write-in votes.
With all five candidates crossfiled in both parties, Amrhein finished first on the Republican side and Nesbit, a former Mercer County prosecutor now in the state legislature, claimed the second nomination.
Amrhein had 3,787 votes (26.93 percent), followed by Nesbit, with 3,370 votes (23.96 percent), Joanow (3,230), Lucas (2,672) and Mergl (989). There were 15 write-in votes.
All results are unofficial until a canvass by the county election department, and ratification by the election board.
The winners in November will fill two vacancies on the common pleas court, which has been operating with two judicial vacancies since the retirements of former President Judge Thomas Dobson and Judge Christopher St. John at the end of 2017. St. John and retired judge John Reed have been hearing cases as senior judges.
Lucas, of Hermitage, said the addition of two full-time judges would help the courts run more efficiently and better serve the residents of Mercer County.
“I think the people are looking for people who will quickly step in and do the job,” she said.
In the campaign, she highlighted her service as a master in custody and divorce cases, adding that she has been practicing for more than 30 years. She said that experience serves as a qualification because family law issues are among the most frequent and important cases that come before common pleas court.
If Lucas wins, she would be the first woman to serve as a common pleas court judge in Mercer County.
With increased participation of women at all levels of politics, she said that might have played a role in her victory Tuesday.
“People are recognizing women as a force in politics,” she said. “I think that sort of resonated in Mercer County.”
Amrhein, 53, of South Pymatuning Township, emphasized his experience in quasi-judicial posts as a civil commitment hearing officer and a court-appointed master in custody and divorce actions.
In a recurring theme among the candidates, Nesbit credited all of his opponents for running respectful campaigns without smearing their opponents.
“I think everyone ran a positive campaign,” he said. “They talked about themselves and why they thought they were the best candidate.”
Nesbit, who has served in the state legislature since 2015, is also a former Mercer County assistant district attorney.
“I feel everybody in the campaign was above reproach and you can’t ask for anything more than that,” he said.