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Judicial nominee withdraws in Pa.

September 15, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The contest for a seat on the 39th District of the Court of Common Pleas will be a one-woman race after the pick of the Democratic committees in Franklin and Fulton counties announced Wednesday he was withdrawing from the race.

"While this has been a difficult decision, based on personal reasons related to the best interest of my family, my practice and my opinion that there is insufficient time to get out and campaign, I cannot run at this time," attorney Tyrone G. Johnson wrote in a press release. Johnson, who has practiced law in Franklin County since 1992, declined to answer questions Wednesday night.

"The clients I represent presently require my personal attention and that is more important at this time, however, I may consider running in the future with proper support," the 52-year-old Mercersburg, Pa., man wrote.

Johnson had been selected last week by the Democratic committees in the two counties making up the 39th District to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. He had been a registered Republican until filing a change of party form Wednesday, Sept. 8, with the Franklin County Voter Registration Office.

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His withdrawal leaves Republican candidate Carol Van Horn unopposed to fill the vacancy being created by the Sept. 30 resignation of Judge William H. Kaye, the only Democrat among the district's four judges. A judge since 1987, Kaye was diagnosed with cancer two years ago and in August announced he was resigning for health reasons.

Kaye was to have been on the ballot running for retention for another 10 years. His resignation gave the parties until Sept. 13 to select candidates.

Van Horn, 41, is president of the Franklin County Bar Association and a member of the Chambersburg law firm Walker, Van Horn and MacBride.

Van Horn said Johnson informed her of his decision Wednesday.

"I still want to make sure the voters feel comfortable with me and my qualifications over the next couple of months," she said.

"I was very disappointed he withdrew. I tried to get him to reconsider," Franklin County Democratic Committee Chairman William Butts said Wednesday. "I believe the lack of substantial support persuaded him to drop out."

Johnson was the only attorney to put his name forward as the Democratic nominee, according to Butts. Before Johnson was selected, Butts said he had tried to contact other Democrats who might have had an interest in running for the bench.

"I was very pleased Tyrone stepped forward," Butts said.

With the deadline for submitting a name to the Pennsylvania Department of State having passed, the Democrats will have no candidate on the ballot.

Van Horn was selected by Republican committee members from the two counties Sept. 8 at a meeting in Chambersburg. She was picked over District Justice Larry Meminger in a secret ballot.

This will be the second time in two years that a judge has been elected without opposition. In 1997, Richard J. Walsh was the only candidate in both the Republican and Democratic primaries when the fourth judgeship was created by the state Legislature.

Franklin County Republican Committee Chairman Allen V. Twigg said Wednesday he was unaware of Johnson's withdrawal.

"It saves us (campaign) money, and we feel we have a very good candidate," he said.

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