Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Antonia Grifo Wins Easton District Magistrate Election Primary Races

By Christina Georgiou

Antonia Grifo hugs her campaign manager Joe Welsh as it becomes
clear she's won both the Democraticand Republican primary elections
for Easton's district magistrate seat.

Easton attorney Antonia Grifo has apparently won both the Democratic and Republican primary races to be the new magistrate of District Court 03-2-05.

While election numbers remain unofficial at this point, the results and slim margin of possible error indicate she will run unopposed in the November election, and it is all but certain that Grifo will take the seat in January.

While the preliminary election numbers were publicly reported later in the evening, Grifo and her supporters, gathered at a post election party at Grifo's North Fourth Street home, got the news from poll watchers shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday night

"I just can't believe it," she said after campaign manager Joe Welsh made the announcement. "You can't want it too much. But I really just can't believe it."

About 40 supporters, gathered around Grifo's dining room table where Welsh was tallying vote count reports as they came in, applauded upon hearing the news.

While it seemed Grifo was a strong contender in the race, she still seemed somewhat surprised at the election results.

"This feels so odd. It's almost surreal," Grifo said. "I can't believe they're going to let me do this job. I'm not a person who counts their chickens before they're hatched."

Welsh attributed the win to hard work on Grifo's part and "a lifetime of being involved in the community", which helped gain her strong support from community members who also worked on her behalf.

"She did everything she needed to do--knocking on doors. Everything," Welsh said.

He also said strategizing contributed much to the campaign's success.

"We knew the Democratic side was over, so we've concentrated on the Republican side in the last three weeks," he explained.

Grifo said despite being prequalified for the magistrate's position as a standing member of the Pennsylvania bar, she still plans to take the month-long state course for potential magistrates that begin in June.

Being as competant and knowledgeable about her new job is very important to her, Grifo stressed, adding that she intends to be compassionate when she takes to the bench too.

"That's very important, I think. You can be skilled and competent, and still care," she said.

Despite their loss at the polls, the four other candidates seemed mostly upbeat Tuesday evening.

Lance Wheeler, right, talks with those gathered on his
behalf at the after-election party at Black & Blue.
While Lance Wheeler's supporters, gathered at Black & Blue in Easton's West Ward, seemed disappointed at his taking second place in the Democratic primary, Wheeler said he felt satisfied about his efforts during the campaign.

"We ran a good campaign," Wheeler said. "I made them think. I am the first African-American candidate on the ballot (for district magistrate) in Northampton County. I'll see her in six years."

He also said he wouldn't rule out running a write-in campaign in the coming months running up to the November election, but said before he makes a final decision on that, he'll be consulting with his campaign team and supporters.

Lance Wheeler stands outside
Black & Blue with his campaign
"Congratulations to Antonia," he said. "We ran an honest campaign, and I'm happy."

He added that he intends to keep his job as a Pennsylvania constable and will be continuing in his position serving district courts in Bethlehem.

Sharbel Koorie, who was cross-filed, came in closely behind Grifo on the Republican ticket and third in the Democratic primary.

Speaking from his South Ninth Street home where family and supporters had gathered after the election, he seemed content with his efforts.

The final vote tally, as provided by Antonia Grifo's poll
watchers. Koorie came in second in the Republican
primary by a narrow margin.
"I wish it was different, but I'm okay with it," he said. "We never ran a campaign before, and we did well."

He said his campaign experience was a good one, and he valued the things it has brought him and his wife Lena, who accompanied him knocking on doors seeking votes over the past five months.

"We met a lot of really nice people. I think 50 to 60 of them will be part of our lives going forward," he said. "I'm proud of what we did. We ran a very positive campaign. It was a very rewarding experience."

He also wished Grifo the best in her new role.

"I'm truly happy for Antonia. I'm excited for her--she's going to start a new chapter in her life," he said. "I'm also happy for the girls in Gay (Elwell)'s office too, because they'll be keeping their jobs."

Koorie too said he'll continue his life the way it was before the election, and plans to remain as a city zoning code inspector.

"Tomorrow, I'll go back to work with the same dedication I've always had," he said. "It was a humbling experience. We're very grateful for all the support. I can hold my head high."

He added, "It was a very enlightening experience. We'll see where the future takes us."

A Prendergast supporter chats with a Wheeler supporter
outside the Easton Area Community Center, which serves
as the polling place for the city's 6th and 7th voting wards.

Tim Prendergast, who had intended to cross-file but ended up only on the Democratic ticket as a result of a petition error, said he was disappointed by the loss, but satisfied with his efforts.

"We all ran a good race," Prendergast said. "I learned the process, and it was my first time. This was my first round, and I learned some lessons. And I met a lot of great people."

Prendergast said he wishes Grifo the best in her new role.

He hinted that this election may not be his last, too.

"My father lost his first race, and he served for 20 years," he said

But for now, he will continue as a criminal defense attorney and public defender.

"I'm going to work tomorrow, and I have a case at 9:30," he said.

Despite political differences, candidates' supporters got
fairly chummy after 13 hours of sitting together outside
of Easton's 5th ward poll on Koury Place.
Tony Bassil, who finished last on both the Democratic and Republican primary tickets, said he's abstaining from comment until Northampton County election officials certify the race results.

Grifo will run unopposed in the November election, and will presumably be sworn in as the magistrate of District Court 03-2-05 the first week of January 2014.

She will replace District Magistrate Gay Elwell, who died suddenly in early December of 2012.
Updated at 7:47 a.m. to add photos.

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