Two more join race in Northampton
Republican Victor Scomillio and Democrat Abe Kassis will face off against John Morganelli for two Northampton County judge slots.
Two familiar figures in the Northampton County legal world will face off in November for an unexpected opening for county judge.
Republican Victor Scomillio and Democrat Abe Kassis won the nomination of their parties last week, setting the stage for a truncated race between two lawyers who have run against each other before for the county’s bench.
Kassis and Scomillio are seeking to replace Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden, who surprised the courthouse in Easton last month when she announced plans to step down after 31 years. Because of the timing, that threw nominations for her seat into the hands of each party’s executive committee, which selected Kassis and Scomillio on Aug. 29 during separate meetings.
Kassis, a longtime assistant district attorney, won local Democrats’ nod over four other hopefuls: Easton attorney Joshua Fulmer, Allentown lawyer Constance Nelson, District Judge Richard Yetter of Wilson and District Judge Vivian Zumas of Hanover Township. The vote was held at a Democratic organizing meeting at Northampton Community College.
Matthew Munsey, the chairman of the Northampton County Democratic Committee wouldn’t give a breakdown of the vote, but said Kassis collected a “clear majority” on the first ballot. Under the party’s rules, state Democratic leaders must sign off on the nomination, a formality expected to be completed this week, Munsey said.
Scomillio, a partner at the Bethlehem law firm Holzinger, Harak & Scomillio, was the only candidate for the Republican nomination. He was selected at a GOP committee meeting at the Lehigh Township Volunteer Fire Co. hall, according to county Republican Chairwoman Lee Snover.
There are two open judge seats before county voters on Nov. 5. District Attorney John Morganelli, a Democrat, was running unopposed to succeed former Judge Emil Giordano, and captured the nominations of both parties during May’s primary.
McFadden’s retirement added a wrinkle to the ballot. According to the Department of State, the two vacancies will be combined into one race, with voters asked to pick their top two candidates. That means Morganelli must now compete against Kassis and Scomillio, though he’ll enjoy an advantage because he has both parties’ nominations.
Scomillio and Kassis have been opponents before. Both ran for judge in 2015, when Kassis lost in the primary and Scomillio was defeated in the general election, when now-Judge Samuel Murray captured the seat.
On Wednesday, the two men sought to highlight their contrasts, while noting the tight time frame they have to reintroduce themselves to voters.
“I believe that I have a great deal of experience as a trial attorney,” said Kassis, 52, of Bethlehem Township, who has worked in the district attorney’s office since 1999. “I believe my experience, especially as a prosecutor and the number of jury trials I’ve had over the years, distinguishes me from Mr. Scomillio.”
Scomillio touted breadth of resume, saying he has practiced in civil, family and criminal law. He served as a court-appointed defense lawyer, as a law clerk and as the county’s chief solicitor.
“I haven’t put myself into one subject matter,” said Scomillio, 47, of Palmer Township.
Judges are elected for 10-year terms and earned $183,184 this year. Northampton County has a nine-member bench.
Morning Call reporter Riley Yates can be reached at 610-2535751 or ri[email protected]