‘Signs on the Cheap’ and big bucks; who spent what on a Washington County judgeship?

May 20, 2017

Money candidates spent on their primary campaigns for Washington County judge varied from three batches of placards from the “Signs on the Cheap” website to six figures.

To be sure, former Children and Youth Services attorney Joyce Hatfield-Wise of Amwell Township invested a tad more into promoting her candidacy than the purchase of 300 bargain-priced signs, but, according to forms she filed with elections officials, she raised a total of $2,473 and spent all of it through the May 5 filing deadline for pre-primary campaign finance documents.

Hatfield-Wise picked up the bulk of the tab for her campaign, although her committee, Citizens for Joyce, did collect a total of $500 from three donors who live in Washington County. She finished last in Tuesday’s balloting.

Phillippe Melograne of Peters Township, in contrast, loaned his campaign committee $75,000 and solicited about $26,550 from attorneys, businessmen and political action committees from outside Washington County, with the rest of his money coming from Washington Countians. Big names in the Pittsburgh legal community, such as another Phil, as in Phillip DiLucente, Paul Boas, Patrick Thomassey, Bill Diffenderfer, the Dickie McCamey and Chilcote PAC and the Eckert Seamans PAC contributed to his campaign. The Melograne for Judge Committee also received $2,621 in in-kind contributions.

Melograne, who was appointed to the Washington County bench by then-Gov. Ed Rendell and served for a little more than a year after the death of Mark Mascara in 2010, is trying to regain the seat. He raised a total of $136,425, ending the campaign finance pre-primary reporting period with a cash balance of $22,814.

Melograne finished a close second to state Rep. Brandon Neuman in the race for the Republican nomination. Neuman handily secured the Democratic nomination.

Neuman’s committee raised $51,750 between March 28 and May 1. He also had some big names from the Peirce law firm, Pittsburgh, where he practices law, contributing a few thousand dollars to his campaign, along with boilermakers’, plumbers’, operating engineers’ and electrical workers’ union entities.

According to a filing of 11th-hour contributions, the Neuman for Judge committee received a total of $6,000 between May 6 and May 15 from Jason DiAngelo of Canonsburg, William Kortz of Dravosburg, Pittsburgh Firefighters Local No. 1 Fire PAC, Friends of Frank Dermody, Ironworkers PAC of Washington, D.C., People for Robert Matzie, Eric and Lynn Vaccarello of Venetia and Lisa Tumolo of Gibsonia.

The Neuman for Judge committee lists the candidate as a creditor to the tune of $1,783, purchasing VoteBuilder online organizing, Facebook ads, phone service, stamps and paper. The committee purchased $25,301 worth of printing, largely from Hammers, 54 S. Church St., Waynesburg.

Assistant District Attorney Kristin Clingerman, who finished second to Neuman on the Democratic ticket, loaned her campaign $7,000 and raised about $11,000 more. She reported spending $14,000, ending the reporting period with a cash balance of $4,892. Her major donors included Wade Clingerman of Washington, $2,000; Amalgamated Transit Union COPE of Silver Spring, Md., $1,000; and $400 from Teamsters Union Local 249, Pittsburgh, $400.

Charles Kurowski, who finished fourth on each ticket, listed no contributions, apparently financing his own campaign to the tune of $21,708 plus $3,580 worth of in-kind contributions including stamps and signs, wooden stakes and materials to hand out from prior campaigns. He also purchased more than $11,000 worth of postcards from Minuteman Press in McMurray.

Additional campaign finance information is due in June.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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