Hampton resident announces run for district judge

Published by Mike Pound on .

Mike McMullen

Hampton resident and longtime Republican activist Mike McMullen will seek Democratic and Republican nominations in the May primary election for the district judge's post serving Hampton, Richland and West Deer.

Mr. McMullen, 44, graduated from Deer Lakes High School and earned a political science degree from the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown in 1992. He is self-employed in sales and marketing; he has also worked as a soccer official at the high school, college and professional levels. His political experience includes time as a Republican committee member at the township and state levels and three stints as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

Mr. McMullen also said he's a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown and of the National Rifle Association.

"I will work with the local police departments and everyone will be treated will dignity and respect who enter the courtroom," Mr. McMullen said in a statement. "I will not legislate from the bench at all. It will be equal justice under the law. I will bring a conservative approach to the office as District Judge."

The seat is currently held by District Judge Suzanne Blaschak, who has been a district judge since 1984. A clerk in Judge Blaschak's office said she was not seeking re-election.



Hearing on Arneson's employment postponed

Published by Mike Pound on .

Erik Arneson (Morning Call photo)Erik Arneson (Morning Call photo)

Attorneys for Erik Arneson -- the man named by former Gov. Tom Corbett to head the state's Office of Open Records -- and Gov. Tom Wolf -- the man who fired Mr. Arneson from that office because, he maintains, the appointment process wasn't transparent enough -- have agreed to postpone a hearing over the dispute until both sides can testify before the full Commonwealth Court. That hearing is scheduled for March 11, our Karen Langley reports.


Assistant DA to seek District Judge Seat in Washington County

Published by Janice Crompton on .


Traci McDonald-Kemp, a 14-year veteran deputy district attorney in Washington County, this week announced her candidacy for district judge in the Cecil/McDonald area.

Ms. McDonald-Kemp, 44, of McDonald, will seek the district seat vacated in 2013 by the election of former District Judge Valarie Costanzo to the Common Pleas Court.

A graduate of Clarion University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Ms. McDonald-Kemp will crossfile in the primary election as a Republican and Democrat.

Ms. McDonald-Kemp highlighted her experience comforting crime victims and prosecuting criminals who prey on children, families and seniors.

"Each day, I am tasked with making decisions that have a direct impact on the lives of many; I don't take this task lightly," she said. "As the next Magisterial District Judge for the Cecil, McDonald, and Mt. Pleasant township communities, the people can rest assured that I will use my proven courtroom experience and diverse legal experience to administer justice swiftly and impartially."

Ms. McDonald-Kemp said she has been recognized for her temperament, fair and informed decisions, and active involvement in the community. She was honored as a Washington County Athena Award recipient, and recognized as one of the Women and Girl's Foundation's "Women Shaping the Law," along with receiving the Washington County Rotary Award for Vocational Excellence.

She is the daughter of local business and community leader James R. "Cookie" McDonald and serves as adjunct professor for Waynesburg University at the Southpointe Campus.

She and her husband Todd Kemp have two daughters, Ariana, 13, and Olivia, 7.




Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Marco Rubio (Associated Press photo)Marco Rubio (Associated Press photo)

1) As we noted a day ago, the topic of childhood vaccines is definitely the political issue of the week, and a couple of prominent Republicans found themselves entangled in the debate in the last day or two. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie kicked off the furor when he said parents should decide whether vaccines were appropriate for their children; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also jumped in, citing "many tragic cases" of "normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Both men later backtracked, but their waffling seemed especially pathetic in the face of a simple statement from Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: "Absolutely, all children in American should be vaccinated."

2) Hearings on the suit by Erik Arneson against Gov. Tom Wolf begin today. If you want a preview, take a spin through Karen Langley's detailed look at what the governor's legal team will argue.

3) Pennsylvania's original political Tom – former governor and the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Ridge – took advantage of an appearance on Larry King's web talk show "PoliticKING" to throw his support behind the not-quite-yet-announced presidential campaign of Jeb Bush.

4) David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Obama, is talking about his new memoir, "Believer: My 40 Years in Politics." Among the details he's discussing are the 2012 concession call between the president and Republican challenger Mitt Romney; Mr. Axelrod says Mr. Romney seemed to believe he lost the election because Mr. Obama's popularity with African American voters.

5) Republicans seem to have an uneasy relationship with science these days, what with some of the party's most notable members struggling with issues like climate change and immunizations. And North Carolina U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis sure didn't do his party any favors this week when he said restaurant owners shouldn't be forced to require employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom. Does anyone know if Mr. Tillis happens to own a restaurant back home? That's one we'd likely skip next time we visit North Carolina.


A preview of Wolf's open records case

Published by Karen Langley on .

Erik Arneson (Associated Press photo)Erik Arneson (Associated Press photo)

Attorneys for Gov. Tom Wolf have outlined their arguments ahead of tomorrow's hearing in the lawsuit contesting his firing of Erik Arneson from the Office of Open Records. 

The brief from the attorney general's office argues that:

1) The director of the Office of Open Records is an at-will employee.

There is no provision of the RTKL that -- by express terms or necessary implication -- limits the power of the Governor to remove the executive director at his pleasure as allowed by Pa. Const. art. VI, § 7. Thus, under the Constitution and the principles set forth in 2
Venesky v. Ridge, the Governor has the authority under law to remove the
Executive Director of OOR without specifying a reason.


2) They don't think Arneson is necessarily very qualified for the job. 

Neither a lawyer nor an individual possessed of degrees in public policy or
public administration, Arneson most recently had served for a long time as staff to
then-Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. When Senator Pileggi was ousted
from his leadership position by members of the Senate Majority Caucus in
November 2014, Arneson was displaced from his position on the Majority
Leader’s senior staff and found himself in need of new employment. Arneson
found it in OOR in the waning days of the administration of Governor Tom

3) Senate Republicans should be dismissed from the case.

Put simply, because the RTKL provides the Caucus with no role regarding the selection or removal of the Executive Director, its claims are nothing more than a generalized complaint
about how government is functioning. The Caucus lacks standing to make such a

4) This isn't a constitutional issue -- it's a "garden-variety 'wrongful termination' claim."

As to Arneson, despite the rhetoric of statutory constitutional violations, this is ultimately a garden-variety “wrongful termination” claim through which Arneson seeks to be reinstated to the position of Executive Director of OOR.

5) Acting Executive Director Nathan Byerly should be able to do a fine job.

Acting Executive Director Byerly is more than capable of ensuring that OOR continues to operate properly. It is undisputed that Byerly has worked at the OOR, in some capacity, since almost its inception. Unlike Arneson, who has scant credentials to serve as Executive Director and would have to learn how the officefunctions, who the staff is, and how decisions are made, Byerly has the necessary experience to serve as the Acting Deputy Executive Director.

We'll hear more tomorrow morning in Commonwealth Court.