Republican Craig Stedman easily won the election for county judge on Tuesday, overcoming questions about his management of the district attorney's office and his use of drug forfeiture money while sidestepping an ugly battle with the county commissioners.
Stedman defeated Democrat Greg Paulson by 25 percentage points to win a seat on the Court of Common Pleas.
Although margins in reporting precincts showed Stedman would win over Paulson early into the night, Stedman didn’t arrive at the Republican party to claim victory until around 10:45 p.m.
“I‘m sorry to keep everybody waiting,” Stedman said after taking the stage. “I guess it’s 28 years [as a prosecutor] of following the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The results are, as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday in 241 of the county's 242 precincts:
“It’s good to win, but I look at it as a natural transition from DA to judge,” Stedman said in an interview after his acceptance speech.
Still, some Republican voters expressed concerns supporting his bid for judge in light of the tumultuous year in office he's endured, including his handling of a personnel issue and controversial lease of a sport-utility vehicle with the proceeds of drug-forfeiture proceeds.
Paulson got onto the ballot for Tuesday's race after a write-in campaign a few weeks leading up to this year's primary election.
"It was really important to me to that the democratic process was given a chance by me entering this race," Paulson said Wednesday afternoon when reached by phone. "It is democracy in action when voters have a choice."
Paulson said he plans to reach out to Stedman to congratulate him.
Some, like Lititz resident Jim Wess, are registered Republicans but voted for Paulson because of Stedman's use of drug forfeiture funds.
"From what I was reading in the paper, I just wasn't getting a good feeling," Wess, 64, said.
"I thought he should've been more professional in the end," he said.
But for a majority of Republicans who voted in Tuesday's election, Stedman was their choice for judge.
Greg Murphy, 67, a retired physician and Republican, said he came out to St. Edwards Episcopal Church in East Hempfield to support DA Craig Stedman’s bid for judge.
"[Stedman] would do a good job," said Ken Hess, 80, of Lititz. "Craig's been doing a good job [as district attorney]."
For others, the Court of Common Pleas judge race came down to party lines.
“I am tired of the Republicans having control over everything and I want to see the Democrats gain more control over our systems of government,” said Mary Gattis, 54, of Lititz Borough. Gattis said she knows Paulson personally and believed he is a “perfectly qualified candidate to do the job.”
LNP | LancasterOnline reporter Carter Walker contributed to this story.