There's a three-way race for an open magisterial district judge seat in York City, with a man who lost the primary by two votes hanging his hopes on a write-in campaign in the Nov. 5 general election.

The primary was tight, with Tom Harteis and Joel Toluba running as Democrats and Kathy Doucette cross-filing under both parties in District 19-1-05.

Joel Toluba received 129 votes to win the Democratic nomination, two more than Harteis. Doucette took the Republican slot on the ballot.

The seat is open because of the retirement of District Judge Barbara Nixon.

Judges serving in the six-year district offices have jurisdiction in criminal matters, hearing initial complaints to determine whether enough evidence exists to send the case to the York County Court of Common Pleas.


They can hear and rule on summary convictions under the criminal code, violations of municipal ordinances, and violations of the fish, game and dog laws, and have jurisdiction over civil suits of up to $12,000, as well as matters such as landlord and tenant disputes.

Priorities: Doucette, who practices family law in a York-based firm, said her 27 years of living in the city have given her unique insight into the community.

She's running for the seat because she wants to help that community, and the open seat presented an opportunity for her to pursue something in which she has had an interest for years.

Doucette said a priority would be truancy cases handled by the office.

"It's an important issue because without our children getting a full education and graduating from high school, it limits their abilities to go on and be productive members of society," she said.

As judge, she would try to find the roots of the problem -- "why they're delinquent and why they lost interest in school, and find out where things could be changed to get them to continue in school."


Toluba is an attorney with the York County Public Defender's Office and said he has handled hundreds of cases in the district court during the six years he's been working in his current position.

"Given the vast experience at handling cases at Judge Nixon's courtroom, I believe I'm uniquely qualified given that experience," he said.

Toluba also named truancy as a priority, in addition to maintaining transparency with the judicial process.

"They're open to the public, and I want to provide leadership in terms of customer service and fairness in the judicial process," he said.

Since Nixon's retirement, there has been no consistency in leadership at that district court because a rotating cast of retired senior judges have shared the load, he said.

"What needs to be in place is a judge handling cases from start to finish and knowing exactly what each case is about," he said. "I know what takes place at a preliminary hearing because I've attended countless of them as a public defender. I understand the day-to-day operations of the office and know how to move cases through the system efficiently while not sacrificing the participant's due-process rights."

Write-in: Harteis said he was disappointed to lose the primary by two votes, and the write-in campaign is aimed at reaching voters who hadn't been reached for the May contest.

"We did hear what people said on election day, and one of the things they said was they didn't know I was running," he said.

His campaign spent the summer attending community events to tell people about his candidacy, he said.

A York Catholic graduate, Harteis said he represents the diversity of the district and understands the people.

"I'm a very fair-minded person," he said. "Having come from city schools, I understand what a lot of these kids and young adults are up against. I know what the community wants in a district judge."

He said he wants the office to be accessible, not intimidating.

"A lot of people don't go to hearings because they're scared," he said. "They feel the judge doesn't care for them. You will be heard in my court."

He said he will work with people who are late on payments before "coming after them."

As a production supervisor at GreenLine Foods in Hanover, Harteis said he's accustomed to hearing facts when people have conflicts.

"It's very similar," he said. "You have to have that skill set used to make decisions ... and listen."

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.