CLARION – During her months-long run for the major party nominations for judge of the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas, Sara Seidle-Patton said she was well aware that history could be made with her election, but she didn’t want to make gender the main focus of her campaign.
“It’s exciting,” Seidle-Patton said recently while reflecting on winning both the Republican and Democratic nominations for the 10-year judicial position.
While she was the first woman to run for judge in Clarion County’s history, and will likely be the first to wear the robe in the new year, Seidle-Patton said she tried to keep the campaign focused on the issues and not gender.
“I didn’t want people to vote for me just because I was a woman,” she said, noting that she did get a few comments from voters while on the campaign trail.
“I had some people say I didn’t look like a judge,” she recalled, telling them politely, “Maybe judges look different now.”
With a nine-year-old daughter, Seidle-Patton said it was fun to see Samantha and her friends get excited about the judicial race and, whether they realized it or not at the time, the doors that were being opened for them and future generations of women.
With seven months to go until she can take office, Seidle-Patton said her focus now is on wrapping up her private practice, while at the same time not taking anything for granted in the November election.
“Right now I’m still a candidate,” she said.
She said she tried to stay upbeat during the campaign, and said that while she felt positive about her chances all along, the fact that she captured both party nominations in the primary “turned out better than I thought.”
Seidle-Patton said that even though the campaign against current District Attorney Mark Aaron and county public defender Erich Spessard was hotly contested and featured many big signs and billboards, the real work came down to getting out to meet voters door-to-door. She said that in visiting thousands of people, it became clear that Clarion County voters were eager for information, and had a lot of questions and feedback for the candidates.
She also learned she had a great team backing her with “very passionate support.”
“I was overwhelmed by the help and support I got,” she said, pointing to her husband, Michael, family members, her campaign chairperson, Sue Patton, and her treasurer, Rose Logue.
Now, with the race nearly sealed up, Seidle-Patton said she will be working with her law firm’s clients and beginning to transition the practice to attorneys Ashley Yurik and Christy Logue.
“We need good lawyers around here,” she said, noting that the face of the legal community in Clarion is changing rapidly with retirements of longtime attorneys and the addition of new ones.
“My main focus will be on wrapping up my law office,” she said, noting there is not much else she can do until she is officially elected in November.
Seidle-Patton said she had already reached out to current Clarion County President Judge James Arner, who will retire at the end of the year, and said she will be looking to him for guidance through the process.
If she is formally elected in November, Seidle-Patton said she will then attend school for new judges in January before taking her seat on the bench.
“There is a transition period,” she said.
With the campaign’s long days and nights now in the past, Seidle-Patton said she is looking forward to spending some time at home with her family before embarking on the new phase of her career.
“I’m excited Clarion County has put its faith in me,” she said.