JUDGE John W. Hodge is Lawrence County's newest addition the bench after he wins a close race over District Attorney Matthew T. Mangino.















jmanna@ncnewsonline.com











John W. Hodge won election as Lawrence County common pleas court judge in a squeaker yesterday.





He defeated District Attorney Matthew T. Mangino by slightly more than 1 percentage point, according to unofficial results provided by the Lawrence County Board of Elections.





Hodge received 12,660 votes as he slid past Mangino with 12,391.





"I'm glad it's over," Hodge said last night.





On his campaign, the Republican nominee said, "We believe we got across the message we wanted to get across."





Hodge, who is county solicitor, added he ran his campaign "on the appropriate level based on my experience, qualifications and integrity."





Mangino, the Democratic candidate, was critical of Hodge for taking what he described as a passive stance regarding county Treasurer Gary F. Felasco, who was indicted for allegedly stealing $47,000 in property tax payments.





"There was no merit in the issue raised by my opponent," Hodge said. "It's an issue that will be resolved by the attorney general and court system in due course."





Mangino said of the results, "I'm really grateful to the many people who dedicated themselves to my campaign."





He especially thanked his wife, Juliann, his mother, Connie, and in-laws, Fannie and Tony Galmarini "for their work and sacrifice."





When asked what effect the Felasco case may have had on the outcome, he said, "The only thing that's on my mind is to express my gratitude for the many people who helped me."





Asked whether he was disappointed, the 43-year-old Mangino said, "Of course. We fought a hard campaign and we worked hard."





Mangino was able to cut significantly into the lead that Hodge had coming out of the May primary. Hodge's total votes exceeded Mangino's by about 1,400. The two candidates ran on both Democratic and Republican ballots in the primary, along with a third candidate, Joseph Kearney.





Hodge said there was no way between the primary and the general election to figure how many independents may be voting.





Hodge, 54, will take office for a 10-year term in January. He fills the vacancy left by the retirement last year of then-President Judge Ralph D. Pratt. The county commissioners will have to name a new solicitor to replace him in that post.





Mangino, 43, had been nominated by Gov. Ed Rendell to fill the vacancy, but the state Senate never voted on his or some other nominees for common pleas courts in Pennsylvania.





His position as district attorney will be filled by John Bongivengo, who defeated George Freed for the office.



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