(Photo by Daniella Heminghaus)
With petition season underway as of Feb. 14, must-watch primary races are emerging across the Lehigh Valley.
This is a municipal election year, meaning there will be hundreds of races in the Lehigh Valley for everything from county judges and magistrates to mayors and school board members.
But some high-profile contests already are starting to emerge.
Incumbent District Attorney Terry Houck will face Stephen Baratta, who resigned as a Northampton County judge after 25 years on the bench to face Houck in the May 16 Democratic primary.
Baratta’s resignation opened up a seat on the county bench with two announced candidates so far for the seat where candidates can cross-file — Republican Nancy Aaroe and Democrat Brian Panella.
Incumbent Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. announced last week that he is seeking his 7th term in office. He will face City Council member Peter Melan in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, the Easton City Council race already has five Democratic candidates for three seats and Allentown City Council has five Democratic candidates so far for 3 seats.
Over in Lehigh County, three of the five-member majority of Democrats on the county Board of Commissioners aren’t seeking reelection — Bob Elbich, Zakiya Smalls and Dave Harrington.
Only incumbent Democrat Dan Hartzell is running in the primary where four seats are up for grabs.
Hartzell is being joined by four other Democrats for the primary. But the loss of three incumbents could open the door for Republicans to regain control.
Those races and other announcements gathered by Armchair Lehigh Valley from candidates or their party committees are listed below. We will be updating this list as the election goes on.
Candidates have until March 7 to file their petitions. As is the case with all announced candidates, they must first secure valid signatures on petitions and survive any challenges before being placed on the ballot. Some also drop out before the primary.
Northampton County Court of Common Pleas
1 seat, 10-year term until retention vote, candidates can cross-file
Nancy Aaroe – R- Attorney with Aaroe Law Offices, former assistant DA, public defender.
Brian Panella – D – Bethlehem City solicitor and an attorney with Goudsouzian and Associates.
Northampton County Council
District 3 – Bethlehem Township, Hanover Township, Lower Nazareth Township, Borough of Nazareth, East Allen Township, Allen Township, boroughs of Northampton and North Catasauqua.
Jeff Warren – D – Former Hanover Township supervisor and former member of Easton City Council.
Northampton County Controller*
1 seat, 4-year term
Tara Zrinski – D – Current member of Northampton County Council; lost by 40 votes in May 2022 primary for nomination for state’s 14th Senate District.
John Cusick – R -Currently represents District 3 on Northampton County Council
*Incumbent Richard J. “Bucky” Szulborski was appointed to the position when Controller Tony Bassil died in 2021.
3 at large seats, 4-year term
Michael G. Colón, Incumbent president of Bethlehem City Council
Colleen Laird – D – Community organizer
*A portion of western Bethlehem is in Lehigh County.
3 at large seats, four-year term
G. Kennedy “Ken” Greene – D – Easton Planning Commission member
Kenneth Brown – D – Incumbent
David O’Connell – D – Incumbent
Frank Pintabone – D – former Easton Area School Board member
Crystal Stoneback Rose – D – Easton Civil Service Board member
Easton City Controller
Chris Heagele – D -Incumbent
Lower Nazareth Supervisor
2 seats, 6-year-term
Nancy Teague– D
*Incumbent Ann-Marie Panella is not seeking reelection.
Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas
President Judge J. Brian Johnson – D- 10-year retention
Lehigh County District Attorney
Gavin Holihan – R – The private defense attorney was recently named first assistant district attorney by incumbent Republican Jim Martin who is not seeking reelection.
Lehigh County Board of Commissioners*
4 at-large seats, 4-year term
Sheila Alvarado – D -LANTA board member, legislative assistant to state Rep. Pete Schweyer
Michael Blichar – D – Ran unsuccessfully against former state Rep. Gary Day in 2020
Dan Hartzell -D – Incumbent
Jon Irons – D-
April Riddick -D- Community activist
*Incumbents Bob Elbich, Zakiya Smalls and Dave Harrington are not seeking reelection.
Lehigh County Controller
Mark Pinsley -D – Incumbent; lost in November in state’s 16th Senate District race.
Lehigh County Sheriff
Joe Hanna – R – Incumbent
Lehigh County Coroner
Daniel Buglio – D – Incumbent who was appointed to post in April 2022 after Eric Minnich resigned.
Lehigh County Clerk of Judicial Records*
Michelle Graupner – D – Works as clerk in office, volunteers with Lehigh County League of Women Voters
*Incumbent Andrea Naugle is not seeking reelection.
Allentown City Council
3 seats, 4-year term
Luis Acevedo – D – Ran unsuccessfully for seat in 2019, among residents who applied but did not get an open seat on council in December
Candida Alfa – D – Incumbent
Tino Babayan – D – Among residents who applied but did not get an open seat on council in December
Ce-Ce Gerlach -D – Incumbent
Santo Napoli -D – Incumbent appointed in January to replace Democrat Josh Siegel who won election to the state House’s 22nd district.
Jeff Glazier – D – Incumbent
Allentown School Board
5 seats, 4-year term, candidates can cross-file
Andrene Brown – D – Incumbent appointed to board in January to fill one of two vacancies.
Audrey Mathison – D -Incumbent and board president
Dr. Evelyn J. Santana – D – Incumbent appointed to board in January to fill one of two vacancies.
Ana Tiburcio – D – Among nine candidates vying two vacancies that were filled in January.
East Penn School Board
5 seats, 4-year term, candidates can cross-file
Shonta Ford – D –
Gabrielle Klotz – D-
Joshua Levinson – D -Incumbent and board president
Magisterial District Justice
District 31-1-09, Allentown, Wards 6, 10
Mark McCants – D
Patrick Palmer – D- Current Allentown School Board member
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