Lehigh Co. District Attorney Jim Martin (Armchair Lehigh Valley)
ALLENTOWN — Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin, a Republican who has served in office for 25 years, announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection.
“It is my intent, God willing, to serve the remainder of my term in office which will end on the first Monday of January, 2024,” Martin, 77, said in a statement.
His announcement opens the door to primary and general election battles for the job.
Earlier this month, Martin appointed Gavin Holihan, an attorney in private practice, to take over as first assistant district attorney. In that role, Holihan serves directly under Martin and would succeed him should Martin step down.
Martin thanked a long list of people in his announcement, including his wife Patricia, secretary, staff, close friends, mentors, law enforcement and others.
“Obviously, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the citizens of Lehigh County for placing their trust in me and electing me to this important office on six different occasions. I am proud to have achieved the rank of ‘longest serving District Attorney in the history of Lehigh County,’ ” he said.
Martin has been in the job since Jan. 26, 1998, when he was appointed to replace Robert L. Steinberg, who had been elected as a Lehigh County judge.
An Allentown solicitor at the time, Martin previously served as a public defender and assistant district attorney.
He was elected DA the next year and went on to win in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Martin oversees a budget of over $13.4 million that includes about $5 million in grant money, forfeitures reimbursement and generated revenue. He supervises more than 125 people.
Martin said he was proud of his accomplishments, citing a more than 97.5% homicide conviction rate and the launch of the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center, which allows police departments to quickly collaborate on sharing and analyzing data.
Martin’s achievements are many, according to his bio on pacourts.com.
They include his role in helping found the Officer David M. Petzold Digital Forensics Laboratory of Lehigh County to provide state-of-the-art digital forensic analyses.
He also started the county’s first investigating grand jury in 2001. The same year he established the Child Advocacy Center of Lehigh County to bring law enforcement, county case workers and health care professionals together to provide victims of child abuse and sexual assault care and professional services.
In 2018, Martin helped establish the Blue Guardian Program under which people who have been revived through the use of naloxone receive a visit at their home within 72 hours by a police officer and a recovery specialist.
Martin’s role also has extended into elections.
In April, he warned voters that they could face fines or jail time if they dropped off more than one mail-in ballot in one of the county’s five drop boxes.
The warning followed an investigation by his office that found there were “likely hundreds of instances” where people deposited more than one mail-in ballot in a drop-box in 2021 — a violation of state voting law.
Martin said it was impossible to prosecute anyone from 2021 because it was hard to tell their identities.
For the May primary, Martin said county detectives would monitor the boxes physically or via video surveillance.
In response, acting Secretary of State Leigh M. Chapman and 21 organizations sent word to Martin, saying his move appeared to cross the line into unlawful harassment and voter intimidation.
Martin did not back down.
This story was first published by Armchair Lehigh Valley, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
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