Last updated: 11:24 p.m.

159 of 159 precincts reporting
Top two vote-getters are elected

York County Court of Common Pleas Judge


Harry M. Ness (R)

Chuck Patterson (R)
Kathleen Prendergast (D)
Sandra Thompson (D)

Patterson and Ness win judicial race

York County's first black judge will take a seat on the Court of Common Pleas in January.

On his second try, Chuck Patterson, a chief deputy prosecutor in the district attorney's office, was voted onto the bench in Tuesday's election.

Joining Patterson for the next 10 years will be fellow Republican and defense attorney Harry Ness.

As the election results were tallied, Patterson and Ness led their Democratic opponents, Kathleen Prendergast and Sandra Thompson, by a roughly 2-to-1 margin. That edge held throughout the evening.

With all 159 precincts reporting, Patterson, as he was in the primary, was the top vote-getter with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Ness with 32 percent. Prendergast had 18 percent of the vote and Thompson had 14 percent.

Patterson said he went into the election "cautiously optimistic."

"We sensed before the primary there was a lot of widespread support," Patterson said. "We needed to galvanize that support and take it to the wall in the general election."

He said his campaign workers were able to cover "a substantial majority" of the county's polls.

Patterson said his race was not a factor in the election.

"The fundamental premise is there have always been and there always will be good-hearted people in York County," he said. "A lot of notions that arose with the riots of the 60s is not characteristic of the values of York County.

"It is more of an issue of the content of character than the color of skin."

Ness said he looked forward to starting a new career.

"I want to thank the citizens of York County for having faith in me," he said. "As a trial lawyer, I lived and die by the four-word sentence -- the jury has spoken."

Patterson, 60, has practiced law, largely as a prosecutor for District Attorney Stan Rebert, since 1984. He has been with the district attorney's office for 23 years.

Ness, 60, passed the bar in 1976 and did an extended stint in the district attorney's office under DAs Donald Reihart, John Uhler and his brother, J. Christian Ness, before turning to defense work and civil litigation.

Both men, who ran campaigns boasting their overall experience, will be one-term judges, unable to seek retention when they turn 70, the mandatory retirement age.

Patterson also is the first black man and the second black person elected to a county position. Voters elected Mattie Chapman as prothonotary in 1975.

The two judges will fill a new judgeship created by the Pennsylvania legislature and the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge John C. Uhler.

President Judge Richard K. Renn said when the two vacancies were announced the new judges would most likely go into the family and juvenile court divisions to help alleviate the caseload there.

Prendergast and Thompson both ran campaigns touting their family court experience.

Both Patterson and Prendergast mounted unsuccessful campaigns when voters elected two judges in 2005. In that year's primary, Patterson finished third on the Republican ballot and fourth on the Democratic side.

Prendergast finished third in the 2005 general election.

The two newly-elected judges also had the support of the city and county Fraternal Orders of Police.

Ness overcame a criminal record to get elected. As an assistant district attorney, Ness was arrested for simple possession of cocaine in 1983. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, served 30 days in county prison and was suspended from practicing law for one year.

At the time of his announcement, Ness said, "I made the decision at that point I was going to live my life in a positive direction. I've had an exemplary career since then."

Ness's given name is Harry.

"'Judge Harry,' I like that," Ness said.

Patterson is known as and campaigned under his nickname.

"I want everyone who knows me to call me Chuck," he said. "But in January, I will be sworn in as Clarence Nicholas Patterson Jr."