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Voters choose to retain Burke as county judge

Republican said he worked hard to assure voters he had lived up to oath of office.

Judge Thomas Burke, right, looks at election results on his computer with his brother, Joe, in his chambers Tuesday evening.

DON CAREY/THE TIMES LEADER

WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Burke remained cautious Tuesday night as vote tallies trickled into the courthouse.

With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Burke said he didn’t want to comment prematurely, as one vote could turn around everything.

And after learning he will be retained for another term as county judge, Burke modestly said he hopes to continue to serve the citizens of Luzerne County as he has for the past 11 years, and maintain trust, integrity, faith and transparency.

Burke, 62, of West Pittston, who presides mostly over civil cases, was retained as a judge Tuesday, with 35,580 people voting yes, and 22,471 voting no with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to figures posted by the county Election Bureau. All results are unofficial.

“I’m enormously grateful to the voters of Luzerne County,” Burke said Tuesday night, as he waited for results in his chambers at the Luzerne County Courthouse.

“I will continue to live up to my oath of office and continue to help restore the faith and trust in our justice system.”

Burke, a Republican, based his victory on a grassroots campaign, going to local churches and community functions to get the word out.

Only in the last three days did Burke purchase an advertisement in local newspapers asking voters to support him.

Burke accepted no contributions from attorneys or private citizens and didn’t pass out pamphlets or fliers.

“My view was that the people had been impacted in a huge way by developments involving the court scandal,” Burke said.

“As an incumbent, I decided, on my part, to go directly to the people to persuade them that I had not been part of it. … I tried to shake as many hands as possible to assure them that I had lived up to my oath of office,” he said.

Burke was appointed to the bench in 1998 to fill the unexpired term of former county Judge Correale Stevens. He then won election in 1999.

Burke said after Independence Day he began frequenting more local establishments, and sometimes visited nine to 10 events over the course of a weekend.

“I wanted to keep my campaign as simple and direct as possible,” Burke said.

Burke said he felt voters retained him because he had been open about questions regarding the actions of former judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, and whether he knew about their actions.

Burke said he will maintain the transparency that Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Chester Muroski has developed since taking the reins of county court after Ciavarella stepped down.

“It’s an ongoing task,” Burke said. “My commitment is greater transparency, greater openness. …”

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