It’s an off-election year — with no Presidential or gubernatorial races, turnout for November’s election is expected to be low.
In an effort to stop people from blinding hitting the “R” or “D” button this November, Rydal Park Director of Life Enrichment Daniel Kaye brought the four candidates running for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas to meet with the residents of Rydal Park, a continuing care retirement community in Abington.
The Tuesday night event was low-pressure — there was no Q&A session and no debate. The candidates simply described their respective credentials, spoke a little about themselves, and later met with the residents.
The four candidates on the ballot are:
- Sharon Giamporcaro (R)
- Maureen Coggins (R)
- Gail Weilheimer (D)
- Steven C. Tolliver (D)
Maureen Coggins told residents that she started her career in the pre-trials division of the district attorney’s office and then became chief of the major crimes division. She worked for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office for eight years.
Coggins also practiced civil law at the Black and Gerngross firm in Philadelphia and was the chief public defender of Lehigh County. She said she “handled both sides of the fence and knows there are two sides to every story.”
Her husband is a criminal defense attorney and they live on a working farm in East Greenville.
Sharon Giamporcaro told residents that she has been a prosecutor for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office since 1992 and is the longest serving prosecutor in the entire office.
Giamporcaro served as chief of the juvenile division and is a Deputy District Attorney and has worked in major crimes.
She is also a registered nurse, having majored in chemistry, biology and nursing (“a weird combination,” she said). She worked at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and also at St. Joseph’s Villa on a part-time basis for four years.
She said that nurses must “make critical decisions under pressure” and added that she trained in working with those with mental illness.
Steven Tolliver started off by saying that he and his wife and three kids live in Cheltenham.
Tolliver, a Central High School graduate (which drew a cheer from the crowd), attended Villanova Law School. He said that he started his law career by practicing family law — primarily criminal defense — and then moved on to work for the Philadelphia Solicitor’s Office.
He is now a corporate litigation attorney at Aetna.
He said it’s important to have experience in family, criminal and civil law, as Montgomery County judges rotate their positions every 18 months.
Tolliver also said that his mother and father, a teacher and a postal worker, respectively, instilled in him a good work ethic, and added that he created a Saturday morning educational enrichment program for local teenagers.
Gail Weilheimer had the home field advantage. An Abington resident, she started out by saying that she lives down the street from Rydal Park.
Weilheimer also served on the Abington Township Board of Commissioners from 2004-08.
Weilheimer worked for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and said that she stopped counting the number of jury trials that she worked after about 100.
Weilheimer then went on to do what she called white-collar criminal defense. She currently works at the Wisler Pearlstine firm in Blue Bell and was also counsel to the Shapiro-Richards transition team.
Weilheimer said that a candidate who is limited to one type of law is not qualified to be a judge.