Pittman, a Democrat, walked away with a clear victory in a five-way race by garnering 12,630 votes _ 4,820 more than the next closest candidate, Ronald J. Kane, a Republican, according to complete but unofficial results from the Portage County Board of Elections.
Kane received 7,810 votes in his favor, while Democrat Eugene L. Muldowney came in third with 7,566 votes. Francis M. Ricciardi, also a Democrat, received 4,854 votes, and Republican candidate Lou Bertrand received 4,011 votes.
Donald Martell, a Republican who was appointed to a separate seat on the municipal court bench in January, received 21,394 votes over his Democratic challenger, Sharon Ann Sabarese, to retain his seat on the bench. Sabarese received 13,175 votes, according to election results.
Incumbent Judge Barbara Watson, a Democrat who has served on the municipal court bench since 1989, received 28,245 votes in her uncontested bid for re-election.
The five candidates who crowded the race for the seat made vacant by the upcoming retirement of Judge Perry Dickinson made Tuesday's election one of the largest races for the municipal court bench Portage County has seen in nearly 20 years.
"I did everything I could," Pittman, a Ravenna native, said of her campaign. "I am honored to see how it's turning out. I did a very, very clean campaign. I have a good reputation in this community. People know I'm honest and truthful. That's what people want. I also had a great deal of help."
Pittman is the second eldest of five children and the first person in her family to become a judge. She credited her parents, Bonnie and John of Ravenna Township, and her grandmother, Dorothy Pittman of Shalersville, plus a group of Portage County attorneys for providing much-needed support during her campaign.
Two of her competitors applauded her victory.
"Laurie Pittman ran as a non-partisan candidate, and I think that's what judges should be," Bertrand said. "I admire her for it."
"It's an interesting result," Ricciardi said of how the vote was divided. "I would certainly congratulate Laurie, and we will look forward to working with her."
Martell said he was pleased at voters' reaction to his campaign and said he is eager to continue the work he started when he was appointed.
"We worked really hard on the campaign, trying to focus on quality, and what we've done so far this year," he said. "I think the message got through."
Martell was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Judge John Enlow, a fellow Republican, was elected to the common pleas bench last November. Martell will serve out the unexpired years of Enlow's term, which will conclude in 2001.
Sabarese could not be reached for comment.