Epic Battles No. 12: Krehel - the only Northumberland County judge to lose retention
Peter Krehel had been president judge of Northumberland County Courts since 1976. He enjoyed his first 10 years on the bench, and wanted a few more; so he sought retention in 1985.
Ordinarily, judges at the county and appellate levels have to exert little effort to keep their posts. People have a tendency to vote "yes" unless there is a compelling reason for them to vote "no." That's because most judges try to stay out of the limelight as much as possible.
Krehel's tenure, unlike most judges', was a contentious one. He seemed to fall into one controversy after another, such as his order to bury an embalmed severed head that once had a place of honor in a heritage museum, and, famously, a feud with the county commissioners over where to locate the district magistrate office.
But these events happened fairly early in his term, and might well have been forgotten by voters, most of whom probably agreed with Krehel about the head. But in 1984, he made a decision that angered the leaders and faithful followers of the Northumberland County Republican Party.
When Commissioner Ned Stank died in office, Krehel refused to go along with the GOP's wishes in appointing county Controller Lou Horvath to fill the vacancy. Even though his colleague, Judge Samuel Ranck, would have gladly approved the Horvath appointment, Krehel was adamant, and eventually, to finally break the deadlock and bring the commissioner board up to capacity, Ranck went along with Krehel in appointing Krehel's friend, Lester Blevins.
Republicans, led by their chairman, the redoubtable Daniel D. Strausser, conducted an aggressive anti-Krehel campaign. The highlight of the campaign was the publication of "The Krehel Khronicles" in county newspapers. The "Khronicles," a two-page political advertisement printed in the format of newspaper pages, was billed as the "It's Not Too Late Edition," the product of Strausser, the "Editor-at-Large." The "Khronicles" consisted of reprints of actual newspaper stories over the past 10 years that, one way or other, painted Krehel's administration of the courts in an unfavorable light.
The Northumberland County Democratic Committee endorsed both Krehel and Ranck, and Ranck, of course, also benefited from support by the county GOP (who never blamed him for the Blevins appointment) and a bipartisan committee co-chaired by two former judges, Frank S. Moser and Michael Kivko.
Ranck had no problem winning retention overwhelmingly, with 12,648 "yes" votes to 2,746 "no." He went on to serve for the next 10 years as president judge and later worked as a senior judge.
Krehel lost by a vote of 9,031 to 7,541, the only judge in Northumberland County history to be defeated for retention.