With representation of the state's 83rd House District at stake in Tuesday's elections, voters this past week were exposed to a flurry of political advertising that included a domestic abuse allegation.
"It's just an act of desperation," Republican David A. Huffman Jr. responded to that attack on his character by his political opponent, Democrat Rick Mirabito. "It's very mean-spirited and unjustified."
The allegations, which Huffman denied, stem from Huffman's 10-year marriage while living in Colorado.
"I can't say how unfair and unjust this is to me and my family to be experiencing this," he said. "People should know that I've done nothing illegal or criminal. This is innocuous. It's false, untrue."
At the heart of Mirabito's allegations is a complaint seeking a temporary restraining order filed in April 2001 in Jefferson County, Colo., court by Huffman's ex-wife Patricia C. Oscarson. The two were married in 1989 and separated in 1999.
In her statement, Oscarson claimed Huffman physically abused her throughout the marriage and made threatening phone calls to her after their divorce was finalized. Oscarson claimed Huffman broke her thumb and repeatedly slapped and yelled at her during their marriage, court records state.
In a counter-complaint filed in June 2001, Huffman accusing Oscarson of stalking, hitting and slapping, and throwing objects at him just prior to their separation. He also expressed concerns that Oscarson was abusing alcohol.
Less than a month later, Huffman and Oscarson agreed to dismiss the restraining orders and to have no further contact with one another.
Prior to that agreement, Huffman filed a legal motion in which he stated that a permanent restraining order, rather than a no-contact agreement, could leave a record that would hurt someone's chances of seeking a public position, such as "teaching, public office, local boards."
Huffman maintains he was never abusive and the complaint was fallout from an emotionally charged divorce.
He was not charged with domestic violence by police or accused in court of being abusive, he said, adding that he was appalled Mirabito would bring up his personal life in the campaign.
"He's using terminology that attaches a very destructive idea in the minds of people," Huffman said. "It's evil."
"I don't apologize for this. He did this," Mirabito said, defending his actions. "He's trying to shift responsibility to me."
Mirabito said voters have a right to know what kind of people they are voting for so they can make informed decisions. Huffman, he said, hasn't been forthright about other aspects of his life, including his employment status.
"In order to hold people accountable, you have to be transparent," he said. "This has to do with him taking responsibility for his actions."
One Huffman supporter contacted the Sun-Gazette to speak in his defense.
State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, is an attorney with the law firm McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall.
Temporary restraining orders in Colorado differ from protection-from-abuse orders in Pennsylvania, Everett explained.
In Colorado, a temporary restraining order is part of a divorce proceeding, while in Pennsylvania, it is part of a criminal complaint, Everett said.
Mirabito, also an attorney who in recent years has become a rental property owner, said if the restraining order was part of a standard divorce proceeding, it would have been filed before the divorce was final, not after.
"This happened at least a year after the divorce," Mirabito pointed out. "If (Oscarson) was posturing, she would have (filed the complaint) in 1999."
The 83rd is one of three state-level legislative offices to be decided Tuesday by Lycoming County voters. The other two are the 84th House District and the 23rd Senate District.
The 83rd District House seat is held by state Rep. Steven W. Cappelli, R-Williamsport, who chose to seek a state Senate seat this year rather than re-election to the House. Cappelli lost his bid for the Repubican nomination to state Senate in the May primary.
The Republican nomination for the 23rd Senate District was won by E. Eugene Yaw, county solicitor who also practices law with the firm McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall.
Everett is unopposed in his re-election bid for the state's 84th House District.
The 83rd House District encompasses the City of Williamsport, boroughs of South Williamsport and DuBoistown, and Armstrong, Hepburn, Loyalsock, Old Lycoming, and Susquehanna townships.
The 84th, in which Everett is completing his first term, covers the remainder of Lycoming County surrounding the 83rd.
Everett succeeded attorney Brett O. Feese as 84th District representative. Feese also practices law at McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall.
The state's 23rd Senate District includes all of Lycoming, Bradford and Sullivan counties, and part of Susquehanna and Union counties.