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Essex County judge candidates

From left, Tatiana Coffinger, James Hyde and Marsha Purdue are vying for the Essex County judge post. 

The retirement of Hamilton County Judge S. Peter Feldstein has started an electoral chain reaction that has resulted in a three-way race to replace him, as well as a three-way race for Hamilton County district attorney.

The county’s current district attorney, Marsha King Purdue, has opted not to run for re-election, and is instead among the trio running for judge to replace Feldstein, who has been the county’s judge for nearly 30 years. So three attorneys are vying to replace her.

Purdue has two opponents as she seeks the county judgeship, with Feldstein’s court attorney, Tatiana Coffinger, and Wells lawyer James Hyde, also running.

All three are seeking the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties lines, and they will face off in a primary for those lines prior to the November general election.

The county’s Republican Committee did not endorse any of the three, choosing to let the voters decide in the June 25 primary.

Purdue, 55, has been endorsed by the county Democratic Committee and will have that line for the general election.

She said her 30 years of experience as a lawyer has included stints as prosecutor, defense lawyer and in family and civil courts. She has also served as Hamilton County attorney and gotten the endorsement of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association.

“I feel I can best serve the county as judge at this point in time because of my wide range of experience,” Purdue said.

Coffinger, 46, has been a court attorney for several judges in the region for the last 19 years, writing and researching legal decisions for county, supreme, surrogate and family court judges. She has also served as interim Indian Lake town justice when the position became vacant.

Coffinger has worked as Feldstein’s court attorney since 2016 and said that her years working in social work before becoming a lawyer and her wide-ranging legal experience have prepared her for the judgeship.

The run for judge is Coffinger’s second, as she also ran for Washington County judge in 2014 when she worked as a court attorney in Supreme Court in Warren County. She later took a job working for Feldstein full-time, but had worked with him for years while she was a “floating” court attorney.

Her residence has apparently become an issue in the race, as her campaign posted a statement last week clarifying her ties.

She said she and her husband have decades of ties to the Inlet area and plan to retire in Hamilton County. She said they sought to buy property there, but couldn’t afford to until she started working full-time in Indian Lake. Her children go to Schuylerville schools, as the family made a decision not to uproot them.

“I didn’t move to Hamilton County to run for judge; I moved here to someday retire here,” she said.

Hyde, 54, is an assistant Hamilton County attorney who handles the county’s Family Court caseload, and has also worked as an assistant public defender. He said he has worked in civil and criminal courts around the state and in Feldstein’s court for years, and believes his range of experience has prepared him for the judgeship.

He said he was motivated to run because he was at a stage of his career where he wanted to give back to the community.

The Hamilton county judge handles the county’s Family Court, Surrogate Court and County Court caseloads. Felony cases and some civil litigation are handled in County Court.

The race for district attorney will include a Republican primary between Chris Shambo and Dana Beyer, while Paul Roalsvig will have the Democratic line. Shambo has been endorsed by the Conservative and Independence parties, so he will be on those lines come November.

Purdue has been the only part-time district attorney in the state, but the new district attorney may see the position expanded to full-time under authorization of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors.

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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