County attorney to run for Short's state Senate seat

CHESTER -- Chester County's attorney announced Tuesday that she's running for the state Senate.

Joanie Winters, a 52-year-old Republican, joins Rock Hill lawyer Leah Moody, a Democrat, and state Rep. Creighton Coleman, D-Winnsboro, in the race for the District 17 post held by Linda Short, D-Chester. Short has said she will retire at the end of her term.

District 17 includes all of Chester County and parts of Fairfield, York and Union counties. Winters is the only candidate in the race who lives in Chester County.

"I believe I can make a difference," said Winters, who is making her first run for public office. "I've been here for 12 years now, having come from Pennsylvania, and I feel like I've made a contribution to Chester County. And I believe I can do even more than I have done as a state senator."

The two primary issues of Winters' campaign are education and economic development.

"They're related," she said, although she said she'll detail her positions in a statement that will be released later.

"Education, for me, is a very, very important issue," she said. "I grew up in inner-city Philadelphia without a whole lot. I mean, my parents were blue collar, not wealthy folks. But I always knew that education was the key."

Winters said voters should choose her because of her work ethic. She operates a law firm in Chester, and her specialty is representing employers in labor and employment matters.

Although this is her first experience on the campaign trail, she said she's well-versed in the workings of government.

"I know government because that's part of what my law practice is," she said.

Winters has served as the county's attorney for three years. If elected, she said, she would hire another attorney to help with her office's workload.

One issue Winters said shouldn't be a problem if she's elected is her working as the county's lawyer while serving as a state senator.

"The ethics commission doesn't see it as a conflict," she said. "What I would have to do, according to the Senate ethics commission, would be to recuse myself if there were votes that would directly affect Chester County."

Herb Hayden, the state ethics commission's executive director, said nothing in state law prohibits Winters from holding state office and serving as the county's attorney as long as she recuses herself "in the event that something came before her in either position that impacted the other."

Although state ethics law doesn't address the issue, Hayden said a provision in the state constitution says that "no one person may hold two offices of honor or profit."

"That is a question that has to be answered by the attorney general's office," he said. "They are responsible for interpreting the state constitution and issuing opinions on that interpretation."

Winters said she was aware of the dual offices provision.

"There's two issues, underlying issues," she said when asked about the dual offices rule. "I have to win first. And secondly, there's nothing prohibiting me from having another lawyer in my office serve in that capacity (as county attorney)."