The winner of the July 31 runoff will be the favorite to take over a seat vacated by retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison as no Democrat has won a statewide election in Texas since 1994.
Mr. Mericle, 49, admitted he paid $2.1 million to two county judges now serving lengthy federal prison terms in the kids-for-cash case. Federal prosecutors say he initially misled a federal grand jury that investigated the payments, but later cooperated with the government and testified against one of the judges.
Mr. Mericle, the most successful commercial developer in Northeast Pennsylvania, faces up to three years in prison in the kids-for-cash case, but is more likely to receive 12 to 18 months under federal sentencing guidelines and the terms of his plea agreement.
Mr. Mericle's sentencing has been put on hold pending his testimony in another corruption case involving former state Sen. Raphael J. Musto. Federal prosecutors say Mr. Mericle's company performed $35,000 worth of free renovations on a building owned by Mr. Musto to reward him for supporting state funding for a Mericle development.
A federal judge has postponed Mr. Musto's trial until October while he determines if the 83-year-old Pittston Twp. Democrat is healthy enough to stand trial. Mr. Mericle has not been charged in the Musto case.
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