(WKBN) – First News is Your Local Election Headquarters and tonight, we’re focusing on the 7th District Court of Appeals race.

Incumbent Democratic Judge Gene Donofrio faces Republican defense attorney Mark Hanni. Both are graduates of Youngstown State University.

Hanni’s father was chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party for 16 years. Hanni ran for judge on the Democratic ticket in 2012 and lost. He says he’s running on the Republican ticket because he no longer believes the Democratic Party reflects his values as a devout Catholic.

“The Democratic Party left me. If you can see here, this was a flier that I gave when I was the Democrat. I’m quoted as saying that I will not compromise my Catholic views for politics. I believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of the family,” Hanni said.

“As judges, we all will follow the law. But a lot of times, your opinions and your values shape your thoughts and shape your opinions. I believe that the Court of Appeals, which has been a Democrat-controlled court for decades, we need some Republican representation,” Hanni added.

Donofrio has served as an appellate judge for the 7th District since 1993. He says if he wins, this will be his last term because he will age out of the position.

“I’ve sat on thousands of appellate decisions. I’ve written legal opinions and one-third of those decisions, and I think I have a solid record there,” Donofrio said.

“I really enjoy the discussion and the discourse going back and deciding these cases in a panel. They’re legal issues. We really have a job that studies the law and applies the law,” Donofrio added.

A panel of four judges makes up the 7th District Court of Appeals, which spans eight counties — Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe and Noble. They act in an oversight capacity. If a person loses a case, they can ask the appellate court to review their case for errors or misconduct.

One of the most serious kinds of prosecutorial misconduct is called a Brady Violation. It happens when law enforcement or prosecutors fail to turn over or purposely hide exculpatory evidence — evidence that would prove a defendant is innocent.

“I would do that equally across the board. It doesn’t matter what race, creed or religion you are. I would always apply the law fairly and equally,” Hanni said.

“If law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office doesn’t provide evidence that may be exculpatory, they’re breaking the law. In my district, we haven’t really seen much of that or hardly any of it,” Donofrio said.