Pennsylvania settling close races for judge, county control

The Associated Press
Ora Henry, left, signs in Otis Graham, right, as he votes on Election Day at Zion Baptist Church Of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's municipal elections Tuesday featured two statewide appellate judge seats, as well as some potential firsts in local races as most counties debuted new voting systems.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. and ballots were still being counted at about 10 p.m. in many closely watched contests across Pennsylvania amid complaints of long voter waits in some of the 45 of 67 counties using new voting systems.

York County apologized for long voter waits and inconveniences, while Charlie O'Neill, the state GOP's deputy executive director, said the party fielded complaints from across the state about long wait times tied to new voting systems.

However, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's top elections official, Kathy Boockvar, reported no widespread problems. Wolf last year ordered counties to buy new paper-based voting systems before the 2020 presidential election as a bulwark against hacking.

Based on anecdotal reports from county election officials, turnout was better than expected for a municipal election, Boockvar said.

On statewide ballots, Republicans and Democrats were vying for two open seats on the statewide appellate Superior Court. The 15-seat court handles civil and criminal appeals from Pennsylvania's county courts.

Judges serve 10-year terms and run for reelection in up-or-down retention races. The court currently has eight Republicans and six Democrats, with one Republican not running for another term.

The Democrats are Amanda Green-Hawkins, a longtime steelworkers' union lawyer from Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia Judge Daniel McCaffery. The Republicans are Megan King, a Chester County prosecutor, and Cumberland County Judge Christylee Peck.

There was also a statewide referendum on writing specific rights for crime victims into the state constitution, although it's being challenged in the courts.

In Philadelphia, Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney was all-but assured of a second four-year term in charge of the nation's sixth largest city. Kenney had an eventful first term, from antagonizing President Donald Trump over Philadelphia's sanctuary city status to carrying through on his top first-term priority, a tax on soda and other sweetened beverages.

Allegheny County's executive, Rich Fitzgerald, was expected to win another term in the state's second-most populous county.

Reading, Pennsylvania's fifth-most populous city, was poised to elect its first Latino mayor. Democrat Eddie Moran is an insurance agent who also serves on the school board in a city where almost two-thirds of the residents are Latino, according to census data.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania's third-most populous city, Republican Tim Ramos and Democrat Ray O'Connell are vying to fill the remaining two years in the term of Ed Pawlowski, a Democrat who was sentenced to prison last year in a corruption case.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to take control in more of the counties surrounding Philadelphia.

Democrats haven't had control of the Delaware County Council since at least the Civil War, while they last had control of Bucks County's board of commissioners for four years in the 1980s.

Long a bastion of Republican support, both counties are becoming increasingly liberal, a trend that has accelerated since Trump's election as president.