Pa. Supreme Court, municipal elections on tap for state voters

MARC LEVY and MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press

Pennsylvania voters were picking four jurists to serve on statewide appeals courts Tuesday, although the marquee race for a seat on the state Supreme Court will not change Democrats’ partisan control of the high court.

Democrats went into Election Day with a 5-2 majority on the court that in recent years has played critical roles in election litigation and the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Polling places opened at 7 a.m. on Election Day and will close at 8 p.m. If you are still in line at 8 p.m., do not leave the line; you will still be able to vote.

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The sole vacancy, opening with the mandatory retirement this year of Republican Justice Thomas Saylor, is being contested by two lower-court judges — Republican Kevin Brobson from Commonwealth Court and Democrat Maria McLaughlin from Superior Court.

There are also contested races for a single spot on Superior Court and two seats on Commonwealth Court.

At midafternoon Tuesday, the Department of State reported that no major issues with voting had come to their attention.

For Superior Court, former Chester County and state prosecutor Megan Sullivan faces Democratic Common Pleas Judge Timika Lane of Philadelphia.

The Democrats seeking Commonwealth Court seats are Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Lori Dumas and Allegheny County Common Plea Judge David Spurgeon. The Republicans are Bradford County lawyer Stacy Wallace and Drew Crompton, running for a permanent spot on the court to which he was appointed early last year.

Four statewide judges are also seeking to stay on the bench for 10 more years via up-or-down “retention” races: Superior Court judges John T. Bender and Mary Jane Bowes and Commonwealth Court judges Anne E. Covey and Renee Cohn Jubelirer.

The judges who win could end up ruling in an array of high-profile cases pending in state courts, from abortion rights to how elections are conducted.

The most notable of the state’s mayoral contests is in Pittsburgh, where five-term state Rep. Ed Gainey ousted incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto in the May primary. Gainey is heavily favored in the strongly Democratic city against Republican retired police officer Tony Moreno. There are also contested mayoral races in Harrisburg and York City.

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Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a Democrat seeking a second term, is running against criminal defense lawyer Chuck Peruto, the Republican nominee who has focused on reducing gun violence.

Two special elections will fill open seats in the state Legislature Tuesday. In the Scranton area, voters will decide who to send to the state House to fill a vacancy created when Democrat Marty Flynn won election to the Pennsylvania Senate in May.

And in Delaware County, voters will replace former state Rep. Margo Davidson, a Democrat who resigned this summer after being accused of theft, campaign violations and soliciting a witness to lie to investigators. A plea hearing in her criminal case is scheduled for early December, and her lawyer declined comment.

For many voters, local races on the ballot Tuesday are the major attraction, contests that include county judge, district attorney, school board, district judge, mayor and city council.

After being a major battlefield during last year’s presidential race, Pennsylvania voters can expect to again be heavily courted next year when the ballot will include races for positions being vacated by Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

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