From president to referendum, Pa. campaign season gets underway
HARRISBURG — The election season gets underway in earnest after Labor Day, and Pennsylvania has a packed ballot on Nov. 8 that includes president, almost 250 state and federal lawmakers, three statewide offices and a referendum that affects more than 1,000 judges. Pennsylvanians also will replace at least three officeholders who were convicted midterm.
A look at the offices and need-to-know information about registering to vote:
This presidential election will be the first with online registration available to voters in Pennsylvania. The last day to register is Oct. 11, while Nov. 1 is the last day to apply for a civilian absentee ballot. Democrats hold a registration edge in Pennsylvania of about 4.1 million to almost 3.2 million Republicans. That’s a smaller edge than Democrats held in the 2012 and 2008 presidential elections. Another 683,000 are independent voters and 436,000 voters are registered in minor parties.
On the ballot will be Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, as well as Libertarian Gary Johnson, the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle. Pennsylvania has voted for the Democrat for president in every election going back to 1992 — six straight — and Clinton holds a polling lead.
Democrat Katie McGinty is challenging first-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey for the next six-year term in this seat. Also qualifying for the ballot is Libertarian Edward Clifford. Polls show a close race between McGinty and Toomey in a contest that could tip control of the U.S. Senate next year. Spending on the race has passed $50 million in one of the nation’s most closely watched and expensive campaigns.
Voters will choose Pennsylvania’s 18-member delegation for new two-year terms, although only one seat — Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s seat in suburban Philadelphia’s 8th District — is viewed as competitive. Two members are retiring — Republicans Joe Pitts and Fitzpatrick — while Democrat Chaka Fattah resigned in June following his conviction in a federal racketeering case. Otherwise, Pennsylvania is poised to again send one of the nation’s largest Republican delegations to Congress. The current delegation is 13 Republicans and five Democrats, including Fattah.
Every seat in the 203-seat state House is on the ballot, as are 25 of the Senate’s 50 seats. Republicans hold huge majorities in both chambers, 31-19 in the Senate and 119-84 in the House. They are expected to maintain that control next year, if not add to their margin in the Senate.
Democrat Josh Shapiro and Republican John Rafferty are running for a four-year term to succeed the last elected attorney general, Kathleen Kane, who resigned Aug. 17 following her conviction on perjury and other charges. Shapiro is the chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners, while Rafferty is a state senator from Montgomery County.
The battle to fill this office also comes on the heels of a scandal. The last elected treasurer, Rob McCord, resigned last year and pleaded guilty to federal extortion-related charges. Seeking a four-year term are Republican Otto Voit, a businessman and school board member in Berks County, and Democrat Joe Torsella, a former State Board of Education chairman who recently served as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Also running are the Green Party’s Kristin Combs and the Libertarian Party’s James Babb.
Democrat Eugene DePasquale is running for a second four-year term in office. Also running is Republican John Brown, the elected Northampton County executive, the Green Party’s John Sweeney and the Libertarian Party’s Roy Minet.
JUDICIAL RETIREMENT AGE
Voters will be deciding whether more than 1,000 state judges should be able to serve another five years on the bench until age 75. The current mandatory retirement age is 70. Critics have unsuccessfully challenged the referendum’s validity in court, in part because the wording approved by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration for the ballot will not tell voters that there already is a retirement age. Rather, it only asks voters whether to set 75 as the retirement age.