PENNSYLVANIA — It was a competitive election year for Pennsylvania’s court system. There were several open seats across the state Supreme, Commonwealth and Superior courts, which …
PENNSYLVANIA — It was a competitive election year for Pennsylvania’s court system. There were several open seats across the state Supreme, Commonwealth and Superior courts, which Democratic candidates swept. At the local level, unofficial results say that the Wayne County Commissioners’ lineup will remain the same, while a newcomer has made her way onto Pike County’s Board of Commissioners.
The state’s highest ranking court, and the country’s oldest appellate court, had one open seat this year. Unlike past judicial elections in PA—which have been historically marked by “sleepy” campaigns—this year saw tens of millions in spending by the major parties, attack ads from both major parties and the largest voter turnout for an off-year election in recent history.
Supporters of Democrat Daniel McCaffery—who defeated Republican candidate Carolyn Carluccio—contextualized the importance of this race against the backdrop of reproductive rights in Pennsylvania.
Though Carluccio said, “I have no interest in taking away anyone’s rights,” on the campaign trail, many voters were made uneasy by endorsements from groups like PA Pro-Life Federation and Pro-Life Coalition of Pennsylvania.
On the question of abortion, McCaffery has said, “I believe those particular issues are best decided between a woman, her conscience and her doctor.”
With McCaffery’s victory, Democrats are essentially guaranteed a majority for the next two years.
Commonwealth Court hears civil cases brought against the state and local government bodies. In the past, it has made weighty decisions on redistricting, education funding and most recently it axed PA’s participation in an interstate carbon-reduction initiative.
Commonwealth Court judges serve 10-year terms without term limits, but with a mandatory retirement age of 75. The nine-member court, currently made up of five Republicans and three Democrats, had one open seat this election.
Democrat Matt Wolf, a Philadelphia municipal judge, defeated Republican Megan Martin, a former legislative adviser, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Judges on the Superior Court hear appeals in high-profile criminal and civil appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas. According to Spotlight PA, it’s the court regular Pennsylvanians are most likely to interact with. The court’s decisions can also shape precedent for how future criminal justice cases are decided in lower courts.
Of the four candidates in the running, both Democrats—Jill Beck and Timika Lane—defeated both Republicans, Maria Battista and Harry Smail. With these and the results of two retention races, the 15-person court will be made up of nine Democrats and six Republicans.
Wayne commissioners hold their positions
Four candidates ran to fill the three seats on Wayne County’s Board of Commissioners. According to the unofficial results from the Bureau of Elections, all three incumbent commissioners will remain in office for the following four years.
Chairman Brian Smith (Republican) topped the list with 32 percent; James Shook (Republican) won his first election by the voting public with 30 percent; Jocelyn Cramer (Democrat) secured her first reelection bid with 21 percent; and falling secure of securing a seat, Hawley Borough councilor Michael Dougherty (Democrat) bottomed the list with 16 percent.
Before the election, the commissioners told the River Reporter they were looking to pursue a recovery-to-work program, broadband connectivity, job opportunities and housing issues over the next four years.
A late addition to the field, Democratic candidate Christa Caceres, was successful in her bid to break up the status quo in Pike County. She took the place of candidate Karen Haycox, who dropped out of the race after the primary elections.
Chairman Matthew Osterberg (Republican) topped the list with more than 6,900 votes, next was Ronald Schmalzle (Republican) with 6,300. Caceres edged out incumbent Democrat Anthony Waldron with 5,172 votes to 4,232.
Osterberg told River Reporter that providing working opportunities for Pike County residents with disabilities and providing a path to recovery for residents struggling with addiction topped his list of priorities for his next four-year term. Schmalzle said that bringing the county its first hospital and urgent care facilities were his “number one” priority. Caceres said she wants to bring a fresh perspective to the board, as a mother with a student in the local school system, and expand the county’s transportation resources.
Wayne saw a 34 percent turnout rate, Pike saw about 29 percent. Both counties’ election results are still unofficial. The full results are available at www.waynecountypa.gov and www.pikepa.org.
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