Supreme Court, municipal elections on tap for state voters; statewide races too close to call

  • Mark Scolforo/The Associated Press
  • Marc Levy/The Associated Press

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania voters made their choices Tuesday to fill open seats on statewide appeals courts, amid light turnout statewide and a marquee race for a seat on the state Supreme Court that will not change the Democrats’ majority on the state’s high court.

Polls closed nearly everywhere at 8 p.m., and early returns began trickling in, but it was too early to call statewide races before 10 p.m.

In the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County, a mix-up in delivering voting equipment resulted in a court order to allow two polling places in Norristown to stay open an hour later.

In nearby Delaware County, a court order allowed the county three extra days to accept and tabulate any of the approximately 5,500 ballots that a vendor mailed later than expected, as long as they were postmarked before polls closed.

Election officials otherwise reported no significant problems while turnout was expected to hit 25% to 30% of registered voters.

Democrats went into Election Day with a 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court that has played critical roles in settling fights over last year’s presidential election and Gov. Tom Wolf’s use of authority to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.
For Superior Court, former Chester County and state prosecutor Megan Sullivan, a Republican, faces Democrat Timika Lane, a Common Pleas Court judge in Philadelphia.

The Democrats seeking Commonwealth Court seats are Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lori Dumas and Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge David Spurgeon. The Republicans are Bradford County lawyer Stacy Wallace and Drew Crompton, a former Senate GOP aide running for a permanent spot on the court after being appointed to it temporarily last year.

Four statewide judges are also seeking to stay on the bench for 10 more years in up-or-down “retention” races: Superior Court judges John Bender and Mary Jane Bowes and Commonwealth Court judges Anne 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 public school funding to whether the state’s mail-in voting law is constitutional.

The most notable of the state’s mayoral contests is in Pittsburgh, where five-term state Rep. Ed Gainey is poised to become the city’s first African-American mayor. Gainey was heavily favored against Republican Tony Moreno.

There were also contested mayoral races in Scranton and Harrisburg.

In Philadelphia, Democrat Larry Krasner won another term as district attorney, beating high-profile criminal defense lawyer Chuck Peruto, the Republican nominee, and getting the go-ahead to continue his progressive overhaul of the office.

Two special elections will fill open seats in Democratic-leaning districts in the state House of Representatives, one in the Scranton area and one in Delaware County.

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.

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