Aside from Donald Trump's Pennsylvania win in November, recent statewide elections have not been kind to Republican candidates. Democrats won two row offices last year, swept three state Supreme Court elections in 2015 and took the governor's office in ...
Aside from Donald Trump's Pennsylvania win in November, recent statewide elections have not been kind to Republican candidates.Democrats won two row offices last year, swept three state Supreme Court elections in 2015 and took the governor's office in 2014.
On Monday, Republican legislative leaders and state GOP officials announced a joint effort to reverse those losing trends in the upcoming state judicial elections for seven positions on three appellate courts: Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth."It's a very exciting day for us," GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio said at a news conference on the banks of the Susquehanna River, a few blocks from the state Capitol. "It's an expression of unity for the election of our judicial candidates this year."Each judicial post carries a 10-year-term, and then judges face 10-year retention votes. So first ballot elections can set the political makeup of the courts for decades.But political affiliation is no guarantee for how a judge or justice will rule on a particular matter.In 2014 the state Supreme Court, led by Republican Chief Justice Ron Castille, shot down key elements of a law that had eliminated local zoning laws in favor of statewide regulations on siting natural gas wells. The Republican-controlled Legislature wrote the bill that became law upon the signature of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.In endorsing the candidates Monday, DiGiorgio and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the state needs judges who will apply the law and not legislate from the bench as "activists." DiGiorgio and Corman declined to discuss whether the 2014 ruling constituted an activist decision, or define an activist decision.
"Once judges get into place I think a lot of them have a history of being activists and we don't want that obviously. That's why we have a vetting process before they are endorsed by the Republican Party," Corman said. "But they still have a job to do. They have to call balls and strikes and we may not agree with every decision and that's all right."Political party also does not ensure judicial integrity. Between 2013 and last year, the High Court was rocked by scandal that cost three justices their jobs.Republican Justice Joan Orie Melvin resigned in May 2013, three months after her conviction in Allegheny County Court on political corruption charges.Democratic Justice Seamus McCaffery and Republican Justice J. Michael Eakin retired over a scandal involving pornographic and other inappropriate emails in 2014 and 2016, respectively.Since then, the state courts have been scandal free. Many candidates in both parties are hoping to win election and keep the courts that way.Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy of Tioga County is the GOP's endorsed candidate for one open slot on the Supreme Court. She is seeking a full term after having been appointed to replace Eakin.The four GOP-endorsed Superior Court candidates are: Emil Giordano, a Northampton County judge; Wade Kagarise, a Blair County judge; Paula Patrick, a Philadelphia judge County; and Craig Stedman, Lancaster County district attorney.The Commonwealth Court candidates are: Christine Fizzano Cannon, a Delaware County judge; and Paul Lalley, an Allegheny County judge.The party needs to be energized and united to win the elections since the code of judicial conducts precludes candidates themselves from getting too involved in the political process, said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. "The party is re-united," he said.Not completely, however: Mary Mooney, an Allegheny County district judge, is a Republican seeking a Superior Court opening despite not getting the GOP's endorsement.The Democratic Party also has endorsed state judicial candidates."They each bring experience to the table that is unparalleled to the Republicans and other jurists," Democratic Party spokesman Brandon Cwalina said.Dwayne Woodruff, an Allegheny County judge and former Pittsburgh Steeler, is the party's lone candidate for Supreme Court.For Superior Court the party endorsed: Debbie Kunselman, a Beaver County judge; Maria McLaughlin, a Philadelphia judge; Geoff Moulton, an appointed Superior Court judge seeking a full term; Carolyn Nichols, a Philadelphia judge.Todd Eagen, a Lackawanna County lawyer, is the Democratic Party's only endorsed candidate for Commonwealth Court.Several other Democrats who either did not seek or receive the party's official nod also are on the ballot.William F. Caye II, an Allegheny County lawyer, is running for Superior Court.Joseph Cosgrove, an appointed Commonwealth Court judge from Luzerne County, is seeking a full term. Also running for Commonwealth Court are: Ellen Ceisler, a Philadelphia judge; Timothy Barry, an Allegheny County lawyer; and Irene Clark McClaughlin, a Pittsburgh housing court judge.The primary election is May 16 and the general election is Nov. firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter @sesack717-783-7305
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