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Using the power of talk radio, an old-fashioned slogan and a 25-foot inflatable pink pig, a low-budget campaign ousted an incumbent Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice in a retention election on Nov. 8-a first for the state. Judge Russell M. Nigro was unseated by a campaign criticizing a pay raise passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature in July to benefit lawmakers, judges, the governor and other officials. The raise-passed at 2 a.m. with no discussion-triggered an outcry and prompted the creation of groups such as PaCleanSweep, a nonpartisan political action committee seeking the ouster of incumbents. Because lawmakers and the governor don’t face re-election until 2006, PaCleanSweep targeted Nigro and Supreme Court colleague Sandra Schultz Newman, who both were up in 2005 for a retention vote. The seven-member high court had no direct role in the pay raise bill, and a constitutional challenge hadn’t worked its way through lower courts to the state Supreme Court. Nevertheless, PaCleanSweep told voters they didn’t have to wait to vent their outrage, igniting discussion on talk radio and on the Internet, said Russ Diamond, founder and chairman. To galvanize voters, the campaign-which amounted to a Web site, a few thousand supporters and printed materials-used the slogan “Remember the Pay Raise,” borrowing the well-known “Remember the Maine” motto that built support for the Spanish-American war in 1898. Diamond said that his group spent about $500 on printing and heavily recruited people to hand out fliers at polling places on election day. Meanwhile, the former spokesman for Pennsylvania’s House Democrats, Timothy Potts, wrote columns and met with several newspaper editorial boards, convincing some to call for the judges’ ouster. As the election neared, lawmakers scrambled in an effort to repeal the pay raise. But anti-incumbent rallies continued, drawing attention with a 25-foot inflatable pink pig. One in, one out While voters rejected Nigro, they retained Newman, giving her a second term. Though the campaign results were mixed, Diamond was ecstatic. “I am really beginning to think the election was the Lexington and Concord of an actual revolution in Pennsylvania politics,” he said. Perhaps Newman was spared because former Governor Tom Ridge appeared in a television ad backing her retention, said Lynn A. Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a nonpartisan nonprofit group calling for judicial selection reform. Newman, a Republican, also received the endorsement of the Republican state committee, Marks said. State bar President William P. Carlucci is discouraged by the election results, which, he noted, were not official at press time. If a message has been sent that voters will oust a judge as an expression of frustration about legislation, “that’s a pretty unhealthy message,” Carlucci said, calling it “profoundly unfortunate.” The governor will appoint Nigro’s successor, who, if confirmed by the state Senate, will serve until 2007 when the position will be filled by an open-seat, partisan election. In another noteworthy off-year election, voters in Washington state rejected two competing ballot initiatives seeking to reform medical malpractice. One measure-backed by doctors, hospitals and business-sought to cap noneconomic damages and restrict attorney fees. The second initiative-proposed by trial lawyers-sought to strip medical licenses from doctors with multiple malpractice judgments.

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