X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Pennsylvania Law Weekly Party endorsements and geography reigned supreme in last week’s primary elections for the state Supreme Court. All four candidates who were nominated – two from each major party – were endorsed by their respective parties. Regional pride seemed to play a part as well, with two nominees hailing from the western part of the state and two from the east. Republicans Maureen E. Lally-Green and Michael L. Krancer won their party’s nominations, edging out Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul P. Panepinto. Superior Court Judges Debra Todd and Seamus McCaffery took the Democratic Party nominations, beating Philadelphia Common Pleas Court President Judge C. Darnell Jones II and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Willis W. Berry Jr. “Party endorsements, geography and gender balance were the name of the day,” Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts Executive Director Lynn A. Marks said. Three of the four winners, she said, have already won statewide elections and are on an appellate court. G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, said a lower-than-expected voter turnout in Philadelphia didn’t help the local candidates, including Jones, who had the backing of newspaper endorsements and Gov. Edward G. Rendell. “Typically in these elections we have regional voting patterns,” he said, adding that the candidate’s county is listed next to his or her name in the primary elections. In races where little is known about the candidates, Madonna said party affiliation and geographic backgrounds often play a major role. Lally-Green and Todd are from Butler and Allegheny counties respectively, McCaffery is a Philadelphia native and Krancer is from Montgomery County. Madonna questioned whether there was a bias against Philadelphia in this race or whether it could be chalked up to a pro-Western mentality. “The turnout in Philadelphia, with 280,000, was very light, so it didn’t help the local candidates,” Madonna said. With more than 99 percent of the polls reporting, the two female candidates took in the most votes for their respective parties even though they lagged in fundraising early in the campaign. For the Democratic Party, Todd won 499,534 or 35.7 percent of the vote. Lally-Green, a Superior Court judge, garnered 509,062 votes, or 42.7 percent, for the Republican Party. In a bit of a surprise, Jones was only three percentage points ahead of Berry, with the candidates bringing in 18 and 15 percent of the votes respectively. Marks said she was surprised that Jones and Berry were so close in the polls given all of the endorsements Jones received from the governor and the press. She said Berry’s No. 1 ballot position might have helped him. Jones said his campaign made “tremendous strides” since it began in mid-January. Many people stood up and took notice of his success despite not being backed by the party, he said. Efforts to damage Jones’ chances at the polls didn’t go unnoticed by his campaign. He said he was aware of several wards where sample ballots deleted his name and replaced it with Berry’s. “It’s part of the process. I have to deal with it,” Jones said. “I wasn’t running against him, I was running for the state.” He said the voter turnout was a “sad commentary” and joked that he might become “the poster child for merit selection.” The idea of running again isn’t something Jones has given up on, saying he would consider the idea. He said he hoped his efforts in this race have paved “some more highway for African Americans.” The effect of ratings by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Commission was unclear. Voters chose a mixed bag including Todd and Lally-Green, who were highly recommended; and McCaffery and Krancer, who were merely recommended. Jones and Panepinto received highly recommended ratings, but that appeared not to sway voters. Berry was the only candidate for Supreme Court who was not recommended by the JEC. While most counties voted along the lines of the statewide results, there were some standouts. Among the state’s 16 most populous counties, only two, Philadelphia and Bucks, departed from the statewide trend. In Philadelphia, Panepinto was the top vote getter in the Republican primary with 52.7 percent of the vote and Jones placed second among the Democrats. Jones also finished second in Bucks County. Regional support and name recognition apparently gave candidates a home field advantage. Todd, for example, won both Allegheny and Delaware counties and locked up 45.5 percent of the vote at home but only 28.9 percent in Delaware County. Similarly, McCaffrey won both Bucks County, with 43 percent of the vote, and York County, with only 19 percent of the vote. McCaffery won in Philadelphia with 37.4 percent of the vote for the Democrats. Duquesne University Law School Professor Bruce Ledewitz said he wasn’t surprised that the endorsed candidates won. If there was a room for an upset, it was the race between Krancer and Panepinto, Ledewitz said. “I was a little surprised that Krancer won,” he said. “He faced a challenge by a well-financed candidate in Philadelphia.” Todd said money clearly wasn’t a determinative factor in the race, given that she raised much less than some of her competitors. She attributed her win to strong support across the state, particularly from the bar. She said that would help her going forward. “The support from lawyers is not so much partisan support,” she said. Her campaign and win for Superior Court helped Todd gain statewide recognition, she said, adding, too, that voters wanted a female and mother’s voice on the court. Todd said she heard repeatedly that the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s rating system, in which she was given the highest rating of highly recommended, meant a lot to voters. Lally-Green said she too was helped by her previous experience running a statewide campaign. A former chief judge of the state Environmental Hearing Board, Krancer said he would apply his experience as a litigator and work ethic as a judge to the Supreme Court. He said he benefited in the primary by running alongside Lally-Green. “Our ticket was well-received all over the state,” Krancer said. “We’re now a battle tested set of candidates on our side.” Looking to November While geography played a part in the primary, Madonna said that wouldn’t be the case in November given that there is an eastern and western-based candidate from both parties. Democrats tend to do better in elections when there is a Philadelphia mayoral race, he said. Because there is no strong Republican contender in that race, however, Madonna said the turnout might again be light. The same goes for the Pittsburgh mayoral race, he said. With geography and party affiliation somewhat to the side, issues might have a chance to peek through, he said. “Now there’s at least a chance to get a message out,” Madonna said. In an opinion earlier this week, Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz struck down two key provisions of the state’s ethical rules that limited free speech of judicial candidates. The ruling in Pennsylvania Family Institute v. Cellucci declared unconstitutional provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct that barred judges from making “pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of the office,” and from making “statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court.” Madonna said this ruling will allow candidates to speak more freely about their beliefs and may even put some pressure on them to do so. Krancer said he always figured he had the right to speak about issues under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in Minnesota v. White. “When I speak about the issues I’m not suggesting how I would rule about a case. I’m not hinting how I would rule on a case, so I don’t think that canon stepped on the toes of Minnesota v. White,” Krancer said. “I’m the only candidate who has stepped forward and said, ‘This is how I see the issues.’” Lally-Green and Todd both said they hadn’t had a chance to read the Cellucci opinion, but Lally-Green said from the sound of things, “it could be an interesting wrinkle on the campaign.” Ledewitz said he hopes the ruling will prompt more open discussion. He said he was disappointed that the primary didn’t include more discussion on judicial reform, but he sees that changing. Krancer has spoken out about issues, including the 2005 pay-raise affair, Ledewitz said. He said the pay raise-debate is a “dead issue” Moving forward, Lally-Green said she is uncertain about how the pay-raise affair will have an effect on the November election. She said it had made voters more aware of the judicial elections. “They are interested in our race and getting to know who we are,” she said. “As far as the aftermath of the decision, that’s what I’m seeing. People are far more attuned to the cycle and purpose of the third branch of government – the judiciary.” In the coming months, Ledewitz said he would like to see the candidates discuss control of judicial compensation in the future and the issue of decisions without written opinions. “I would love to see one of the candidates pledge that if that candidate is on the court, that candidate will always write opinions,” Ledewitz said. Pennsylvania Bar Association President Kenneth J. Horoho Jr. said the results of the primary election were generally good. He said he can’t predict the outcome of the general election, but expects both Todd and Lally-Green to be very strong contenders because the Supreme Court has no elected women members. He also said he expects experience to be the driving factor in both Supreme and Superior court races. “I think the broad-based experience of the lawyers and judges is going to be an issue that voters make decisions on,” Horoho said. McCaffery, Berry and Panepinto did not respond to calls for comment for this article. Superior Court Race The two open nominations for the state Superior Court were not as easily won by the seven Democratic Party candidates. With more than 99 percent of the polls reporting, Ron Folino appeared to have come from behind to beat solo practitioner Timothy J. McCormick by four tenths of a percentage point. Folino’s 17.9 percent of the vote gave him the second spot for the Democrats, following behind Christine Donohue who won 25.9 percent of the vote. Cheryl Lynn Allen and Bruce F. Bratton won the Republican Party nominations with 35.6 and 32.5 percent of the vote respectively. They beat out Jacqueline O. Shogan, who was the top Republican fundraiser in the race. She too was less than a percentage point away from victory, bringing in 31.9 percent of the votes. n

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.