Twenty candidates seeking seats on three statewide courts faced off May 16. With seven statewide seats available, a total of 14 candidates won their party’s nomination. Although the top vote-getters in the three statewide races had all received their party’s endorsement in the lead-up to the primary, two candidates rated as “not recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association won enough votes May 16 to head on to the general election in November.
The Superior Court race was a very tight contest, with five candidates on both the Republican and Democratic tickets vying for four open seats.
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Maria McLaughlin was the top vote-getter on the Democratic ticket with more than 23 percent, or 451,903 votes. Next was fellow Philadelphia Judge Carolyn Nichols, Beaver County Court of Common Pleas Judge Deborah Ann Kunselman and interim Superior Court Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton Jr., who came in fourth place with 18 percent of the vote.
The two top vote-earners on the Democratic side were both rated as “recommended” by the PBA, while the Democrats who came in third and fourth place both received “highly recommended” ratings.
On the Republican ticket, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman was the leading vote-getter with 24.6 percent, or 371,029 votes. Northampton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Emil Giordano, who received 20.8 percent of the vote, narrowly outpaced Blair County Court of Common Pleas Judge Wade A. Kagarise for second place. With 310,295 votes, Kagarise earned 20.6 percent. Allegheny County Magisterial District Judge Mary P. Murray was the fourth-place vote-getter, with 19 percent.
The top two candidates on the Republican side received “highly recommended” ratings from the PBA, and the third-place candidate was rated as “recommended.” The fourth-place Republican was rated “not recommended” by the PBA for failure to participate.
The Democratic Party had a crowded field with six candidates vying for the two open spots. Philadelphia Judge Ellen Ceisler was her party’s top vote-getter in that race. She earned more than 24 percent of the vote, or nearly 257,000 votes. Former Pittsburgh Municipal Judge Irene McLaughlin Clark came in second on the Democratic ticket with nearly 20.5 percent of the vote.
Ceisler received a “recommended” rating by the PBA, while Clark received a “not recommended” rating.
Things were more cut-and-dried on the Republican side. Pittsburgh attorney Paul N. Lalley, who received a “recommended” rating from the PBA judicial evaluation group, and Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon, who received a “highly recommended” rating, were unopposed on the Republican ticket and will be their party’s nominees on the November ballot. Lalley was the leading vote-getter between the two GOP hopefuls.
In the Supreme Court race where only one seat is available, each party ran a single candidate. For the Democrats that was Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dwayne Woodruff, who received 621,556 votes. The Republican candidate is interim Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy, who was appointed to fill a seat on the bench last year. Mundy received 458,783 votes.
The bar association rated Mundy as “highly recommended,” and Woodruff as “recommended.”