With four open seats on the Pennsylvania Superior Court and two open seats on the Commonwealth Court, the 12 candidates vying for spots on the intermediate appellate courts have brought in some impressive sums.
Here is an overview of their top contributors.
The candidate who pulled in the most money since the start of the year was Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Maria McLaughlin. Her campaign brought in the most by far, with a total of $967,661, due in large part to very strong support from trial lawyers and labor unions.
According to campaign finance records, McLaughlin, a Democrat, received $275,000 from the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, which is funded in large part by attorneys from the plaintiffs bar. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, was the second highest contributor to McLaughlin’s campaign, with nearly $75,000, according to records, with steamfitters unions also contributing $50,000 to her campaign.
McLaughlin was the highest vote-getter during the primary and was rated as highly recommended by the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Judge Deborah Kunselman of Beaver County raised the second-highest amount of the candidates seeking a spot on the Superior Court. She raised $371,975, with the Committee for a Better Tomorrow as her campaign’s top contributor. The committee donated $250,000 to her campaign. The Pennsylvania Judicial PAC also contributed $12,000.
Interim Superior Court Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton raised raised $357,782, according to campaign finance reports.
Moulton, a Democrat, received wide support throughout the bar, with attorneys from plaintiffs firms and defense firms contributing thousands to his campaign, including Ross Feller Casey and Cozen O’Connor each donating $5,000. Moulton also received $10,000 each from the Committee for a Better Tomorrow and $10,000 from IBEW Local 5; however, his biggest financial backer was himself, according to campaign finance reports.
Of note, state Inspector General Bruce Beemer and Ballard Spahr attorney Adrian King, both formerly top brass at the Office of Attorney General when Moulton issued a much-anticipated report reviewing the high-profile prosecution of convicted serial child molester Jerry Sandusky, each contributed to Moulton’s campaign.
Northampton Court of Common Pleas Judge Emil Giordano, a Republican, raised nearly as much money as Moulton, with $350,591, according to records. His biggest backer was also the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, which gave his campaign $75,000. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania was his second-largest backer, with nearly $30,000.
Democrat Carolyn Nichols, a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, also raised more than $300,000, so far. The total she brought in was $327,214, according to records. Her largest backer was also the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, which gave her campaign $100,000, according to records. She also had strong support from unions, with the Laborers’ District Council and AFSCME People being some of the top donors.
Blair County Judge Wade Kagarise’s campaign brought in nearly $180,000, with his top three supporters, the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, District Council 21 PAC and Citizens for Prosperity in America Today, each contributing $10,000, according to records.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman brought in $156,838. His biggest supporters were the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, which donated $75,000 to his campaign, and other Pennsylvania politicians, including Sens. Scott Martin, Scott Wagner and John Rafferty.
Mary Murray, a magisterial district judge, raised the least amount. Her campaign brought in $94,574.
More than half of Republican candidate Paul Lalley’s total campaign contributions came from the PA Future Fund, a Republican PAC that Asher’s Chocolates head Robert Asher chairs and for which Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young chairman William Sasso serves as treasurer. The group contributed a total of $325,000 to Lalley’s campaign, which raised about $580,000 overall, according to campaign finance records.
PA Future also contributed $20,000 to Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon’s campaign for a Commonwealth Court judgeship, but her biggest single contributor was the Delaware County Republican Executive Committee, which donated a total of $120,000. In addition, the Committee for a Better Tomorrow and the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 1 union each contributed $50,000. Fizzano Cannon received strong union support beyond that, including $44,000 from the Steamfitters Local Union 420 and its PAC. Overall, she was the highest earner among the Commonwealth Court candidates, raising more than $978,000.
The bulk of Philadelphia Judge Ellen Ceisler’s contributions came from unions, including $15,000 from IBEW Local 98 and $10,000 each from IBEW Local 5, the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters PEC-PA, the Laborers’ District Council PAC and the Carpenters Legislative Program of Greater PA. But her largest single contribution—$75,000—came from the Committee for a Better Tomorrow. Ceisler’s campaign raised about $370,000 in 2017.
Pittsburgh Municipal Court Judge Irene Clark, meanwhile, lagged far behind the competition in terms of fundraising. Her largest single contributor was AFSCME Council 13, which kicked in a total of $2,500. Overall, Clark’s campaign raised about $5,800 in 2017.
Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI.