Interim Justice Sallie Updyke Mundy, the Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, has beaten Democratic Allegheny County judge and ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Dwayne Woodruff for a spot on the state’s highest court.
Although Mundy’s campaign far outspent Woodruff’s, the race was still not a runaway for the 55-year-old Tioga County Republican, with Mundy earning 52.34 percent of the vote to Woodruff’s 47.66 percent (with 99.28 percent of districts reporting).
Not surprisingly, Woodruff trounced Mundy in heavily Democratic Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, but Mundy swept the rest of the state, particularly excelling in the midstate rural counties.
Mundy’s husband, James F. Mundy, a lawyer at Powell Law in Scranton, served as treasurer to her campaign. He said that the campaign faced significant challenges with his wife running as a Republican looming under the shadow of President Donald Trump.
“It was a very strong anti-Trump wind that we had to overcome and it was not easy. We worked very hard and raised a lot of money,” James Mundy said. “There’s a cycle in Pennsylvania; it was supposed to be a good year to be running as a Republican. It was not.”
Mundy was appointed in 2016 by Gov. Tom Wolf to fill the vacancy left by former Justice J. Michael Eakin, who stepped down in the wake of the statewide “Porngate” scandal.
Additionally, Supreme Court incumbents Justice Debra Todd and Chief Justice Thomas Saylor won retention, ensuring at least another 10 years on the bench for Todd, 60, and five years for Saylor, 70, thanks to the constitutional amendment approved by voters a year ago that raised the judicial retirement age to 75.
Superior Court and Commonwealth Court Results
Three Democrats were elected to the state Superior Court on Tuesday night: Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Maria McLaughlin, Judge Deborah Kunselman of Beaver County, and Carolyn Nichols, a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The last open seat went to Allegheny County Magisterial District Judge Mary Murray, who barely edged out fellow Republican Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman by just under 4,000 votes. Meanwhile, interim Superior Court Judge H. Geoffrey Moulton, a Democrat, and Northampton Court of Common Pleas Judge Emil Giordano, a Republican, fell just behind Stedman.
In addition to those four vacancies being filled, Republican Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan won her retention bid.
McLaughlin, a family court judge and former prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, ran the highest-grossing campaign out of any 2017 judicial candidate in the state 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. Steamfitters unions also contributed $50,000 to her campaign.
McLaughlin received the most votes during the primary and was rated as “highly recommended” by the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Additionally, her campaign was run by Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and mayor of Philadelphia. Rendell did not respond to a call or email seeking comment Wednesday.
Kunselman 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.
Nichols raised more than $327,000, 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.
But strong financial backing wasn’t the sole deciding factor in the Superior Court race.
Moulton raised $357,782, according to campaign finance reports, and 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.
Giordano 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.
Murray’s campaign, meanwhile, brought in only $94,574.
The campaign heads did not immediately respond to requests for comment, with the exception of Mary Jo Daley, who ran Nichols’ campaign.
“She will bring real competence and compassion and understanding of the law to the Superior Court,” Daley said.
In the Commonwealth Court race, Republican Delaware County Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon and Philadelphia Judge Ellen Ceisler, a Democrat, beat out two others for seats on the court. Fizzano Cannon’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Alan Kessler, the campaign manager of Ceisler’s campaign, said “Ellen is a great judge and in addition to the great job in Common Pleas she’s done, she’s going to be a great addition to the Commonwealth Court.”
The election results between the winners and hopefuls Pittsburgh Municipal Court Judge Irene Clark and candidate Paul Lalley were virtually neck and neck, with none of the four straying more than two percentage points away from each other.