Lou's List

Somewhat informed observations on politics and life from a wayward journalist.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, June 07, 2007

(Belated) Primary roundup, Part 3: Judicial Races--wtf?

I'm having a lot of trouble making sense of the results in the statewide judicial races. Roughly a quarter of the votes statewide on Election Day came from Philadelphia, which was holding a hotly contested mayoral primary. This resulted in just one Philly candidate being nominated for any of the four Democratic nominations up for grabs. That was Superior Court Judge Seamus McCaffrey, who finished second among four candidates in the Supreme Court primary. He was outpaced by his colleague Judge Debra Todd* of Cranberry, who may have benefited from being the only candidate not from Philadelphia and the only woman on the ballot. Both victorious candidates had been endorsed by the Democratic State Committee.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court President Judge Darnell Jones was endorsed by Gov. Ed Rendell and progressives around the state, but only scored three percent more of the vote than his colleague Judge Willis Berry, who was the subject of a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial headlined "Don't Vote for This Man" days before the election.

In November, Todd and McCaffrey will be up against Superior Court Judge Maureen Lally-Green of Butler County and former State Environmental Hearing Board Chief Judge Mike Krancer of Montgomery County, who bested big spending Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto for the GOP nominations.

The results for Superior Court are even more curious. Only one of the four Philadelphia candidates--Common Pleas Judge Anne Lazarus--even performed respectably, but fell short of two local candidates and barely bested another.

Attorney Christine Donohue of Squirrel Hill cleaned up in the race, receiving better than 112,000 more votes than her nearest competitor even with poor ballot position. Her campaign was virtually invisible here but she must have been doing something right somewhere. Like Todd, she likely benefited from a combination of gender and geography.

At various times throughout Election night and into the next morning, it looked like Lazarus, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Ron Folino, and attorney Tim McCormick of Westmoreland County had claimed the second nomination. Folino eventually came out on top, setting up an all-Allegheny Superior Court ticket despite the huge Philly vote.

A local also topped the balloting for the GOP nomination, with Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Cheryl Allen* besting two competitors in a tight race. Dauphin County Judge Bruce Bratton barely squelched an all-Western PA battle royal by squeaking past attorney Jackie Shogan of Westmoreland County for the second Republican nod.

The local judicial results were nearly as surprising as the statewide numbers. North Side District Judge Cathy Bubash*, who looked like a long shot early in this race, finished first among Democrats and second among Republicans to virtually guarantee herself one of the four slots up for grabs. Also resting easy going into November will be attorneys Mike McCarthy of Ross and Kelly Bigley of Upper St. Clair, who also secured both nominations. Assistant county Solicitor Jack McVay* of the North Side claimed the last Democratic nod, with the fourth GOP slot going to attorney Arnie Klein of Upper St. Clair. Rumor has it that Klein--who was endorsed by the Democratic committee for the primary and prides himself as a loyal Dem--may drop from the race to be replaced by the county GOP committee.

*= winning candidate endorsed by PA League of Young Voters PAC.

(Belated) Primary roundup, Part 2: No County Shakeup

While the political waters were roiled in the City of Pittsburgh, things were quiet at the county level as the primary results rolled in.

County Executive Dan Onorato cruised to victory over longshot challenger Rick Swartz, who failed to meet even the most tempered expectations in the Dem contest. And while GOP County Councilman Matt Drozd of Ross launched a late write-in drive on behalf of his son--recent college grad Matt, Jr.--he acknowledged almost immediately after the polls closed that it had failed, making November look like even more of a walk for the incumbent than May had been.

Acting Sheriff Bill Mullen* won a majority in the three man race to fill the vacancy in that post. He will face Republican former County Councilman Ed Kress in November.

Democratic machine efforts to install a County Council less inclined toward reform fell flat, with two incumbents who had been defeated for the party endorsement easily retaining their seats. Councilwoman Brenda Frazier* of Stanton Heights bested machine stalwart Matt Arena of Morningside by almost 2,000 votes, while Councilwoman Joan Cleary of Brentwood dispatched endorsed challenger John Palmiere of Baldwin Twp. by a margin of more than 1,000. Councilman Bob Macey of West Mifflin also retained his seat, winning a majority against two established challengers.

Longtime establishment hanger-on Jim Ellenbogen of Banksville managed to carry his party endorsement to victory, defeating Councilman Bill Lestitian of Brookline, who had served by appointment since December. Council has already begun taking steps to repeal its ordinance banning public employees from serving on the body, a thinly veiled effort to thwart Ellenbogen's candidacy.

Three general election Council contests were set up. The matchup between GOP incumbent Councilman Vince Gastgeb of Bethel Park and Democratic Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Barbara Logan is sure to be a barnburner. In addition, GOP Councilwoman Susan Caldwell of Plum will face Democratic restaurateur and Verona Councilman Nick Futules, and Cleary will face Republican insurance agent Don Lacek of Castle Shannon.

*- winning candidate endorsed by PA League of Young Voters PAC.