Historic Pa. Supreme Court election Tuesday, 3 seats to be filled

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is currently made up of Republicans Tom Saylor, Mike Eakin and Correale Stevens and Democrats Debra Todd and Max Baer with two vacancies.

Stevens’s term is up, so there will be three open seats and seven candidates vying to fill them on Tuesday.

The challengers are:

— Democrats David Wecht, Kevin Dougherty and Christine Donohue.

— Republicans Mike George, Anne Covey and Judy Olson.

— Independent, former Republican, Paul Panepinto.

As historic as it may be, turnout is expected to be low; less than 30 percent.

“I don’t think most voters think it’s a big deal because they don’t understand how that court impacts them,” said ABC 27 political analyst Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling & Research.

But the Supreme Court decides what laws stand in Pennsylvania and what don’t. Recent rulings impacted gay marriage and voter ID. The high court also oversees the redrawing of political boundaries known as redistricting.

“Everybody should care,” Lee said.

Somebody cares enough to spend more than $11 million on the race, which is a record. Television and radio advertisements have flooded airwaves across the commonwealth. There are good, bad and ugly ads, both positive and negative, for all of the candidates.

An analysis by the Allentown Morning Call showed that Democrats are funded predominately by trial lawyers and unions.

The Republican slate is heavily funded by GOP Political Action Committees and sitting politicians.

Lawyers and unions and lawmakers may ultimately have issues before the Supreme Court, which bothers Adams County Judge Mike George, the Midstate’s only candidate in the race.

“People with special interests trying to shape the outcome of a court for their own gain are out there pouring millions of dollars into this election. That’s offensive to me,” George said.

George calls himself a political underdog and says no one from Adams County has ever served on the high court.

Wecht is from a prominent political family in Pittsburgh. Dougherty is from a prominent political family in Philadelphia.

Covey was the only candidate not recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, but she was enthusiastically embraced by football star Franco Harris for ruling that the $60 million Sandusky-related fine on Penn State stayed in Pennsylvania.

Democrats spent lots more money than Republicans, but typically in off-year elections lots more Republicans actually show up.

Will the extra money and nice weather tip the scales in favor of Democrats? Which party will grab political control of the high court?

To Lee, there’s one main question.

“Whether or not the Democrats can jack up the turnout, that’s it. That’s the key there,” he said.

History will be made on Tuesday. How many of you will help to make it?

For bios and background information on all seven Supreme Court candidates, click here.

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