State Politics

Published — May 19, 2015

Party control of Pennsylvania’s high court up for grabs

13 things to know about the May 19 Supreme Court primary

Introduction

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court race on Tuesday hasn’t attracted as much attention as the mayoral contest in Philadelphia.

But the judicial primary, fueled by cash earned from unions and teddy bears, will shape the state’s highest court for a decade or more.

The primary will halve the pool of 12 judges aspiring to fill one of three seats, the most up for grabs in the court’s history. Then the top three vote getters from each party will compete in the November election. At stake: control of the seven-member court, which currently has a Republican majority.

The effects will be long term as those winners will keep their seats for 10 years, then run unopposed in non-partisan retention elections. Pennsylvania is among 22 states that popularly elect the highest court judges. It is one of just eight states, though, to elect its top judges in overtly partisan primaries.

Only one candidate, Republican Correale Stevens, is currently on the Supreme Court. Former Gov. Tom Corbett appointed him to fill a vacancy in 2013. The rest are judges from around the state.

Here are 13 things to know about the money behind the candidates:

Sources: Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, Pennsylvania campaign finance reports, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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