HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania voters turned out in sparse numbers Tuesday to settle contests for a pair of openings on the state appellate courts and fill thousands of local offices and judgeships. In Allegheny County, where a competitive race for county executive stirred voters’ interest, election manager Mark Wolosik was predicting a turnout of at least 30 percent. “It’s a beautiful day here,” he said. “I don’t think that people can use the weather as an excuse” for not voting. Timothy Benyo, chief clerk for the Board of Elections in Lehigh County, credited the balmy weather for keeping turnout there above 20 percent of registered voters. In the statewide races, Democrat David Wecht, an Allegheny County judge, is competing against Republican Vic Stabile, a Harrisburg lawyer, for a seat on Superior Court. Two lawyers from Bucks County, Democrat Kathryn Boockvar and Republican Anne Covey, are vying for a seat on the Commonwealth Court. Wecht raised at least $522,000 through Friday, with $300,000 of that coming from a trial lawyers’ group. Stabile raised at least $210,000 and the state Republican Party augmented that with more than $180,000 worth of services, mostly TV and radio ads, according to campaign finance reports and GOP officials. Boockvar reported total contributions of more than $390,000, while Covey raised more than $378,000. Both candidates tapped their personal resources during the last two weeks of the campaign — Boockvar for $25,000 and Covey for $15,000, according to their reports. Six incumbent appellate judges also are listed on the ballot — without opponents — for up-or-down votes on whether they should serve additional 10-year terms: Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin, Superior Court judges John T. Bender and Mary Jane Bowes and Commonwealth Court judges Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Mary Hannah Leavitt and Robert E. Simpson Jr. Eakin was one of the year’s top campaign fundraisers. His committee collected more than $526,000, mostly from fellow GOP office-holders but also law firms, unions and business groups. His supporters described the money as protection against a potential 11th-hour challenge by an unknown political enemy. Eakin aired TV spots in some of the state’s media markets. Voters also will fill thousands of local positions including district judgeships, county and municipal offices and school board seats. The positions include 48 open county judgeships in 24 counties, according to state elections officials. In Philadelphia, Democratic Mayor Michael Nutter is expected to cruise to re-election over little-known Republican Karen Brown, whose low-budget campaign has not been able to get much traction. A third candidate, political activist Wali “Diop” Rahman, is listed on the ballot as an independent. Nutter “doesn’t seem to be facing much difficulty at all,” said Michael Hagen, a political science professor at Temple University. “The Republicans haven’t been able to mount much of a challenge.” Voters in Allegheny County will choose between Democrat Rich Fitzgerald, a former county councilman, and Republican D. Raja, a software entrepreneur, to fill the open county executive’s seat. In a closely watched race in the Philadelphia suburbs, Democratic state Rep. Josh Shapiro and running mate Leslie Richards hoped to end decades of Republican control of the Montgomery County commissioners in a tight race against GOP incumbent Bruce Castor and running mate Jenny Brown. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county, long a GOP bastion, 46 percent to 39 percent. ——— Associated Press writer Patrick Walters in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
- State News
Safety experts: Many weapons brought to school not reported
On a typical day last year, Pennsylvania schools caught 11 students toting weapons similar to ones used to slash 21 students and a security guard at a Pittsburgh-area high school, according to the state Department of Education. An untold number of others likely brought weapons to school but weren’t caught, safety experts say.
Court tosses Marin from ballot; LaValle is sole Democrat seeking nomination for 3rd District U.S. House seat
Saying the testimony of Congressional candidate Mel Marin of Sharon wasn’t credible, the Commonwealth Court has ordered Marin’s name removed from the Democratic Party’s ballot for one of Crawford County’s Congressional seats in the May primary because Marin now has less than the required 1,000 valid signatures.
Farrell, other cities seek end to 'distressed' label
A program for financially troubled cities is something like a governmental Hotel California: You can check in, but you can never leave. Folks in Farrell know this better than most.
Dems running for governor propose taxing gas drillers to benefit education
Democrats running for governor seem to be competing to convince voters they will dip deepest into the pockets of gas drillers to replace $1 billion that Gov. Tom Corbett has cut from education spending.
Paterno statue figures in Penn State University trustee vote
Former lieutenant governor Bob Jubelirer has joined Penn State University supporters calling for the return of the Joe Paterno statue that once stood outside Beaver Stadium. The university should consider putting the statue in the All Sports Museum inside the stadium, he said.
Advocate warns against restricting access to guns for mentally ill
In the aftermath of another mass shooting and an inevitable debate over gun laws, a mental health advocate and gun control lobbyist are warning against unfairly restricting the mentally ill from accessing firearms.
Popular program re-routing tax funds to improve cities
Gov. Tom Corbett announced at the end of 2013 that Bethlehem and Lancaster would be the first cities to use an economic development program designed to let businesses put money they would otherwise pay in state taxes toward downtown improvements.
Pennsylvania senators pitch bill that freezes property taxes for seniors
Some state senators want to freeze property tax rates for seniors, protecting them from costs that could force them from their homes, but at least one critic dismisses the move as a bid to curry votes.
Watchdogs question drilling self-policing
Environmental watchdogs say a system for tracking radioactive material unearthed during gas drilling depends too much on the industry’s self-policing, making it impossible to judge how much waste is generated or how dangerous it might be.
Legislator hopes to change closed-door meetings rule
Elected officials often abuse closed-door meetings, according to a state legislator who wants all secret sessions to be recorded to make it easier to find the truth should questions arise later.
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- Safety experts: Many weapons brought to school not reported