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Supreme Satisfaction for PA Democrats

State Democrats are gleeful after winning all five statewide judicial races this week. The State Supreme Court, which has been controlled by Republican judges by a 4-3 majority for most of the last decade, will now be controlled by Democrats who have a 5-2 majority now, and apparent control of the court for at least ten years. But Republicans picked up a State Senate Seat, expanding their control in the upper chamber to 31-19.

Organized labor and the Philadelphia trial lawyers outspent Republicans by a 3-1 count in what was the most expensive state Supreme Court election in US history – about $16 million was spent on the elections.  Control of the Court not only impacts ongoing decisions, but could also have a major role in the next state legislative reapportionment following the 2020 census.  Gov. Wolf said the Democratic victories on the state Supreme Court are another sign that Pennsylvania voters want changes in their state government. 

But as if to belie that premise, Republicans picked up a state Senate seat in Allegheny County. Guy Reschenthaler, a Navy veteran and former District Justice winning the seat vacated by Matt Smith’s resignation.  His win brings the Senate GOP Caucus to 31 members while Democrats now hold just 19 seats. The 31 seats will be a temporary number however, as former Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi easily won a Delaware County judgeship, and will eventually resign from the Senate.

Three sitting House members appear to have won election to other offices, with Democratic Reps. Cherelle Parker elected to Philadelphia City Council, and Rev. Thaddeus Kirkland winning election as mayor of Chester.  GOP Rep. Tim Krieger appears to have eked out a Westmoreland County Common Pleas judgeship by a slim 116 vote margin. These slots, along with Pileggi’s, will be filled by special elections called by House Speaker Mike Turzai and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack. The timing of those specials is to be determined and will also be influenced by when those legislators actually resign.