This fall’s only state supreme court race

Welcome to the August 16, 2023, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. This fall’s only state supreme court race
  2. A look at the state of police-related ballot measures
  3. 93 candidates filed for congressional and statewide offices last week

This fall’s only state supreme court race

Daniel McCaffery (D) and Carolyn Carluccio (R) are running in the partisan general election for one seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Nov. 7. The winner will serve a 10-year term and succeed Justice Max Baer (D), who died on Sept. 30, 2022. As a result of Baer’s death, the court went from a 5-2 to a 4-2 Democratic majority.

Partisan control of the court cannot change as a result of this election. If Carluccio wins, the balance of the court will become 4-3 Democratic. If McCaffery wins, the court’s balance will return to 5-2 Democratic. Partisan control of the court last changed following the 2015 elections, when it went from a 4-3 Republican majority to a 5-2 Democratic majority.

McCaffery was elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2019. An Army veteran, McCaffrey was an attorney and assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. McCaffery said: “The law is the vehicle that drives society toward a more level playing field. I have always worked to make our society more fair, inclusive, and accepting. Pennsylvanians deserve a justice who will always protect, obey, and defend the constitution. I believe I am that person.”

Carluccio has been a judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas since 2010. Before that, she was an assistant U.S. Attorney and Montgomery County’s Chief Public Defender. In her responses to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, Carluccio said, ”As Judge, I am impartial and apply the law as it is written. I will not legislate from the bench.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. It can hear appeals from statewide and local courts and assume jurisdiction over any case in the Pennsylvania court system. Spotlight PA’s Kate Huangpu and Stephen Caruso wrote, “The state Supreme Court takes on relatively few cases, but its rulings can have a major impact on politics and policy in Pennsylvania. In recent years, the court has decided cases on reproductive rights, mask mandates, and election disputes.”

The next state supreme court elections in Pennsylvania won’t happen until 2025, when three Democratic justices first elected in 2015—Kevin M. Dougherty, David Wecht, and Christine Donohue—will be up for retention. If any of the three justices are not retained, the governor (Democrat Josh Shapiro) will appoint an interim successor with the approval of two-thirds of the Pennsylvania Senate. The interim justice will serve until a special election is held to choose a permanent replacement. 

Pennsylvania holds two different types of elections for supreme court justices depending on the circumstance. To fill a vacancy on the court, the state holds contested partisan elections for 10-year terms. At the end of their initial term, justices may run for re-election to another 10-year term through a retention election.

Pennsylvania’s most recent state supreme court election was in 2021, when Kevin Brobson (R) defeated Maria McLaughlin (D) in the general election, 52% to 48%. Brobson’s election did not change the partisan composition of the court since he succeeded Justice Thomas Saylor (R), who did not run for another term because he turned 75 (the state’s mandatory retirement age) in 2021.

Our 2020 partisanship study of justices determined that at the time of the 2021 elections, there were four strong Democrats, one mild Democrat, and two mild Republicans. Click here to read more from our partisanship analysis of all 50 state supreme courts.

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Nearly 50 local measures related to police have been on the ballot since 2020

From 2020 to 2022, Ballotpedia covered 41 notable local police-related ballot measures. In 2020, voters approved 20 local police-related ballot measures in 10 cities and four counties within seven states. Two were overturned after the election. In 2021, voters approved seven of 12 local police-related ballot measures in 10 cities and one county within nine states. In 2022, voters approved all nine local police-related ballot measures in six cities and two counties.

Six such measures have been on the ballot so far this year, with voters approving four of the six. Voters in Austin, Texas, decided on a pair of competing measures in May that dealt with police oversight. We covered those previously in the Brew. There’s one more local measure on the ballot this year related to police that’s yet to be decided.

Voters in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will decide in Nov. 2023 on a citizen-initiated ballot measure that would create the Mobile Community Responder Pilot Program (MCRPP). The $4.08 million pilot would work as an alternative first response to calls related to mental and behavioral health, substance use, welfare checks, family and neighbor disputes, unhoused persons, and suspicious persons.

Unarmed, non-law enforcement first responders who are trained in behavioral health and medical assistance would be dispatched to calls instead of police. Each response team would consist of one emergency medical services professional and one behavioral or mental health specialist.

Imogen Wirth, a lawyer for the initiative supporters, said, “And so, when that determination is being made by the officers about what is considered mental health, they don’t have the training of someone who is experienced. Licensed professionals are needed to be able to make that determination. There’s nothing that the city would need to do to detract from anything in its present budget to enact this program for one year, it would not touch the police budget in any way, and there would be no need to raise taxes.”

The initiative was placed on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition after the Allentown City Council rejected the proposal. One of its opponents, Mayor Matt Tuerk (D), said, “This takes $4 million off the top and says we shall spend it in a particular way. It’s not how we normally do things. Programs that are successful need to have buy-in from the program participants. … We should work to serve the public safety needs of our community, but we should do it together. That’s not what happened here.”

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93 candidates filed for congressional and statewide offices last week

Last week, 93 candidates filed to run for congressional and state offices—including for elections in 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026. That’s down 53 from last week’s 146 candidates.

Since the beginning of the year, Ballotpedia has identified 2,796 declared candidates for congressional and statewide offices. At this time in 2021, Ballotpedia had identified 3,437 declared candidates for 2022, 2023, and 2024 races.

Of last week’s declared candidates:

  • 23 are Democrats;
  • 62 are Republicans; and,
  • Eight are minor party candidates.

Twenty-seven of last week’s candidates are running for state legislatures, two for governorships, and six for other state executive offices. Most of last week’s candidates—50—are running for Congress. Here’s a look at where U.S. House candidates filed:

We cover elections for tens of thousands of offices across the country. Part of that work includes keeping tabs on the candidates—both declared and official—running for those offices.

For more information about how we determine candidacies and a full list of candidates running for Congress in 2024, click the link below.

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