(Adobe Stock/The Philadelphia Gay News).
While Pennsylvania’s state Supreme Court race has attracted what could be record-challenging spending by election day, candidates for seats on the commonwealth’s other statewide appellate courts have not been neglected by big donors this year.
Contributions to the six candidates running for two seats on the Superior Court and one seat on the Commonwealth Court added up to more than $2.8 million as of the latest reporting deadline on Oct. 23.
With spending by outside groups, either in coordination with the campaigns or without, the total is even higher.
They include the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a political action committee backed by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass that has raised more than $7 million this year, and Pennsylvanians for Judicial Fairness, which collected nearly $5.3 million this year from associations representing trial lawyers, law firms and labor unions.
Two Democrats, attorney Jill Beck and Philadelphia Judge Tamika Lane, and two Republicans, Westmoreland County Judge Harry Smail and attorney Maria Battista, are running for the Superior Court, which hears appeals in criminal and civil cases between private parties.
Democratic Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Matthew Wolf and Republican lawyer Megan Martin are competing for the seat on the Commonwealth Court, which hears cases involving state agencies and appeals of decisions from municipal bodies such as zoning boards.
Also on the ballot this year is a race for a seat on the state Supreme Court, vacated when Chief Justice Max Baer died last year. With the potential to put Republicans within a seat of taking the majority on Pennsylvania’s highest court, the race has attracted seven-figure independent spending on advertising centered on the candidates’ positions on abortion.
The Republican nominee, Montgomery County Judge Carolyn Carluccio, reported nearly $4.4 million worth of in-kind support from Commonwealth Leaders Fund, to which Yass has directed a share of the $47 million he has contributed to his own pro-charter school PAC, Students First.
That support, purchased directly by the PAC in coordination with Carluccio’s campaign, has focused on television and digital advertising attacking the Democratic nominee, Superior Court Judge Daniel McCaffery, for his connection to a decade-old pornographic email scandal.
The Commonwealth Leaders Fund has also contributed significantly to two of the Republican candidates.
Commonwealth Court candidate Martin reported raising $208,350 in the latest reporting period between Sept.19 and Oct. 23, to bring her total for the year to $456,251. Martin has spent $395,423 and entered the final two weeks of the campaign with $63,327 on hand.
In addition to a $100,000 contribution to Martin, the Yass-backed committee spent more than $573,000 on direct mail advertising for her campaign. The in-kind contributions from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund and others bring Martin’s total contributions to just over $1 million. The fund also made a $50,000 contribution to Battista’s campaign.
Martin’s fundraising so far is more than five times what her Democratic opponent, Wolf, reported raising through September. His filing for the latest reporting period was not available Friday.
Outside groups have flocked to support McCaffery, including Planned Parenthood’s political arm, which announced last month it was expanding its digital campaign backing McCaffery with a seven-figure television ad buy.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced earlier this month it planned to make a “six-figure investment” in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court race, calling it an election that will have “long-term consequences, not just for the court, but for the state Legislature as well.”
Pennsylvanians for Judicial Fairness reported spending nearly $4 million between Sept. 19 and Oct. 23, with much of it going toward television advertising, according to the group’s latest finance report shared by its chairman, Philadelphia election lawyer Adam Bonin.
Its commercials include one that discusses the full slate of Democratic appellate court candidates.
Democrat Beck had the most contributions among the Superior Court candidates. She raised $259,952 in the latest reporting period between Sept. 19 and Oct. 23 to bring her total for the year to just less than $1.1 million. She spent $865,770 and entered the final two weeks of the campaign with $327,240 cash on hand.
Her Democratic running mate, Lane, raised $172,322 to bring her total for the year to $746,398. Lane entered the final two weeks of the campaign with $172,277 on hand.
Republican candidate Battista raised $111,631 to bring her total for the year to $245,888. Battista entered the final two weeks of the campaign with $102,795 on hand.
Her Republican running mate Smail’s latest report was not available on Friday. He reported raising $91,523 through Sept. 19.
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