McCaffery wins open seat on Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The campaigns for 10-year terms on the statewide courts have attracted millions in outside spending

By: - November 7, 2023 11:00 pm

Judge Daniel McCaffery

Democrat Daniel McCaffery won the race for a 10-year term on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, defeating Republican Carolyn Carluccio, according unofficial election results. The Associated Press called the race for McCaffery shortly before 11 p.m.

The Supreme Court election, one of three statewide judicial elections on this year’s ballot, was dominated by millions in third-party spending on campaign advertising that brought the campaign down to the singular issue of abortion.

Democrats Jill Beck, an attorney, and Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Timika Lane led the race for two Superior Court seats, according to unofficial results. Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Matthew Wolf is the Democratic led the race for a Commonwealth Court seat, unofficial results showed.

McCaffery, who serves on the Superior Court said in a statement that he was humbled by the responsibility Pennsylvania voters have entrusted in him.

“I intend to serve our Commonwealth and every community across Pennsylvania by defending our Constitution and ensuring our society is more fair, inclusive, and accepting. Thank you,” McCaffery said.

In a statement, Carluccio congratulated McCaffery, wishing him wisdom and strength to carry out the responsibilities of serving on the Supreme Court. Carluccio is the president judge of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

“I just spoke with Judge McCaffery.  The people have spoken, and while the outcome was not what we hoped for, the democratic process has once again prevailed,” Carluccio said, thanking her supporters and adding that their efforts sparked important conversations in the commonwealth.

On Tuesday, Carluccio told the Capital-Star at her post-election event that abortion “played way too much of a role” in the campaign and that “Democrats had nothing to use against me except for the abortion issue.”

Outside groups including Planned Parenthood Votes focused on Carluccio’s position on abortion with a “seven-figure” ad campaign. It criticized her for removing what it called anti-abortion language from her website stating that she would “defend … all life under the law” following the primary election.

McCaffery received endorsements from pro-choice groups including Reproductive Rights for All and campaigned on upholding Pennsylvania’s law allowing abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Meanwhile, spending on behalf of Carluccio’s campaign by a PAC backed by conservative billionaire Jeff Yass highlighted McCaffery’s ties to a decade-old scandal that forced his brother’s resignation from the high court.

The Commonwealth Leaders Fund spent roughly $4.4 million on in-kind contributions to Carluccio’s campaign through Oct. 23, according to state campaign finance records. 

Other outside groups spending on the Supreme Court race include the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. It announced last 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, a PAC funded largely by lawyers and labor unions, 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.

Danitra Sherman, deputy advocacy and policy director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania noted the organization also spent $1.75 million to educate voters on the candidates’ positions on abortion rights.

“With rights like the freedom to access abortion care, voting rights, LGBTQIA+ equality, and criminal legal reform on the line, Pennsylvanians sent a message that they want a justice who puts his commitment to civil rights and liberties front and center,” Sherman said in a statement.

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.