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Election Day 2021: The three races watch today | Tuesday Morning Coffee

With great contests across the state, there’s nothing ‘off-year’ about today’s municipal, county, judicial races

November 2, 2021 7:24 am

(Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Though many of you may already have voted by mail-in ballot, today is Election Day in Pennsylvania and other states across the nation. And here in the Keystone State, voters will be out exercising the franchise in a host of critical municipal, county and judicial races.

As I’ve noted more than once over the last few weeks, many of these contests, particularly, a closely watched and massively expensive fight for an open seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, will be an early indicator of voter enthusiasm in next year’s all-the-marbles midterm elections.

There also are marquee races for mayor in Pittsburgh, where state Rep. Ed Gainey could become the Steel City’s first Black mayor by the time the night is over. In the Capital City, Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams faces a write-in campaign against current Mayor Eric Papenfuse, while a long-shot Republican hopes to score a GOP win for the first time in decades.

So if you’re headed to your local polling station on this Election Day Tuesday, here’s a look at three of the races across Pennsylvania that I’m paying attention to today.

Stick with the Capital-Star all day for up-to-the minute updates from polling places across the state. Our live coverage will start in earnest about 2 p.m. today, and run far into the night.

The Pennsylvania Judicial Center in Harrisburg (Capital-Star file)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Seats on all three statewide appellate courts are on the ballot today, but the most important of the bunch may well be the race for state Supreme Court (Commonwealth Court and Superior Court are the other two, appellate benches).

The seven-member high court makes the final call on a host of critical issues, including gun rights and abortion access, as well congressional and legislative redistricting and voting rights.

As the Capital-Star has previously reported, justices elected as Democrats currently make up a majority of the high court bench. And the seat up for grabs today is being vacated by a Republican, so the outcome will not swing the court’s ideological balance of power.

Republican Kevin Brobson, a judge of the Commonwealth Court, faces Democrat Maria McLaughlin, who’s currently a state Superior Court judge. Both come highly recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association, which is about the only objective barometer for voters in these notoriously low-information races.

As the Capital-Star’s Stephen Caruso reported on Oct. 26, deep-pocketed donors have poured money into the race.

For Brobson, the bulk of that support has come from the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a conservative political action committee that receives the majority of its donations from billionaire Jeff Yass, of Montgomery County. The PAC is responsible for about two-thirds of the total contributions to his campaign, Caruso reported.

For McLaughlin, it’s the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, the political action committee for the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. About a third of her campaign’s total contributions — $850,000 — come from the PAC, Caruso reported.

Partisan interest in this race has been intense — and activists on both sides have tried to motivate their voters to turn out. We’ll find out soon how successful those efforts have been.

Erie County executive candidates Tyler Titus (D) and Brenton Davis (R) (Photos courtesy of campaign websites. Collage by John L. Micek).

Erie County Executive: This nationally watched contest pits Democrat Tyler Titus against Republican Brenton Davis, for the seat being vacated by current Democratic Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, who chose not to run for re-election.

If they win today, Titus, a current member of the Erie school board, would become the first openly transgender individual to hold the county’s top, elected post. In 2020, Titus, the first openly transgender person elected to public office in the state, became the board’s presidentGoErie reported at the time.

“My whole life has been spent on figuring out how to make the system work better for everybody — not just some, but everybody,” Titus said in a September GoErie profile. “Because when you lift up the most vulnerable, the whole community rises.”

Davis, a veteran and a business owner, made a previous bid for county executive in 2017, YourErie.com reported. He’s put his focus on economic recovery, he told the website.

“I’ve started with several county commissioners doing what’s called the tristate, to interconnect our micro economies. So if the water rises we all float,” Davis told the website in a May interview.

On Sunday, as the race entered its final hours, GoErie reported that wealthy donors had pushed the race over the $1 million mark, with more than 40 percent of the money coming from just two donors. One of them, former Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, has pumped $216,250 into Titus’ campaign, the website reported.

“The huge money haul more than triples what [Dahlkemper] and her GOP opponent Art Oligeri collectively raised for their general election contest in 2017, according to an analysis of campaign finance reports,” the website reported on Saturday.

At the Mount Carmel Baptist Church on Monday, District Attorney Larry Krasner, second from left, says he expects a significant drop in gun violence when community programs and services resume (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

Philadelphia District Attorney: In a Philadelphia wracked by gun violence, progressive incumbent District Attorney Larry Krasner will find his policies on the ballot as he faces Republican Chuck Peruto, a defense attorney, in a contest where criminal justice reform is most certainly on the ballot.

“It used to be there were no progressive prosecutors — 20.1% of the United States now lives in a jurisdiction with a progressive prosecutor. It’s what they want. They want a focus on serious crime and they want reform,” Krasner told KYW-3 in Philadelphia.

As our friends at The Appeal previously reported, Krasner has managed to annoy the city’s police union, Republican state lawmakers, and other tough-on-crime types who say his progressive policies have taken the city in the wrong direction.

“The big issue is, he’s doing nothing about guns and gun violence, which is why I’m running,” Peruto told FOX-29. “I was a Democrat, but not when it comes to guns and gun violence. This is a single-issue race. It’s public safety. It’s not about abortion. It’s not about the rights of school children, it’s about guns and gun safety.”

As The Appeal reports, three of the four counties where prosecutors have filed the most drug-induced homicide charges in the nation are holding DA elections. And all are in Pennsylvania.

One of them is in Bucks County, incumbent District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, a Republican, similarly faces a former employee, Democrat Antonetta Stancuaccording to the Delaware Valley Journal.

Speaking to the Delaware Valley JournalStancu said she wants to be a “fresh face and fresh voice,” and wants to “represent every member of our community.”

As The Appeal reports, among counties with populations of at least 100,000 people, voters in Blair, Centre, Lackawanna, Lebanon, and Schuylkill counties also will be electing district attorneys.

A progressive win in any of those races could “give a rare in-state ally to Krasner, whose strand of reform politics has left him largely isolated among Pennsylvania prosecutors,” The Appeal reported.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

For your Election Day Reading, from our staff: Here’s your statewide voters guide for the 2021 general election in Pennsylvania. And here’s everything you need to know about casting your ballot.

Also today:

To incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations, the Wolf administration is offering additional paid leave for state employees who get their shot by the end of the year, Marley Parish reports.

In a related story: The state Department of Health confirmed 7,480 new cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth over the three days between Saturday and Monday, for a total of 1.56 million cases since the start of the pandemic, I report.

Taking issue with the state’s top historical agency and its initiatives to reflect the diverse history of Pennsylvania, a state lawmaker has called on the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission to get out of the historical marker businessCassie Miller reports.

President Joe Biden urged the international community on Monday to transition to clean energy, curb greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, and help developing nations adapt to a changing climate, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jacob Fischler writes.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the advocacy group dedicated to Bay health, announced Monday that its Board of Trustees has selected Hilary Harp Falk as the advocacy group’s next president and CEOJosh Kurtz, of our sibling site, Maryland Matters, reports.

A former Lebanon School board member is looking to become the city’s first Hispanic mayor, our partners at Q’Hubo News report.

Temple University initiative is aiming to keep more Black Philadelphia youth in college, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Philadelphia Tribune columnist Michael Coard pays tribute to the legacy of the White Panthers, the original white, anti-racism organization. And a Tufts University scholar offers five policies for President Joe Biden’s next climate bill.

(Getty Images/Colorado Newsline)

Elsewhere.

The Inquirer explains how we’ll know when the pandemic is over.

It’s an historic Election Day in Pittsburgh today as well, with Democratic state Rep. Ed Gainey, who bested incumbent Bill Peduto in the May primary, on the ballot for mayorThe Post-Gazette has the details.

An ambulance may not arrive fast enough when you need one, central Pennsylvania ambulance crews tell PennLive.

The Morning Call has the procrastinator’s guide to the 2021 races in the Lehigh Valley today.

LancasterOnline has everything local voters need to know to cast their ballots in local races today.

At a news conference Monday, Philadelphia leaders tackled rising gun violence and efforts to protect students, WHYY-FM reports.

School districts in Washington County have nabbed state grants to help pay for agriculture education for local students, the Observer-Reporter reports.

A new report suggests that the Census may have missed as many as 1 million AmericansRoll Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
It’s Election Day. Go do your civic duty. The desk is clear.

WolfWatch
By the time some of you read this, Gov. Tom Wolf will have done an 8:07 a.m. interview on KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday you’d like observed in this space? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Heavy Rotation
There’s  only one song that gets played on Election Day hereabouts, it’s ‘Super Tuesday,’ by Nashville power-pop stalwarts The Shazam. It’s a longstanding tradition.


Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Chicago skated past the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Monday night, notching their first win of the season.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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