Women lead the Pa. ballot in 2021 judicial races
Around midday in midtown Harrisburg, turnout was a bit higher than usual in the state’s capital city when Brittany Jenkins walked out of her polling place.
The 24-year-old said voting wasn’t at the top of her agenda until a group of coworkers bugged her to make her voice heard.
“You’re a woman, you’re a Black woman, you should exercise your right to vote,” Jenkins said her co-workers told her.
She declined to say for whom she cast her vote, but for voters such as Jenkins, the 2021 ballot will look a lot more like her than other years.
Of the eight candidates running for statewide judgeships, five are women — including two Black women.
Jennie Sweet-Cushman, a Chatham University professor who has studied women in state politics, said the statewide judiciary has long been a bright spot.
“In general, the judicial branch has been where women political candidates in PA have been most successful,” she said in an email.
The seven member Supreme Court is the only bench that has a majority of male justices. The Commonwealth and Superior Courts both have a majority of female judges.
Further down Jenkins’ ballot, Dauphin County Democrats nominated La Tasha Williams, a Black woman, for the Court of Common Pleas. Out of nine sitting judges in the county, just one judge is Black, and one is a woman.
And on the municipal level, sitting mayor Eric Papenfuse lost in the May primary to City Council President Wanda Williams, who is Black. Papenfuse is now running a heated write-in campaign to hold onto office.
Diane, a voter in her mid-50’s who declined to give her last name, said that she went with Papenfuse.
She didn’t like either candidate — she thought Williams was too divisive, and Papenfuse hadn’t been a presence in the city.
She didn’t think Papenfuse would win, but she was sure of one thing in city politics.
“I’m tired of the bickering,” Diane said.
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