Pennsylvania settling close races for judge, county control
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s municipal elections Tuesday featured two statewide appellate judge seats, as well as some potential firsts in local races as most counties debuted new voting systems.
Ballots were still being counted at about 11:30 p.m. in many closely watched contests across Pennsylvania amid complaints of long voter waits in some of the 45 of 67 counties using new voting systems.
York County apologized for long voter waits and inconveniences and Northampton County reported irregularities, while Charlie O’Neill, the state GOP’s deputy executive director, said the party fielded complaints from across the state about long wait times tied to new voting systems.
However, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s top elections official, Kathy Boockvar, reported no widespread problems. Wolf last year ordered counties to buy new paper-based voting systems before the 2020 presidential election as a bulwark against hacking.
Based on anecdotal reports from county election officials, turnout was better than expected for a municipal election, Boockvar said.
On statewide ballots, a four-way contest for two open seats on the statewide appellate Superior Court was too close to call after 11:30 p.m. The 15-seat court handles civil and criminal appeals from Pennsylvania’s county courts.
Judges serve 10-year terms and run for reelection in up-or-down retention races. The court currently has eight Republicans and six Democrats, with one Republican not running for another term.
A Republican, Chester County prosecutor Megan King, and a Democrat, Philadelphia Judge Daniel McCaffery, were in the lead with 82% of precincts reporting, trailed by Democrat Amanda Green-Hawkins, a longtime steelworkers’ union lawyer from Pittsburgh, and Republican Christylee Peck, a Cumberland County judge.
There was also a statewide referendum on writing specific rights for crime victims into the state constitution, although it’s being challenged in the courts. It may never go into force, although voters were backing it nearly three-to-one with 82% of precincts reporting.
In Philadelphia, Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney won a second four-year term in charge of the nation’s sixth largest city. Kenney had an eventful first term, from antagonizing President Donald Trump over Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status to carrying through on his top first-term priority, a tax on soda and other sweetened beverages.
Allegheny County’s executive, Rich Fitzgerald, won another term in the state’s second-most populous county.
Reading, Pennsylvania’s fifth-most populous city, elected its first Latino mayor, with Democrat Eddie Moran declaring victory. The insurance agent also serves on the school board in a city where almost two-thirds of the residents are Latino, according to census data.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania’s third-most populous city, Democrat Ray O’Connell was on his way to victory to fill the remaining two years in the term of Ed Pawlowski, a Democrat who was sentenced to prison last year in a corruption case.
Meanwhile, Democrats took control in more of the counties surrounding Philadelphia, including Delaware County, where Republicans had been in control since the Civil War.
Democrats declared victory in contests for three seats on Delaware County’s five-member council, sweeping Republicans entirely from what had been an all-Republican panel just a couple years ago.
Votes were still being counted Tuesday night after 11 p.m. in contests for Bucks County’s board of commissioners, another Philadelphia suburb where Democrats last had control for four years in the 1980s.
Long a bastion of Republican support, both counties are becoming increasingly liberal, a trend that has accelerated since Trump’s election as president.
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