Philadelphians have the opportunity to vote on November 2, or by mail sooner, for judges, District Attorney, and City Controller. Here’s some information that may prove useful.
Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania has issued it’s endorsements in this year’s state-wide judicial races. CVP’s website, conservationpa.org says, in relevant part: Conservation Voters of PA is the statewide political voice for the environment. We work to elect environmentally responsible candidates to state and local offices.
Their recommendations are:
For the State Supreme Court: Judge Maria McLaughlin
Superior Court: Judge Timika Lane
Commonwealth Court: Judge David Spurgeon and Judge Lori Dumas.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s website is: plannedparenthoodaction.org. It says, in relevant part: The Planned Parenthood Action Fund works to advance access to sexual health care and defend reproductive rights. They have endorsed exactly the same four candidates.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association rated Judge McLaughlin “Highly Recommended,” its top rating. (Her Republican opponent got the same rating. That race is vote for one.) They also recommended both Judge Lane and her Republican opponent. They Recommended Judge Dumas. Judge Spurgeon is Highly Recommended. They Recommended one Republican in that race, and found another Not Recommended. In that case, the PBA found that while the community holds the candidate in high regard, she “lacks the depth and breadth of experience necessary ” to be a judge on the Commonwealth Court. Not a denunciation, of course; this candidate might well be endorsed in future years. The state bar is demonstrating that it is serious about getting the most qualified candidates into judgeships.
The Philadelphia Bar Association has a judicial commission which adopted the State Bar Association’s endorsements of Judges McLaughlin, Lane, and Dumas, all of whom are Philadelphians; they didn’t rate Judge Spurgeon, because he doesn’t have a history here.
Superior Court Judges Bender and Bowes are up for retention, as are Commonwealth Court Judges Covey and Jubilirer. The PA Bar recommended three, but the judgment on Judge Jubilirer was Not Recommended, for failure to participate in the evaluation.
The Committee of Seventy, seventy.org, produces a Voter’s Guide with information on both candidates and ballot questions.
The City Commissioners always put up the precise ballot at philadelphiavotes.com/en/voters/candidates-for-office.
The Philadelphia District Attorney race pits former defense attorney Larry Krasner, who had no prosecutorial experience before his first election, against defense attorney Charles Peruto, who has no prosecutorial experience to my knowledge. I didn’t know what to say about this rather bizarre situation, so I called a woman that I know who keeps her ear close to the ground, and asked what she has heard in the way of grassroots murmuring in the somewhat nitty-gritty part of town where she lives. She reports a lot of outrage about DA Krasner’s de-emphasis on controlling crowds of highly visible homeless people, and the rising crime rate in some categories since he took office. On the other hand, there seems to be a widespread impression that Mr. Peruto has a rather close past association with organized crime. Nominating Charles Peruto doesn’t seem like the smartest of Republican moves when facing such a controversial DA.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has endorsed DA Krasner.
Rebecca Rhynhart is unopposed for re-election as City Controller. If I knew anything much bad about her I would recommend a write-in vote for none-of-the-above. But I don’t, so she may well deserve a check on your ballot.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court has 12 vacancies, and the Democratic Party has nominated 12, with no opposition. The Philadelphia Bar Association has a Judicial Commission, whose recommendations are available at judges.philadelphiabar.org. They Highly Recommended or Recommended 9 candidates: Kamau, Barish, McCabe, Wahl, Hall, Hangley, Levin, Sulman, and Moore. The other three weren’t evaluated. That would be because they failed to participate in the evaluation process. There appears to be no reason not to vote for the nine candidates who have been found at least Qualified, or against the three who evidently refused to participate. No votes, in this case, will require writing in three other names in blanks provided on the mail-in ballot, or going to the extra trouble of calling up that little window on the voting machine and writing in other names–don’t forget to take in your own pen, if so inclined. Anyone who runs for public office of any sort is voluntarily agreeing to engage in the give-and-take of electoral politics. It shouldn’t be decided just by putting up enough street money to pay people to secure petition signatures. Failing to participate in a legitimate candidate evaluation system is not a great characteristic in a potential Judge, I think.
Municipal Court has 5 vacancies, with 5 Democratic nominations and no opposition. The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Judicial Commission recommended 3. The Bar Recommends Yorgey-Gergey, Twardy, and McCloskey.; they say “Not Recommended” on Lambert. DiCicco didn’t participate. Here again, writing-in is available.
Common Pleas Court has 13 judges up for retention and Municipal Court has 7. The Philadelphia Bar Association recommended a Yes vote on all the Common Pleas candidates, and six of the Municipal Court ones; except Municipal Court Judge Sharon Williams Losier, who is “Pending” until a Bar committee meeting on November 1, which will be too late for this coverage.
The ballot questions this year are discussed in some detail at the League of Women Voters website. Briefly stated:
#1: Add to the City Charter a rhetorical call for the State Legislature to legalize the casual use of marijuana. The Inquirer supports this idea; their Editorial Board thinks that state legislators will pay attention to the climate of opinion in Philadelphia, knowing that there’s a gubernatorial election coming up, and we vote. I think that the Board is remarkably naive on that point. We vote all right, but we vote overwhelmingly Democratic. I can’t see the Republicans who dominate both House and Senate in Harrisburg thinking that they can influence that much.
#2: Create a City Department of Fleet Management. This would replace management of vehicles by personnel in the individual departments. The Inquirer supports this one too. They looked at how other major cities handle fleet management, and decided that Philadelphia should conform.
#3: Loosen the City’s hiring process somewhat to give managers more flexibility in choosing from job applicants who have passed the civil service test. Again, the Inquirer’s Editorial Board recommends this, as giving managers more hiring flexibility. They think that the civil service system is strong enough to keep the opportunity from being an opening for expanding patronage.
#4: Mandate City Contributions to the Housing Fund.
Both the Committee of Seventy and the Inquirer recommend a no vote on this one. While they like the purposes of the Housing Fund, they think that the Mayor and Council need budgeting flexibility.
I hope that this is helpful. Because judicial elections occur in Pennsylvania in years when there is less going on in the executive and legislative departments, judicial elections tend to be low turn-out, and the leadership of the major parties tend to have a disproportionate influence. This is unfortunate, because the interest of major political parties is mostly in maintaining and enhancing their shares of offices held and patronage, not so much in qualifications and issues. Perhaps more people will vote, and do it more independently of party officials, if more information is a bit more conveniently available. Perhaps. We shall see.
The author is a retired lawyer who has been politically active on behalf of selected candidates, Republican, Democratic, and Green, whenever so inspired, for 57 years.