Well folks it’s that time of year again! You may not have heard as much about it this year, but Election day is November 7th. This year is a Judicial Election, which means you’ll be voting to keep or elect several judges to statewide and local courts. Your ballot will also have School board races, Countywide races, and the race for Mayor, but if you didn’t vote in the Democratic primary you missed your chance to actually influence those races. Most of them are running unopposed, without a Republican challenger, this time around.
While it may seem odd to see TV ads for a judge, these races are important to queer and trans folks in Pennsylvania. While lawmakers continue to fail at passing laws to protect queer and trans people, judges are oftentimes our last hope for actual change.
You might remember from our Primary Election Guide that you can think of the state Court system like a pyramid:
At the top is the most powerful court in Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court. The winner of this race will officially replace Michael Eakin who resigned in disgrace in 2015 after an ethics scandal involving racist and sexist comments and sending pornographic images over email – but that’s par for the course in our state’s capital.
The Democratic candidate Dwayne Woodruff is a former Pittsburgh Steeler, but has since been a Commonwealth Court judge. He is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the Philadelphia Gay News, and several other news outlets in PA.
The Republican in the race is Sallie Updyke Mundy. She’s currently the interim judge that was appointed after Eakin’s resignation. She’s been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the PA Pro-Life Federation. While Mundy does not have an official position on queer and trans rights, she did rule against the community in an opinion concerning the Transportation Authority around Philadelphia, stating that the Authority did not have to abide by Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination laws.
You can vote for 2 candidates for the PA Commonwealth Court, the court that deals with local governments and agencies. Ellen Ceisler (pictured below) and Irene Clark were the two Democrats that won the primary. They are both endorsed by several LGBT groups in Pennsylvania and have clearly stated their support for queer and trans people’s rights.
Ceisler and Clark face Republicans Christine Fizzano Cannon and Paul N. Lalley, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Neither of the Republican candidates have a stated position on LGBT rights.
Christine Fizzano Cannon wins for the best overall logo though.
The Superior Court race is a bit more complicated with 9 candidates all vying for 4 open spots. This Court consists of 15 judges and handles criminal and civil cases.
The Democrats in the race are: Deborah Anne Kunselman, Maria McLaughlin, Geoffrey Moulton Jr., and Carolyn Nichols. They were all endorsed by the Steel City Stonewall Democrats and the Philadelphia Gay News. McLaughlin and Moulton in particular appeared to have a great time together at a Pride festival near Allentown.
There is one Green Party candidate, Jules Mermelstein, who cares A LOT about integrity.
The Republicans in the race are Emil Giordano, Wade Alan Kagarise (pictured below), Mary P. Murray, and Craig Stedman. Their stances on LGBT rights are not clear, but they are all endorsed by the PA Pro-Life Federation and the NRA.
Court of Common Pleas
Out of 3 candidates for the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas, you will choose 2. The candidates include Patrick Connelly, Mary McGinley, and David Spurgeon (pictured below). The Steel City Stonewall Democrats endorsed both Connelly and Spurgeon for their support of LGBT rights.
Homestead Exclusion Amendment Ballot Question
This year you’ll see another confusingly worded ballot question. The measure would effectively open the door to eliminating property taxes in Pennsylvania. While this probably sounds great to many homeowners, it has public school officials worried about potentially losing education funding that comes from property taxes.
Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter Amendment
This proposed measure would allow City of Pittsburgh employees to become compensated part-time coaches or educators at the Pittsburgh Public Schools. You can read an analysis by Sue Kerr of the Lesbian Correspondents here.
That’s your whole ballot! You can find your polling place here. Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM. At least we know it won’t be as depressing as last year!