Dougherty, Dems Win Supreme Court Race

It was the most expensive court race in American history.
Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty, a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court smile during a campaign rally on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty, a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court smile during a campaign rally on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

With two-thirds of districts reporting Tuesday night, it appeared that the three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would each be captured by Democrats. Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty — brother to power broker John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty — was joined by Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue of Point Breeze and Superior Court Judge David Wecht of Indiana Township in capturing seats.

The Associated Press called the race just before 11 p.m.:


Democrats won despite fears that soft Election Day turnout in Philadelphia — where Jim Kenney had been presumed mayor for months in the city’s glamour race — might hurt their support overall. Not so. As of 11 p.m., the third-place Dem, Donohue, was leading the top Republican vote-getter by a seemingly insurmountable margin of 178,000 votes.

Every vote received by the candidates was worth a pretty penny.

“Spending in a seven-way race for seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has eclipsed $15.8 million, making it the most expensive judicial election in U.S. history, according to advocacy groups,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. “The figures in the Pennsylvania race are likely to rise, as more records are filed, according to the groups.”

Why the expense? Because this court will most likely be politically consequential. Until Tuesday’s election, Republicans had controlled the court for six years.

“When the new justices take their oaths in January, they will round out a 5-2 Democratic majority on the court,” AP reported. “That could help shape the legislative redistricting that follows the 2020 census.”

The political realignment of the Court could also shape decisions on education funding, gun control, abortion measures and a wide array of other controversial questions.

Gov. Tom Wolf claimed the victory as a mandate for Democratic policies; he’s currently locked in a budget standoff with the GOP-held Legislature.

“For the second time in the last year, the people of Pennsylvania have spoken at the ballot box and sent Harrisburg a message that they want fairness and change,” he said in a statement. “I hope those serving in state government have heard the message and will join me in fighting for change that benefits every Pennsylvanian.”

The judges each serve a 10-year term. Tuesday’s election is expected to bring renewed stability to a branch of government that had seen unprecedented upheaval in recent years.

“Filling the three open seats will complete the seven-member high court, one that has been rocked with scandal in recent years because of corruption charges and inappropriate emails allegedly sent or received by justices,” TribLive noted.