Pittsburgh Current Political Columnist
Before 2013, I never gave judicial elections the time of day. I’m also willing to bet most people still feel the same way. Sure, I voted but I just didn’t really pay attention. Judges didn’t matter, did they?
Except, they really, really do.
Let’s look at the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
The Superior Court is responsible for reviewing most of the civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the courts of common pleas.
But the most thought I ever heard anyone give this race was someone once saying, “In the judge races I just pick the woman, let’s be real, they make better decisions than men.” I really couldn’t argue with him there.
On May 21st there are two open seats on the Superior Court and both parties will be nominating their candidates. Republicans have endorsed Cumberland County Judge Christylee Peck and Chester County Deputy District Attorney Megan McCarthy King. Former Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren is also running.
Democrats have endorsed Amanda Green-Hawkins from Allegheny County and Judge Daniel McCaffery from Philadelphia County. Democrats also have a third candidate on the ballot, Beth Tarasi, also from Allegheny County. You may remember her from a Congressional race in which she had to withdraw from after legislative district boundaries were redrawn. She had been running against Conor Lamb.
But before we talk about 2019, let’s go back in time a bit.
In 2015, voters elected Democrat Alice Dubow over Republican Emil Giordano.
In 2017, the General election for Superior Court allowed voters to select four judges.
Our options included:
- Geoffrey Moulton (D)
- Carolyn Nichols (D)
- Maria McLaughlin (D)
- Deborah Kunselman (D)
- Craig Stedman (R)
- Wade Kagarise (R)
- Emil Giordano (R)
- Mary Murray (R)
The women won every seat.
That’s right, above party affiliation, the women won. Now we have Judges Nichols, McLaughlin, Kunselman, and Murray sitting on the Superior Court.
Many have called the recent surge in women candidates running and winning, a referendum on President Trump. I don’t disagree, though I think it’s been a slow build.
However, Democrats should pay attention to who they are nominating and if they want to add two more Democratic judges to the bench they should be considering more than just geography.
The Republicans will have two women on the ballot come November, no matter how it shakes out. If Democrats want to be competitive, they have to consider the two women who have thrown their hats in the ring and what they bring to the table.
Beth Tarasi, is well known to many in Western PA after her run for Congress. She is a trial attorney who has decades of experience in the courtroom. She often tells a story about playing basketball at Pitt just after the passage of Title IX.
Amanda Green-Hawkins, a former Allegheny County Councilor, has been a long champion for workers. Not only because she was raised by union parents but because she’s spent her career as counsel for the United Steelworkers. She’s argued in Federal courts keeping workers’ rights first and foremost in her mind.
We expect our judges to be impartial, patient, and open-minded. But let’s not forget that judges bring with them the experiences they’ve had in life. You can’t forget being a single mom, a working mom, the passage of Title IX, or how unions ensured you lived a solidly middle class life.
We all know that I have never been one to hold a lot of stock in the endorsement of the Democratic party to any particular candidate. In fact, we disagree more than we agree.
On November 5, 2019, I’d rather see two Democrats elected to the Superior Court and I think the best chances for that lie in the nomination of both Amanda Green-Hawkins and Beth Tarasi.