Indiana, PA - Indiana County

CAMPAIGN 2013: Local races dominate ballot

by PETER JACKSON Associated Press on November 05, 2013 10:20 AM

HARRISBURG — Voters across Pennsylvania were heading for the polls to settle election contests for a multitude of local offices and judgeships as well as an open state appeals court seat.

The only statewide race today is a Superior Court contest between Republican Vic Stabile, a corporate lawyer in Harrisburg, and Democrat Jack McVay Jr., an Allegheny County judge.

Also up for grabs are the mayors’ offices in cities including Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton, Lancaster, State College and Philadelphia.

Voters also will decide whether four state appellate judges — state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justice Max Baer and Superior Court judges Susan Gantman and Jack Panella — deserve additional 10-year terms.

Political observers have predicted a turnout as low as 20 percent statewide.

There is one contested race on the county level, for treasurer, between incumbent Sandra Kirkland, a Democrat, and Republican Helen Clark.

Other marquee races that may draw local voters to the polls are for White Township tax collector — which pits Republican Barbara Levine against Democrat Jeffrey Mack — and a contest for four seats on the Indiana Area school board. Five candidates — Deborah Clawson, Diana Paccapaniccia, Walter Schroth, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro and John Uccellini — are vying for four seats in that race for a four-year term. John Barbor is running unopposed for a two-year term on the school board.

Then there is Indiana Borough council.

Republican Robert Jobe Jr., Democrat Gerald Smith and Republican Donald Lancaster are competing for two seats for four-year terms in the Second Ward. Also in the Second Ward, Republican Brett Johns and Democrat Larry DeChurch are vying for a two-year term. Republican Richard Thorell, Republican Matthew Gaudet and Democrat Nancy Jones are in a race for two seats for four-year terms in the Third Ward. Two write-in candidates, IUP student Taralyn Federoff and real estate agent Jennifer Gonda-English, are also competing in that race.

Meanwhile on the state level, fear of a potential anti-incumbent backlash spurred Max Baer to raise more than $420,000, even though he is unopposed and seeking voters’ support for another 10-year term, his campaign treasurer said Monday.

Baer’s advisers were concerned that voters angry over the recent partial shutdown of the federal government pose a threat to his future on the state’s high court, said the treasurer, Frederick Frank.

“We did not want to take the people of Pennsylvania for granted,” he said. “We thought it was important to get Justice Baer’s message out in view of that concern.”

The goal was to raise enough money to air TV ads, Frank said, and Baer’s campaign finance reports show most of it came in during the last few weeks. The donors were primarily law firms and wealthy individuals and groups, including the Committee for a Better Tomorrow, the political arm of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, which gave $150,000.

“These are the people who have an opportunity to observe Justice Baer and see how he has functioned as a Supreme Court justice,” Frank said of the trial lawyers.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille, who is also standing for “retention” in a yes-or-no vote, raised at least $179,000. His campaign did not return a phone message seeking comment.

The two other judges standing for retention today — Superior Court judges Gantman and Panella — reported no political contributions this year, their reports show.

Judges are rarely turned down for retention on the bench. The last time it occurred was in 2005, when voters angry over a government pay raise that had been secretively approved by the Legislature, denied Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro a second term.

In the Superior Court race, a state bar panel Friday asked Republican candidate Vic Stabile to take down what it considers a misleading ad that implies nepotism was involved in the hiring of Democrat Jack McVay’s fiancee and sister-in-law by the Allegheny County court.

McVay, an Allegheny County judge, says that’s not true. Stabile, a Harrisburg lawyer, insists it is and confirmed Monday that the ad is still on the air.

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