12 candidates vying for 3 seats on Pennsylvania high court

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The race for an unprecedented three open seats on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will involve a dozen candidates.

Six Republicans and six Democrats filed nomination petitions by Tuesday’s deadline to get their names on the May 19 primary ballot. The top three vote-getters in each party will compete in the Nov. 3 general election to pick the newest members of the seven-seat court.

The GOP candidates are Supreme Court Justice Correale Stevens, who was appointed to complete the term of another justice; Superior Court judges Cheryl Allen and Judy Olson; Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey; Adams County Judge Michael George; and Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren.

The Democrats are Superior Court judges Christine Donohue, Anne Lazarus and David Wecht; Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty; Jefferson County Judge John Foradora; and Allegheny County Judge Dwayne Woodruff.

John Bender, a Superior Court judge who considered running in the GOP primary, said he decided he didn’t have enough Republican support, especially given the volatile field.

With 12 candidates vying for three seats, “that means nine are going to lose,” Bender said. “I didn’t like those odds.”

The candidates warmed up for the high-stakes campaign when the Republican and Democratic state committees handed out candidate endorsements for the primary earlier this year.

The GOP endorsed Olson, Covey and George, but before all the candidates had been rated by a state bar panel that reviews their qualifications. Several days later, the panel gave Covey a “not recommended” rating because of an attack ad she aired against her opponent during her 2011 Commonwealth Court campaign. Covey publicly lashed out at the panel, but said she would stay in the race.

At the Democrats’ meeting last month, Wecht and Dougherty were endorsed handily, but the committee members could not muster the two-thirds majority needed to settle a runoff vote between Donohue and Woodruff, so no third endorsement was made. Afterward, Woodruff expressed disenchantment over the balloting and the need for “a different perspective” in the court system.

“I’m taking my fight to the people,” the former Pittsburgh Steeler said.

Republican and Democratic candidates for two open seats on the intermediate appellate courts – one each on the Superior and Commonwealth courts – also filed nomination petitions Tuesday.

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