Wecht, Covey, win seats on Pa. appellate courts

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November 9, 2011 4:14:39 AM PST
Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday elected an Allegheny County judge and a Bucks County labor lawyer to the state's two intermediate-level appellate courts.

Democrat David Wecht, who has served on the county bench since 2003, defeated Republican Vic Stabile, a Harrisburg lawyer, to win a seat on the state Superior Court with 55 percent of the vote, according to returns from 97 percent of the state's precincts.

Anne Covey of New Hope, the first female appointee to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, won a seat on the Commonwealth Court with 52 percent, defeating Democrat Kathryn Boockvar of Doylestown.

Wecht, the son of nationally known forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, said he was pleased by his victory and that he would comment further later.

Covey's husband and campaign manager, Mike Morris, said her victory showed that "our message resonated with the public."

Wecht raised at least $522,000, with $300,000 coming from a trial lawyers' group. Stabile raised at least $210,000, and the state Republican Party augmented that with more than $180,000 worth of services, mostly TV and radio ads, according to campaign finance reports and GOP officials.

Boockvar reported total contributions of more than $390,000, while Covey raised more than $378,000. Both candidates tapped their personal resources during the last two weeks of the campaign, Boockvar for $25,000 and Covey for $15,000, according to their reports.

The Superior Court handles most criminal and civil appeals, while Commonwealth Court specializes in lawsuits against the state and similar matters.

Wecht, 49, and Covey, 51, will serve 10-year terms. The annual salary for judges on both courts is $178,914.

Six incumbent appellate judges also were listed on the ballot - without opponents - for up-or-down votes on whether they should serve additional 10-year terms: Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin, Superior Court judges John T. Bender and Mary Jane Bowes and Commonwealth Court judges Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Mary Hannah Leavitt and Robert E. Simpson Jr.

Voters also were filling local positions including district judgeships, county and municipal offices and school board seats.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat, handily won a second term, defeating little-known Republican challenger Karen Brown, a former math teacher and Democrat who switched parties to challenge him.

In the Allegheny County executive's race, voters picked Fitzgerald over Republican D. Raja, a software entrepreneur, by nearly a 2-1 ratio. Fitzgerald will replace Dan Onorato, a Democrat who decided not to seek a third term.

In a closely watched race in the Philadelphia suburbs, Democratic state Rep. Josh Shapiro and running mate Leslie Richards hoped to end decades of Republican control of the Montgomery County commissioners in a tight race against GOP incumbent Bruce Castor and running mate Jenny Brown.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county, long a GOP bastion, 46 percent to 39 percent.

Local elections officials reported a light turnout.

In Allegheny County, where voters elected Democratic former county councilman Rich Fitzgerald as the next county executive, election manager Mark Wolosik had predicted a turnout of about 35 percent.

"It's a beautiful day here," he said Tuesday. "I don't think that people can use the weather as an excuse" for not voting.

Timothy Benyo, chief clerk for the Board of Elections in Lehigh County, credited the balmy weather for keeping turnout there above 20 percent of registered voters.

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