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Delaware Valley Election Preview

Voters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties head to the polls on Tuesday to decide several races across the Delaware Valley.

A Montgomery County judge, Republican Carolyn Carluccio, is in the most high-profile race in the state. She is facing Democrat Dan McCaffery for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Carluccio is president judge on Montgomery County’s Court of Common Pleas. McCaffery, a Philadelphian, sits on the state Superior Court. The pair are vying for an opening left by last year’s death of Chief Justice Max Baer.

Around $22 million has been spent on the Carluccio-McCaffery race. That includes donations from labor groups, the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association’s political action committee, and the Commonwealth Leaders Fund. Despite the spending, a recent Franklin & Marshall Poll found that 7 in 10 registered voters don’t have an opinion on either Carluccio or McCaffery.

Democrats would remain in control of the court if Carluccio would be elected, but it would be a slim 4-3 majority. Should McCaffery win, the court would keep its 5-2 Democrat majority.

Other statewide elections include the Superior Court judge race featuring Democrats Jill Beck and Timika Lane and Republicans Harry F. Smail Jr. and Maria Battista. There is also the Commonwealth Court race between Republican Megan Martin and Democrat Matt Wolf.

Voters in all the counties are electing Common Pleas judges and nominees for various row offices.

Delaware County voters will decide a variety of important races. Three seats on the county council are up for grabs, including those currently held by three Democrats: Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D., Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, and Christine A. Ruther. They are being challenged by Republicans Joy Schwartz, Jeffrey O. Jones, and Upland Borough Mayor William Dennon.

Republican attorney Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski has made concerns about rising crime the centerpiece of her race against incumbent Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, a Democrat.

The fiscally-flailing City of Chester is almost certain to get its first new mayor in seven years. City Councilman Stefan Roots defeated incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland in the Democratic primary in May. Roots will face independent Anita J. Littleton.

Polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. To see a sample ballot, click here.

Bucks County elections have been peppered with controversy, including Democratic candidates putting the name of popular Republican District Attorney Matt Weintraub on their own campaign signs — without his permission.

“I was disappointed to learn that my name has been used by the Marseglia-Harvie campaign without my authorization or permission,” Weintraub, who’s running for Common Pleas judge, told DVJournal.

That would be Bucks County Commissioners Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia and fellow Democrat County Commission Board Chair Robert Harvie Jr., who are seeking second terms in office. Pamela A. Van Blunk, currently serving as Bucks County Controller, is running as a team with Republican Gene DiGirolamo, who is seeking a second term. Van Blunk and DiGirolamo have also made rising crime the centerpiece of their campaign.

There are also multiple races for the Central Bucks School District board, as well as other school boards across the DelVal. School District 1 voters will be picking between Democratic incumbent Karen Smith and Republican challenger Dr. Stephen Mass. District 2 features incumbent Republican Dana Hunter, the current school board president, against Democrat Heather Reynolds. In District 3, it’s Democrat Dana Foley against Republican Glenn Schloeffel. District 6 is a race between Republican Aarati P. Martino and Democrat Rick Haring. District 8 features Democrat Susan M. Gibson against Tony Arjona.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Sample ballots can be accessed here.

Montgomery County will see a major change in its leadership with the election of two new commissioners to the three-seat board. Jamila Winder, who was appointed to fill out the remainder of Val Arkoosh’s term, is running for election as a Democrat. Lawyer Neil Makhija, who ran for state representative in Carbon County in 2016, is running as a Democrat. Republicans Thomas DiBello, a businessman, and Liz Ferry, an Upper Dublin commissioner, are also seeking voters’ approval.

Other major contests include the sheriff’s race between Democratic incumbent Sean P. Kilkenny and Republican Ed Moye.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Sample ballots can be found here. People looking to see if they can vote in the election can get more information here.

Chester County’s polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

A referendum expanding the Honey Brook Township Board of Supervisors from three to five is creating local buzz.

There will also be a new District Attorney in Chester County. Ryan L. Hyde is running as a Republican against Democrat Christopher de Barrena-Sarobe.

There could also be turnover on the County Board of Commissioners. Incumbent Democrats Josh Maxwell and Marian Moskowitz are running for re-election. They are facing Republicans David C. Sommers and Eric Roe. The Democrats, who became the first Democratic majority to run the county in 2019, tout their record of inclusivity, affordable housing, and the environment. But the Republicans point to the escape of convicted murderer Danilo Cavalcante from the county prison despite a previous escape by an inmate using the same method, as a reason to question Maxwell and Moskowitz’s competency. Both serve on the Prison Board, along with Sheriff Fredda Maddox, also a Democrat. who is running for Common Pleas Judge. Her Chief Deputy Kevin Dykes, a Democrat, is being challenged by former sheriff’s deputy Republican Roy Kofroth.

A sample ballot can be found here.

BROUILLETTE: Dan McCaffery Is a Threat to Democracy

In recent years, polls have regularly shown that voters are concerned about “threats to democracy.” Yet few of these surveys define what, exactly, these “threats” are, leaving it to media and pundits to guess.

Last year, the New York Times dug into what voters have in mind when they think of “threats to democracy,” To the Times’ surprise, the answer was “government corruption” and concern over “whether government works on behalf of the people.”

With this definition in hand, it’s clear that Judge Dan McCaffery, who is seeking a seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, is a threat to democracy.

Pennsylvania’s Code of Judicial Conduct outlines “standards for the ethical behavior of judges and judicial candidates.” Among these standards are avoiding “nepotism” and “favoritism” in hiring decisions.

Yet, recent revelations show that immediately after being elected to the state Superior Court in 2019, McCaffery hired his domestic partner for a taxpayer-funded role in his office. She still works there.

Shortly after McCaffery hired her, the two purchased a home together in New Jersey, and voter registration records show that they continue to live together in McCaffery’s Philadelphia home.

The code of conduct defines “nepotism” as “the appointment of a judge’s spouse or domestic partner, or any relative within the third degree of relationship of either the judge or the judge’s spouse or domestic partner, or the spouse or domestic partner of such relative.”

By hiring his domestic partner, McCaffery directly violated the code of judicial conduct.

McCaffery also violated the canons of judicial ethics by engaging in conduct that compromises the “impartiality of the judiciary.”

Specifically, McCaffery promised to side with the carpenters’ union and against “greedy corporations” on issues that come before the court. He told the union, “You’ve had my back, like I’ve had yours….”

The carpenters’ union is one of the top donors to McCaffery’s campaign efforts, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars this year. What’s more corrupt than a judge promising a major campaign donor that he will rule in that donor’s favor?

The code of conduct further requires that “a judge must interpret and apply the law without regard to whether the judge approves or disapproves of the law in question.”

Yet, McCaffery is on the record saying it’s the Supreme Court’s job “to change laws that the Supreme Court thinks are necessary to change.” Instead of recognizing that the Legislature—as the people’s representatives—has the constitutional authority to write laws, Dan McCaffery believes the court should act as a supra-legislature and change laws at a whim. Rule by judicial fiat invalidates the rule of law.

A Supreme Court justice should also display discernment and good judgement in non-judicial matters.

Dan McCaffery displayed a disgraceful lack of judgement in his involvement in the porn scandal of his brother, former Justice Seamus McCaffery.

After receiving porn emails on his official government account—emails that Chief Justice Ron Castille called “the most disgusting piece of obscenity I have ever seen,” Dan McCaffery replied with “send this to my yahoo account-not work,” according to reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He then claimed he had no recollection of receiving the emails and, according to the Inquirer, “he planned to call upon state court administrators, the attorney general, and federal prosecutors to investigate how and why his judicial e-mail account was ‘hacked.’”

Yet, in response to a Right-to-Know request filed by our office asking for McCaffery’s request for an investigation, the Attorney General’s office responded: “A full and complete search pursuant to the requirements of the RTKL has been conducted. It has been determined that … no identified records were found within this agency.”

If McCaffery was so confident his email was hacked, why are there no records with the Attorney General’s office of his requesting an investigation?

Fast-forward to this year, and Dan McCaffery finally acknowledged that he received the emails and that he replied. But he changed his story, claiming he replied with, “Please don’t send these to my work email.” He said that was it: “Period, end of story.”

But this response is far different from “send this to my yahoo account-not work.” It’s difficult to end a story that’s constantly changing.

From nepotism to judicial bias to inviting porn to his personal email account, Dan McCaffery has violated Pennsylvania’s Code of Judicial Conduct as well as the basic norms of integrity that voters should be able to expect from their Supreme Court justices.

McCaffery’s corruption and favoritism pose not only a clear danger to the integrity of our judiciary but also an imminent threat to democracy in Pennsylvania.

Fortunately, Pennsylvanians have a better choice. Judge Carolyn Carluccio believes in applying the law as written, upholding the democratic separation of powers, and rejecting any partisan influence in her courtroom.

On Election Day, Pennsylvania voters can protect democracy by electing Judge Carolyn Carluccio to the state Supreme Court.

Don’t Believe The Ads: Carluccio Says She Will Follow Law, Keep Abortion Legal

Montgomery County President Judge Carolyn Carluccio has been in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, some more than once, as she campaigns for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It is part of her strategy to outwork her opponent in the upcoming election.

And, she told DVJournal as she traveled to Pittsburgh, it comes with an added benefit.

“It’s such a beautiful state,” said Carluccio. “All the undeveloped land, the mountains, the valleys.”

Carluccio is running against Superior Court Judge Daniel Caffery (D) for the seat previously held by Justice Max Baer, who died last September. And while the Pennsylvania scenery is pretty, the politics isn’t.

Carluccio is being attacked by the Planned Parenthood Votes political action committee, which runs television ads claiming she would do away with abortion in the state.

“It’s fascinating to me when I say I will follow the law. It has made my opponents a little bit crazy,” said Carluccio. “I’ve been very consistent about that. The law in Pennsylvania is that abortion is legal up until 24 weeks. I will apply (that law)  because that’s my job. I’m not going to change anything. But for some reason, they are insistent on saying things that are not true. The reality is abortion is not even relevant to this race. It will never get before us because in order for abortion to get before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it needs to get through a pro-life legislature and a pro-choice governor. That would be very challenging. So I don’t ever see it coming before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”

“It’s really simple,” she said. “I am a judge who understands her role is to follow the law and to uphold our constitution. And that’s as simple as it gets.”

Carluccio is a Montgomery County native.

“I was born in Norristown and grew up right outside Norristown, in West Norriton,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to work with people and help people. And I found the law was an avenue for that.”

“I also had an uncle (Judge Joseph Smyth) who was a big influence on my life and was a lawyer,” she said. “He was my mom’s (Dorothy) younger brother. He was a football player for Notre Dame. He would babysit for my sister and me, and we thought he was pretty cool. And he became a very young district attorney in Montgomery County.”

Gov. Dick Thornburgh appointed Smyth to the court “at a very young age.”

“And the cool part is he is still on the Montgomery County bench with me. He’s in his last year as a senior judge. It’s been wonderful. He’s so smart and kind, and he’s been a great role model for me.”

Before she was elected to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 2009, Carluccio was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, prosecuting drug dealers, bank robbers, and money launderers. She was Montgomery County’s first woman chief public defender and its first woman chief deputy solicitor.

She has served in the family, criminal, and civil divisions on the court. Last year, all the judges on the court unanimously voted for her to be the president judge. She is the first woman to hold that position.

“I’ve done public service my entire career,” said Carluccio. “It’s what I love.”

She was elected president of the Montgomery Bar Association in her second year on the bench.

Following in her uncle’s footsteps, she “was thrilled to be president judge in Montgomery County. That was really the ultimate goal I had set for myself. But then people came to me and said, ‘You’re the perfect person for this (to serve on the state Supreme Court).’”

She declined at first but was asked again. So, she talked to her husband and uncle, and they “right away said, ‘This is an opportunity you need to take. You’d be perfect for this. And not everybody gets this opportunity.’”

Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Lawrence Tabas said of Carluccio, “She is unbelievable. She’s been all over the state. This is a person who was elected president judge unanimously by her fellow judges, most of whom are Democrats. The vilification of her by people on the Left is so misplaced.”

Liz Preate Havey, a lawyer and the secretary of the state GOP, said, “Judge Carluccio is extremely well regarded in the legal community across the state and recognized as such by the Pennsylvania Bar Association when it highly recommended her for Supreme Court and the Pennsylvania State Trial Judges when it recently elected her as its president. The campaign attacks on her by Democrats are patently false and really an attack on the judiciary itself. It’s proof that Judge Carluccio is the best candidate for the Supreme Court.”

“I have a lot of empathy,” Carluccio said. “I’m a very good listener. And those qualities have certainly helped me at this level. But the one quality I think is most remarkable, and the one that is most important is the fact that I follow the law, even when I don’t like it. And even when I don’t agree with it because that’s my job. I will not be an activist judge.”

If elected, she would be the only justice from the suburbs. There are four from cities: one from Philadelphia and three from Pittsburgh. Two are from rural counties.

Also, it would be the first time in state history that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would be majority female, she said. The court now has two Republicans and four Democrats, so Carluccio’s election would not change the court majority.

“And there has not been an Italian American up there in 20 years,” she said.

When she’s not working, Carluccio loves to read and belongs to two book clubs.

“I probably listen to five books a month,” she said. She also enjoys exercising and attends a 6:15 a.m. boot camp all year.

“Those women are my rocks,” Carluccio said. “Girlfriends and family—not in that order—are very important to me.”

Carluccio went to Marshall Street Elementary in Norristown, then to Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, before earning her B.A. from Dickinson College and her J.D. from Widener University.

Carluccio and her husband, Tom, live in Blue Bell and have three grown children: Andrew, Charlie, and Joseph.

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Montgomery County Judge Carluccio Launches Bid for PA Supreme Court

It’s not every day that a Montgomery County judge decides to run for the state’s top court.

President Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio announced her candidacy for Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week.

Carluccio, who was elected to the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in 2009, has served on the family, criminal, and civil court benches. Last year she was unanimously chosen by her peers to serve as the Court’s first female President Judge in county history. She served as president of the 2000-member Montgomery Bar Association in her second year on the bench.

An opening on the court occurred due to the September death of Justice Max Baer.

“Pennsylvanians want their judges to read and apply the law,” said Carluccio, Republican candidate for Supreme Court, “They also want jurists who will bring experience, temperament, and impartiality to our Commonwealth’s highest court.”

“For over a decade, I have had the privilege of presiding over criminal, family, civil and juvenile cases. This diverse court experience can be an asset to Pennsylvanians seeking experienced judges for our highest court,” she said.

Carluccio began her legal career as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting large-scale drug dealers, bank robbers, and money launderers. Her work earned her recognition from the United States Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

“Drug dealers are lawbreakers: plain and simple,” continued Judge Carluccio, “I have experience putting dangerous criminals behind bars.  I know what prosecutors need from judges to keep our streets safe.”

Carluccio served as the first-ever female chief public defender for Montgomery County, where she managed a team of 35 staff and attorneys. She was also the chief deputy solicitor for the county and served as the acting director of human resources.

“I was proud to be the first-ever female Chief Public Defender in my county’s history. The position also instilled in me a passion for ensuring those with a diminished voice in our criminal justice system are heard,” she said.

Liz Preate Havey, chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee, said, “Judge Carluccio is an outstanding and highly regarded judge with well-rounded legal experience and the appropriate temperament to sit on the Supreme Court. Her election as the first female President Judge in Montgomery County and as the next President of the PA Trial Judges Association is a testament to her character and how respected she is by her peers.  I am thrilled she has decided to run for Supreme Court after much encouragement from many attorneys and friends, including me.”

Carluccio earned her B.A. from Dickinson College and her J.D. degree from Delaware Law School. Carluccio’s court admissions include Pennsylvania, Delaware, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, District of Delaware, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Throughout her career, Carluccio has received many professional awards and commendations for her work, including honors from the Montgomery Bar Association, the Department of the Treasury, the Secret Service, and the DEA.

A life-long resident of Montgomery County, Carluccio is married to lawyer Tom Carluccio.  The couple has three adult children: Andrew, Charlie, and Joseph.

So far, Superior Court Judges Deborah Kunselman of Beaver County and Daniel McCaffery of Philadelphia, both Democrats, have also announced that they are running for the seat.


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