Primary elections for the three vacant seats on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court will take place next month. The unprecedented race features 12 candidates who have collected close to $3 million according to campaign finance reports.
Leading the pack, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin Dougherty has garnered $707,931 through March with more than half coming from labor groups including at least $302,000 from just one union – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The local chapter of IBEW is led by the judge’s older brother John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty who is known to be influential in city politics.
“My brother is my brother,” the judge told Jason Laughlin of the Inquirer. “I love my brother. I have the great fortune in having him believe in me and what I stand for.”
He said money would not affect his job performance.
“My brother has never influenced me on the bench or in any decisions I’ve made as a judge,” Dougherty said. “After 15 years, I have earned the reputation of Judge Kevin Dougherty.”
With two of the three vacancies on the court coming from political scandal – a felony conviction of former Justice Joan Orie Melvin and the retirement to end an inquiry into his e-mails for Justice Seamus McCaffery – ethics are currently considered a top priority in filling out the seven-member court.
“The general election, or whoever wins the primary, will be an entirely different election with a different kind of profile, including almost certainly a national profile,” said David Wecht, a Superior Court Judge from Allegheny County who is running for the Supreme Court.