As the dust settles on Pennsylvania’s 2023 election, several noteworthy patterns have emerged. From historic milestones of women being elected to leadership roles to the interparty dynamics of mail-in voting, the Commonwealth’s electoral landscape continues to evolve in the aftermath of this year’s contest. Here are our top five takeaways from last week’s election:
Courts Lean Democratic Post-Election
This election solidified Democrats’ presence in Pennsylvania’s courts, with victories in all four statewide judicial races. With Judge Dan McCaffery’s victory over Judge Carolyn Carluccio, the state Supreme Court now returns to a 5-2 Democrat majority. The Superior Court, which was evenly split between seven Democrats and seven Republicans going into Election Day, now leans Democratic following the respective victories of Jill Beck and Judge Timika Lane. Additionally, Judge Matt Wolf’s triumph over Republican candidate Megan Martin shrinks the GOP’s majority on the Commonwealth Court down to 5-4. This partisan shift is likely to influence legal decisions and interpretations in the state for years to come.
High Stakes, High Spending in the Supreme Court Race
There was a time when court races generally flew under the radar; however, this year’s race for an open seat on Pennsylvania’s highest court quickly transformed into a high-stakes political battleground that garnered national attention. The result was a relatively high-turnout election (over 35 percent) which drew 287,000 more voters than the last Supreme Court election in 2021. Spending in this race exceeded an astonishing $25 million, surpassing the previous record. In terms of overall television spending, reports indicate McCaffery spent $8.7 million to Carluccio’s $5.4 million. This disparity was even more pronounced in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia markets, where Democrats outspent the GOP by a ratio of 70-30.
Democrats Dominate in Mail-In Voting
Democrats maintained their edge over Republicans in mail-in voting, a trend evident in all four statewide judicial races. While GOP candidates each received more in-person votes than their opponents on Election Day, the disparity in mail-in ballots allowed Democrats to overcome these deficits and clinch victories in all four statewide races.
Abortion Takes Center Stage
Abortion emerged as a central, motivating issue in Pennsylvania and around the country. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court saw millions of dollars spent by state and national groups both opposing and supporting abortion. Similar dynamics unfolded in the Ohio referendum and Virginia state legislature elections, signaling the enduring impact of this issue following the Dobbs decision last year. Nationally, pro-choice groups spent over $74 million on ads in targeted states, compared to $16 million spent by pro-life groups, a disparity that played out in Pennsylvania as well.
A Historic Night for Women in Philly, Pittsburgh
Democrat Cherelle Parker sailed to an easy victory in Philadelphia’s mayoral election with 74 percent of the vote. Parker defeated Republican David Oh to become the city’s 100th mayor and the first woman ever elected to that office. On the other side of the state, Sara Innamorato achieved a historic win as the first female County Executive in Allegheny County, defeating Republican Joe Rockey in a highly competitive race by only 14,000 votes.