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Pennsylvania

12 Pa. Supreme Court candidates spent more than $5M in primary, reports show

| Saturday, June 20, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Superior Court Judge David Wecht of Indiana Township.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Superior Court Judge David Wecht of Indiana Township.
Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue of Point Breeze
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue of Point Breeze
Adams County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael George
Adams County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael George
Superior Court Judge Judy Olson of Wexford.
Superior Court Judge Judy Olson of Wexford.
Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey of Bucks County
Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey of Bucks County
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty

In the run-up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court 12-candidate primary, the six victorious candidates drained their resources, campaign finance reports filed Thursday and Friday show.

The primary race for a shot at three open seats produced fundraising in excess of $5 million. Finance reports filed just before and after the primary show candidates had only tens of thousands of dollars remaining, the consequence of splurging on last-minute TV ads, events and statewide stumping.

On the Democratic side, top vote-getter Superior Court Judge David Wecht reported having more than $567,000 available in the cycle. He spent all but about $9,000. Expenditures included more than $372,000 worth of TV ads and $35,000 in production costs.

“We assumed nothing, as far as what was going to happen in the primary, so we did everything we needed to do to be in the top three,” said Wecht's campaign manager Mitch Kates.

From May 5 through June 8, Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue spent about $77,000 of $100,000 available. Spokesman Marty Marks said the campaign set out a budget for spending that didn't include ad buys.

The top fundraiser among the Republican nominees, Adams County Common Pleas Judge Mike George, starts the summer with the most on hand. He had $515,000 available in the cycle and spent $418,000, leaving him with $96,000.

Superior Court Judge Judy Olson reported around $16,700 remaining in her campaign committee account after spending more than $167,000 in the cycle. Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey ended the cycle with about $22,000. She spent more than $256,000 in the run-up.

Democratic nominee Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Kevin Dougherty, cracked $1.1 million in available funds in the spring, and spent $677,000 of it before May 4. His latest report was not available from the Department of State.

Collectively, the six Democrats and six Republicans who faced off for three party nominations raised more than $5 million and spent about $2.4 million on TV ads before the May 19 primary, according to a report from judicial advocacy groups Justice at Stake and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

Lynn Marks, executive director for Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, a group that advocates in favor of appointing judges based on merit, said she isn't surprised candidates used nearly all their money in the primary. Through November, support from out-of-state special interest groups will arrive seeking to switch or secure the seven-member court's current Republican majority.

“To the extent voters were paying attention to judicial races at all, that interest is always most likely to happen closer to the election,” Marks said.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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