daniel mccaffery vs debbie kunselman
The 2022 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Democratic primary pitted Daniel McCaffery against Debbie Kunselman. McCaffery emerged victorious after a competitive race between the two Superior Court judges. While this election will not shift the partisan makeup of Pennsylvania’s highest court, it has implications for the court’s future rulings and next contested election in 2025.
Background on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court currently has a 5-2 Democratic majority. The court is composed of seven justices who serve 10-year terms. After an initial term, justices must run in retention elections to serve subsequent terms.
Importance and Jurisdiction
As the highest court in Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court hears appeals on civil and criminal cases. It has final say over cases involving state law, congressional redistricting, and death penalty convictions. The partisan leaning of the court can influence rulings on major policy issues.
In 2015, three Democrats – Justices Kevin Dougherty, David Wecht, and Christine Donohue – won contested Supreme Court elections, flipping the court to Democratic control after Republicans held a 4-3 majority.
The next chance to flip the partisan control of the court is in 2025 when three Democratic justices are up for re-election.
The 2022 Democratic Primary
Daniel McCaffery has served on the Superior Court of Pennsylvania since 2019. He campaigned on his broad judicial experience, including presiding over thousands of trials and serving as a supervising judge for wiretaps. McCaffery won the endorsement of the state Democratic party.
Debbie Kunselman was elected to the Superior Court in 2017. She emphasized her 17 years of judicial experience across civil, family, juvenile, and criminal courts. Kunselman portrayed herself as the most experienced candidate.
Pennsylvania uses closed partisan primaries, meaning only registered Democrats could vote in this Supreme Court primary. Unaffiliated voters were excluded.
Implications of the Election
For Partisan Control
Since McCaffery and Kunselman are both Democrats, the outcome does not shift the 5-2 Democratic majority on the court. The winner will replace the late Justice Max Baer, a Democrat.
For the Court’s Future
The election keeps Democrats in control heading into 2025, when three Democratic justices will be up for re-election. This gives Republicans their next opening to flip the court. McCaffery’s victory also suggests strong party support heading into the general election.
Despite a competitive Democratic primary, Daniel McCaffery emerged victorious in May 2022. While the election does not change the Supreme Court’s partisan lean, it has set the stage for the critical 2025 elections when control of the court could flip. The newly elected justice will play a role in consequential rulings in the years ahead.
What was the result of the 2022 Pennsylvania Supreme Court primary?
Daniel McCaffery defeated Debbie Kunselman to win the Democratic nomination.
When is the next election that could change partisan control?
In 2025, three Democratic justices will be up for re-election, giving Republicans a chance to flip the court.
How long do Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices serve?
Justices serve 10-year terms. After their first term, they run in retention elections for additional terms.
Who did McCaffery and Kunselman compete to replace?
The candidates sought to replace Justice Max Baer, a Democrat who passed away in 2022.
What was the importance of this primary election?
While it did not shift partisan control, it gave an early look at dynamics shaping the pivotal 2025 Supreme Court elections in Pennsylvania.