Drama is once again inbound in Pennsylvania. My beloved home state will be filled with multiple storylines once polls close at 8PM eastern tonight. From a crucial primary on both sides for an open Supreme Court seat, to a surprisingly hotly contested special election in Delaware County, those two storylines are dominating the conversation across the state that analysts across the country expect to be the most crucial state in 2024.
Can Republicans pull off a stunner in ancestral territory?
Delaware County used to be the pride of the Pennsylvania GOP. It was the state party’s solid rock in the southeast, so much so that the GOP commissioners at the time got rid of a rule that had one member of the minority party sit on the three person board. Of course, that has all changed in modern times. Now, thanks to pockets of strong Black support close to Philly and shifting voting patterns among highly-educated white voters, DelCo is one of the premier Democratic counties in Pennsylvania. So, even with disgraced State Rep Mike Zabel resigning over sexual harassment charges, no one really thought this Biden+26 seat in Upper Darby was in much danger.
However, in that coalition is the twist of black voters. Unlike in Montgomery and Chester counties, where the shift has been mostly on the back of highly educated white voters, Delaware County’s margin for Democrats is still dependent on solid black turnout and support. While the district is majority-white, 31% of the population is black. And with concerns over black turnout in an off year election primary, combined with the way Zabel left office, it’s caused some Democratic concern.
It likely didn’t help that Democratic candidate Heather Boyd is claimed to have known about Zabel’s sexual harassment before it was made public. That has loomed over the head of an area that has seen two state reps resign due to out of office issues in the past four years. This panic has led to some hearty Democratic spending in this seat. With Governor Josh Shapiro cutting an ad for Boyd, Democrats have spent just over $1 million here. Considering a loss to Republican Kathy Ford would see the state house swing back to Republicans by a seat, it’s understandable why Democrats are taking no chances. And I’ve been told it will likely pay off. Democrats have told me they believe a 2-5 point win for Boyd is looking more like a 6-10 point win now. It’s still miles off Biden’s margin, but a win is a win. And I expect Democrats to pull this seat out tonight.
A Supreme Court primary with 2024 consequences
Really, the main race tonight will be the GOP primary for the open Supreme Court seat. With the death of Chief Justice Max Baer, a Democrat, in late 2022, this opens up an opportunity for Republicans to shrink the Democratic Party majority on the State Supreme Court from 5-2 to 4-3. The party has backed Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judge Carolyn Carluccio in this primary. However, a notorious challenger stayed in the race.
Commonwealth Court Justice Patricia McCullough, best known for giving team Trump one of their only wins in cases regarding the 2020 election, is running with the backing of far right support. The most well-known being that of failed GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. Republicans are putting all their money on their endorsement easily getting Carluccio over the line. But Mastriano is hoping his connection to chunks of grassroots in Pennsylvania can get McCullough over the line.
However, this race has some potential consequences for 2024 as well. Some believe in Pennsylvania circles that Mastriano is testing the waters of his operation in a one on one race against a state party endorsement. There is growing concern among his camp that he will be facing a single candidate in a 2024 senate primary, likely Dave McCormick. And with the PA GOP more likely to endorse a candidate this time around if new reports are believed, Mastriano needs to hope that his group of grassroots can get a majority of the primary vote. If it doesn’t happen, I do think that isn’t a good sign for him if/when he pulls the trigger on a Senate run. It’s one of multiple underlying factors happening in Pennsylvania tonight. And a McCullough victory could have massive consequences for 2024 as well.
We’ll be covering both these races, along with other elections across the country, on our website tonight. Stay tuned!