DRIZZLY WEATHER and a dearth of exciting contests were helping hold down voter turnout in yesterday's primary as Democrats and Republicans picked nominees for a pair of statewide judgeships and numerous posts in county and local governments, according to spot checks with elections officials in more than a half-dozen counties.
"Very slow," Ingrid Healy, the Blair County elections director in Hollidaysburg, said of the pace at the polls. "It's a closed primary and people don't take as much interest in the local races."
"What election?" Philadelphia Deputy City Commissioner Fred Voigt asked jokingly, attributing the low participation rate to a lack of competitive races in Pennsylvania's largest city.
Statewide, Pennsylvania's 4.2 million registered Democrats and 3 million Republicans were picking nominees for one open seat each on the state Superior and Commonwealth courts.
But there were hundreds of races for county, municipal and school-board offices, including two that featured candidates charged with or convicted of crimes.
Mayor Nutter's bid for a second four-year term faced a long-shot challenge in the Democratic primary from T. Milton Street, former Mayor John Street's brother who was recently released after serving 26 months in federal prison for tax evasion.
Competing for the GOP nomination in the city, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6-1, were Karen Brown, a former teacher and ex-Democrat who won the GOP's endorsement in the primary, and real-estate agent John Featherman.
In Allegheny County, one of the two Republican candidates for the open county executive's seat - Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck McCullough - is awaiting trial on theft charges stemming from allegations that he stole $200,000 from the estate of an elderly dementia patient he represented. McCullough was competing against Mount Lebanon businessman D. Raja, 45, the party-backed candidate.
In the Democratic primary, veteran county councilman Rich Fitzgerald, who was endorsed by the party, faced opposition from county Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty.
The incumbent county executive - Dan Onorato, the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor - is stepping down after serving two terms.
The appellate court campaigns were comparatively low-key.
Republicans were settling a nomination contest for Superior Court between Harrisburg lawyer Vic Stabile, who was endorsed by the party, and Philadelphia Judge Paula Patrick.
The GOP winner will face Allegheny Judge David Wecht, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, in November.
In the Democratic primary for Commonwealth Court, Doylestown lawyer Kathryn Boockvar carried the party's endorsement in her race against Pittsburgh lawyer Barbara Behrend Ernsberger, who was nominated for the court in 2009 but lost in the general election.
The GOP was backing New Hope lawyer Anne Covey in her race against Philadelphia Judge Paul Panepinto, who mounted unsuccessful primary campaigns for the state Supreme Court in 2007 and 2009.
The Superior Court, which handles most criminal and civil appeals, has 15 judges and the Commonwealth Court, which specializes in cases and appeals involving the state government, has nine. The base salary for judges on both courts is currently $178,914.