Putting aside questions about the wisdom of elections for offices as obscure as prothonotary and traffic judge, Pennsylvania never suffers from a shortage of democracy, or at least opportunities for it. Today's primary election is largely low-profile, but many voters will find significant intraparty contests for local offices on the ballot. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Philadelphia's most important race is for the fiscal-watchdog office of city controller. The two-term incumbent, Alan Butkovitz, is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by activist and repeat rival Brett Mandel and longtime city lawyer Mark Zecca. In light of Butkovitz's close ties to the Democratic machinery, The Inquirer endorses BRETT MANDEL as the candidate with the independence and experience the job requires.

The only contested statewide primary is for the Democratic nomination to Pennsylvania's Superior Court, which handles state criminal and civil appeals not involving governance issues. The race pits Allegheny County Family Court Judge John T. McVay Jr., a longtime government attorney, against Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr., a former police officer and criminal-defense lawyer. Given the Pittsburgh judge's edge in relevant legal and judicial experience, The Inquirer recommends JACK McVAY.

In the contests for Philadelphia courts, voters should confine their choices to candidates recommended by the city bar. For Common Pleas Court, they are: Giovanni Campbell, Derrick W. Coker, Anne Marie Coyle, James C. Crumlish, Joe Fernandes, Vince Giusini, Diane A. Grey Jr., Timika Lane, Daniel D. McCaffery, Kenneth J. Powell Jr., Stephanie M. Sawyer, and Katie Scrivner. For Municipal Court, they are: Martin Coleman, Joe Fernandes, Diane A. Grey Jr., Robert M. Kline, and Fran Shields.

In the race for three seats on the city's troubled Traffic Court, the best hope is for quick legislative action in Harrisburg to eliminate the vacant positions by November and then the court itself.