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Republican National Committee chairwoman: ‘Freedom will win’ in Pa. judicial elections next month

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, campaigning in Bucks County Tuesday, framed the Nov. 2 elections in Pennsylvania as a prelude to a possible GOP takeover of Congress in next year’s midterm races.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in Doylestown, Pa., on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in Doylestown, Pa., on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.Read moreTYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel campaigned in the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday, rallying party activists two weeks before state and local elections in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that will offer clues about the mood of the electorate ahead of next year’s midterm races.

Appearing in Bucks County Tuesday morning, McDaniel framed Pennsylvania’s’ elections for state Supreme Court and other judicial offices as a prelude to a possible GOP takeover of Congress in 2022.

“Pennsylvania is the state on Nov. 2 where we are going to say to the Democrats: Freedom does matter. And freedom will win,” McDaniel told a crowd of party activists inside the Bucks County Republican Committee’s offices in Doylestown.

“And we’re gonna shoot a shot across their bow, and we’re gonna say we’re coming for you in 2022, because we’re going to take back the House and the Senate — and it starts right here,” McDaniel said.

Later Tuesday, the RNC chair stopped by the Burlington County GOP’s Medford headquarters to campaign with New Jersey gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli, who’s running against Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

”I think Phil Murphy’s a little scared right now,” she told the cheering crowd. “I think he’s shaking in his boots.”

She slammed New Jersey’s high taxes and Murphy’s coronavirus health restrictions, saying he had hurt families and businesses. ”This is the time when New Jersey needs that change,” she said.

The top prize in the Nov. 2 election on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River is a seat on the state Supreme Court. It’s being vacated by Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 in December. He served as chief justice until April.

Democrats hold a 5-2 advantage on the court, so the balance of power isn’t at stake. Republican nominee Kevin Brobson, president judge of the statewide Commonwealth Court, is running against Democrat Maria McLaughlin, a Superior Court judge.

“I think we need to make our courts better,” Brobson said. “We have to put aside politics. We have to elect judges that understand the role of judging is to apply the law as written.”

Democrats have controlled the court since they swept three open seats in 2015.

“If we don’t hold this seat, I hate to say it, but I might not live long enough to see the state Supreme Court become Republican again,” Lawrence Tabas, chairman of the Pennsylvania GOP, told the crowd. “We have to win this one.”

Also on the ballot are elections for lower appeals courts, county and municipal office, and school board.

» READ MORE: Pennsylvania elects most judges. Here’s how the process works.

The state Supreme Court’s recent high-profile cases include decisions on gerrymandering, disputes over the 2020 election, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency powers.

Brendan Welch, a spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, said in a statement: “Pennsylvania Republicans and their judicial slate want to bring us back to the days of Donald Trump and will stop at nothing to help him dismantle voting rights and democracy, a woman’s right to choose, and children and families’ rights to be kept safe from COVID-19 — and we must defeat them on November 2nd.”

The race is drawing a relatively modest amount of spending on advertising. Republican groups have spent about $1.3 million on television ads as of Wednesday, while Democrats have spent almost $610,000, according to data compiled by the media-tracking firm AdImpact.

The justices pick which cases they want to hear, and thousands of appeals are decided each year by the two other statewide appeals courts, Commonwealth Court and Superior Court. Seats on both courts — which typically convene in three-judge panels ― are on the ballot this year.

There are two spots on the nine-judge Commonwealth Court, which handles cases involving government entities and elections. For example, its current cases include a challenge to Wolf’s school mask mandate and litigation over Pennsylvania Senate Republicans’ investigation of the 2020 election.

Republicans Stacy Marie Wallace and Drew Crompton are running against Democrats Lori A. Dumas and David Lee Spurgeon.

There’s also an open seat on the 15-member Superior Court, which hears most appeals in criminal and civil cases from trial courts. Republican Megan Sullivan is running against Democrat Timika Lane.