Pennsylvania's GOP candidacy for the third conservative judge and probable tiebreaker in the state Supreme Court might give Republicans more sway over the 2024 election laws.
The Nov. 7 general election to replace late Democratic Justice Max Baer will pit Republican Montgomery County of Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Carluccio against Democratic Superior Court Judge Daniel McCaffery, as the Washington Examiner reported.
Democrats hold a 4-2 majority, so a Republican win would not immediately change the state's ideology, but it would give Republicans one more vote for right-leaning measures that could affect 2024.
As Carluccio was the establishment candidate when she defeated right-leaning candidate Patricia McCullough in May, this election will signal to the Republican Party whether Pennsylvania is ready to move away from hard-line conservative methods and favor a centrist GOP platform to combat Democratic policies.
Carluccio's victory would be a marked departure from candidates like Doug Mastriano, who was backed by former President Trump but lost to Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA) in the 2022 gubernatorial campaign.
As a result of Trump's endorsement, some conservative Republicans, including Mastriano, were defeated by moderate Democrats in the general election.
A Republican win from Carluccio would give Democrats the edge of holding the tiebreaking vote if cases fall along party lines, indicating that Carluccio would not provide Republicans a clear shot at making conservative policy decisions in 2024.
But, having another Republican vote on the court could give conservatives an edge in critical voting issues because Democratic judges have recently sided with conservative justices in some circumstances.
Chief Justice Debra Todd, a Democrat, joined Republicans in overturning a lower court's decision in October 2022 that had permitted counties to assist voters in correcting mistakes, including as illegible signatures, on postal ballots.
The ultimate vote was 3-3, therefore the lower court's finding was upheld.
Each of these instances, which ended in a tie, could have been decided by one more vote, which could have altered the voting procedures in the Keystone State. In statements to Politico Weekly Score, both Carluccio and McCaffery stressed they would not make snap judgments on such cases.
Carluccio said she does “have concerns about the conflicting, and sometimes unclear, undated ballot decisions made by the court in 2023, 2022, and 2020 [about the state’s mail ballots].
"I believe our laws must be applied as written, and certainly, our election laws must be applied consistently across all counties, regardless of the election year.”
As for the state's postal ballot law, McCaffery said it was "passed with broad bipartisan support" and that "any challenge to voting rights must be viewed in the context of promoting a fair and robust election process, free from fraud or voter manipulation."