- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A state Supreme Court candidate warded off the summer doldrums Monday with a call to his five competitors to agree to a series of forums to focus public attention on a typically sleepy race.

David Wecht, a Superior Court judge from Allegheny County, called for six forums, each in a major Pennsylvania media market, between Labor Day and Oct. 27, a week before Election Day. The candidates have drawn about $5.6 million in campaign donations so far, and many court watchers believe the race — the only active Supreme Court race in the country this year — could receive an influx of out-of-state, hard-to-track contributions.

“While we, as candidates, have little power to prevent such independent spending, each of us can play a part in minimizing its influence by agreeing to a series of forums that allow us to speak directly and without filter to the voters,” Wecht, a Democrat, said in a release.

Among the candidates who endorsed the idea was Wecht’s fellow Democrat Christine Donohue, a Superior Court judge.

“I think whatever can be done to make the citizens of the commonwealth more aware of the candidates, the better off we all are,” she said.

The spokesman for Republican candidate Anne Covey, a Commonwealth Court judge, said forums are already being planned before the general election.

“So he’s calling for something that’s already being done,” said Keith Naughton.

An organizer of one of those forums, Lynn Marks, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, lauded the idea of giving voters more exposure to candidates but said calling for public forums is not an unusual campaign tactic.

“He is a good campaigner, as are a number of the other candidates,” she said.

The call for forums comes as the field of candidates might expand by one. Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto announced Monday he had enough signatures to meet the state’s requirement that an independent candidate for Supreme Court present a petition signed by at least 16,639 registered voters by Aug. 3 to be included on the November ballot. Panepinto said he had obtained more than 22,000 signatures.

He would join the six others vying for a record three open seats on the court. The results of this election could maintain the existing Republican majority or could swing the court for the Democrats.

Wecht was one of the biggest money-raisers in the race, with nearly $700,000 in contributions, but he also spent $668,026 in television advertising on his way to becoming the top vote-getter in the May 19 primary, according to campaign finance reports. His campaign’s latest report showed a balance of about $9,000.

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This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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