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GOP nets Pennsylvania Supreme Court seat

Election 2021-Pennsylvania
Marc Levy
Kevin Brobson, the Republican candidate for an open seat on Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court, leaves with his wife Lauren after they voted at their polling place at Fishing Creek Community Center, Nov. 2, 2021, in Harrisburg, Pa.

With Republicans on the cusp of sweeping statewide judicial races in Pennsylvania, the GOP is finding more reasons to smile a year away from a high-stakes election in which the state's voters will pick a new governor and a new U.S. senator.

Republicans could be considered favored in both contests next year: the party of the president almost always loses seats in Congress in midterm elections, and a Republican has always replaced an outgoing Democratic governor in Pennsylvania’s current political era.

One Republican campaign strategist, Christopher Nicholas, pointed to a slate of countywide victories in Bucks County, a political bellwether north of Philadelphia, as well as other pickups in Philadelphia’s suburbs where Democrats thrived while former President Donald Trump was in office.

“You can’t say, ‘as goes the Bucks County controller’s race, so goes the state,’” Nicholas said. “But, when you look at that, it bodes well.”

Pennsylvania’s race for U.S. Senate is expected to be among the nation’s most competitive next year.

Meanwhile, its governor’s office is one of eight on ballots next year where a Democrat is serving in a state either won by Trump last year or in a presidential battleground where President Joe Biden beat Trump.

On Tuesday, Republicans won open seats on statewide appeals courts, including a marquee race for a seat on the state Supreme Court. They won with their strongest vote totals in at least two decades of state court races, if not ever.

About 30%, or about 2.6 million, of Pennsylvania’s 8.7 million voters cast a ballot in the state Supreme Court race, the upper range of turnout in recent odd-year elections.

The losing Democrat in the state Supreme Court race, Maria McLaughlin, drew more votes than the party’s candidates did in 2017 and in 2015, when Democrats swept three state Supreme Court seats.

But three of this year’s winning Republican court candidates topped every other Republican or Democratic court candidate in votes in at least the past two decades.

With some votes still being counted Wednesday, Kevin Brobson, the state Supreme Court candidate, got about 100,000 more votes than the party's top vote-getter in 2019. Megan Sullivan, the GOP's candidate for Superior Court, got about 75,000 more than Brobson, according to unofficial results.

In Bucks County, the Republican Party chair attributed the GOP's strong performance there to national issues, including concerns over the rising price of gas, retail supply chain interruptions and immigration.

The county GOP chair, Pat Poprik, also singled out concerns over the curriculum in public schools that Republicans have inflamed with a debate over teaching critical race theory.

“I can tell you so many people are concerned about what is happening in our schools — the books the kids are reading, the curriculum. They’re very upset and that brought out hundreds of extra, new volunteers,” Poprik told the Bucks County Courier Times.

The National School Boards Association says critical race theory — which holds that racism is systemic in America’s institutions — is not taught in K-12 public schools.

To make informed decisions, the public must receive unbiased truth.

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