Democrat Dan McCaffery defeated Republican Carolyn Carluccio in a race for a key seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday night, ensuring Democrats will maintain a comfortable majority on the bench heading into the 2024 elections. McCaffery’s margin stood at 53-47 with approximately 92% of the vote counted when the Associated Press called the race.
The two candidates, both judges, were vying to fill a seat that had been vacant since last year, when the previous chief Justice, Democrat Max Baer, died. As a result of McCaffery’s victory, Democrats will once again enjoy a 5-2 majority on the court, which has often found itself at the center of election disputes and will likely do so again next year.
The court played a key role in rejecting Donald Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election following the presidential election in 2020. Carluccio, however, had indicated some sympathy for Trump’s views, recently telling the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I have no idea” whether Joe Biden won the race. Had she won, future Republican attempts to subvert election results would have become more likely to succeed, especially in the event of any potential absences or new vacancies.
The soonest that Republicans could retake a majority on the court would be 2025, when three Democratic justices will go before voters. However, those elections will be retention elections, where voters are asked simply whether an incumbent should remain in office. Only one sitting Supreme Court justice has lost a retention election in state history. The next partisan election for a seat on the court is not set to take place until 2029.