2017 Pennsylvania and New Jersey voter guide
From 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, polls will be open for Pennsylvanians to vote on municipal and mayoral races. Voters can find their polling place and check their voter registration online.
Below is our guide to the Philadelphia municipal elections; mayoral elections in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Erie, Scranton, York, State College, and Lancaster; and statewide and citywide ballot questions.
Philadelphia district attorney
Lawrence “Larry” Krasner, who’s never worked a day as a prosecutor and has been called the “un-prosecutor” candidate, is set to face Beth Grossman, who, in stark contrast, carries 21 years of prosecuting experience in the district attorney’s office.
The district attorney serves a four-year term with no term limits and earns around $175,000.
Democrat: Larry Krasner
Krasner is calling for change. He want to reform the DA’s office, which he has said is “off the rails.” He claims that the office is driven by a win-at-any-cost culture that shoots for the longest sentences possible. Krasner wants to focus less on victories for prosecutors and more on seeking justice for victims.
Other items on Krasner’s agenda include seeking alternatives to incarceration, rejecting illegal use of stop-and-frisk tactics, and eliminating the death penalty.
Republican: Beth Grossman
What is Grossman‘s response to Krasner’s ideas for a shakeup? “Victims of crime matter, too.”
Grossman touts her experience while pointing at her Democratic opponent’s “30 years as a defense attorney and making a career suing police officers for civil rights violations.” Grossman’s resume includes serving as chief of staff in Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and as the assistant district attorney who headed the Public Nuisance Task Force, which ran the controversial civil forfeiture unit. Grossman was endorsed by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rebecca Rhynhart, who defeated three-term incumbent controller Alan Butkovitz in the Democratic primary, will take on Republican nominee Mike Tomlinson in the race for a job as chief auditor of city financial affairs.
The controller position carries a four-year term with no term limits. The job pays around $133,000.
Democrat: Rebecca Rhynhart
After leaving her private-sector job in financial services, Rhynhart decided to join the public sector and has served in City Hall for Mayors Jim Kenney and Michael Nutter. For Kenney, she was the chief administrative officer, a cabinet-level position in which she was in charge of modernizing key areas of the government. Under Nutter, she served as city treasurer and budget director.
Rhynhart believes that her experience in the financial services industry and in the public sector gives her the skills to ensure that tax dollars are well spent.
Republican: Mike Tomlinson
A lifelong Philadelphia resident, Tomlinson has worked as a controller for Nationwide Insurance Company, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, and Prudential Insurance Company. He decided to leave that career to teach math, accounting, and finance classes in the Philadelphia School District before returning to the private sector as an independent consultant.
Tomlinson was a candidate for the state Senate in 2012 and the state House of Representatives in 2014. Currently, he serves as a certified public accountant.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Sallie Updyke Mundy, who was unanimously appointed to fill a vacancy in the state Supreme Court by the Senate last year, is seeking a full term. Her Democratic opponent, Dwayne Woodruff, is a judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
Two Supreme Court justices face retention votes this election cycle: Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justice Debra Todd. This is a yes or no vote that takes place after th first 10-year term. Supreme Court justices approved by voters will serve another 10-year term, with 75 as the mandatory retirement age.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention evaluates judicial candidates to help voters decide about candidates for judicial office. The commission’s evaluations are based on criteria such as legal ability, experience, temperament, administrative ability, integrity, and devotion to improvement of the quality of justice.
Republican: Sallie Updyke Mundy
Mundy received her college and law school education in western Pennsylvania, at Washington and Jefferson College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
She served as a volunteer public defender before she was elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2010. Her work in the Superior Court helped her land a seat in the Supreme Court.
Mundy is “highly recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
Democrat: Dwayne Woodruff
Woodruff earned a degree in business finance from the University of Louisville and a J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law, which he attended full time at night during his 12-year professional football career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Woodruff is currently a judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, presiding primarily in the Family Court Division since 2005.
Woodruff is “recommended” by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
Retention votes (YES/NO): Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, Justice Debra Todd
Saylor, who has been on the Supreme Court bench since 1998, and Justice Debra Todd, since 2008, are both running for retention for another term. This is a yes or no vote. The bar recommends both Saylor and Todd.
Elections in the Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Philadelphia Municipal Court are outlined below, including Pennsylvania Bar Association ratings.
Pennsylvania Superior Court
In the Pennsylvania Superior Court, four seats are up for grabs this election cycle. Voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote for up to four candidates. Just as for the Supreme Court, terms in the Superior Court are 10 years long, with a mandatory retirement age of 75.
- Deborah Kunselman (highly recommended)
- Maria McLaughlin (recommended)
- Geoffrey Moulton Jr. (highly recommended)
- Carolyn Nichols (recommended)
- Emil Giordano (highly recommended)
- Wade Kagarise (recommended)
- Mary Murray (not recommended)
- Craig Stedman (highly recommended)
- Jules Mermelstein (not recommended)
- Republican Jacqueline Shogan (recommended)
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
Every voter, regardless of party affiliation, can vote for up to two of the four candidates running for Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
- Ellen Ceisler (recommended)
- Irene McLaughlin Clark (not recommended)
- Christine Fizzano Cannon (highly recommended)
- Paul N. Lalley (recommended)
Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
Every voter can vote for four candidates.
- Deborah Canty (recommended)
- Shanese Johnson (not recommended)
- Deborah Cianfrani (not recommended)
- Vikki Kristiansson (recommended)
- Lucretia C. Clemons (recommended)
- Zac Shaffer (recommended)
- Mark B. Cohen (not recommended)
- Stella Tsai (recommended)
- Vincent Furlong (recommended)
- Linda A. Carpenter, Ellen H. Ceisler, Michael E. Erdos, Shelley Robins New, Rosalyn K. Robinson and Teresa M. Sarmina.
All judges up for retention for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas are recommended by the bar association.
Philadelphia Municipal Court
Every voter can vote for up to two candidates.
- Marissa Brumbach (recommended)
- Matt Wolf (recommended)
- James M. De Leon, Thomas F. Gehret, Nazario Jimenez Jr., William A. Meehan Jr., Bradley K. Moss, David C. Shuter, Karen Y. Simmons, Joyce O. Webb Eubanks and Marvin L. Williams.
All judges up for retention for the Philadelphia Municipal Court, except for De Leon and Williams, are recommended by the bar.
Mayoral races across the state
Pittsburgh: Democrat Bill Peduto, uncontested
Harrisburg: Democrat Eric Papenfuse, uncontested
- Democrat: Ed Pawlowski (incumbent)
- Republican: Nat Hyman
- Independents: John Ingram, Solomon Tembo
- Democrat: Joe Schember
- Republican: John Persinger
- Democrat: Bill Courtright (incumbent)
- Republican: Jim Mulligan
- Democrat: Kim Bracey (incumbent)
- Republican: Michael Helfrich
- Libertarian: Dave Moser
- Democrat: Don M. Hahn
- Republican: Michael Black
- Independent: Ron Madrid
- Democrat: Danene Sorace
- Republican: Cindy Stewart
- Independents: Tony Dastra, Zachary Nesbitt, John S. “Woody” Chandler
Committee of 70 has information on these ballot questions.
Homestead property tax assessment exclusion (statewide)
A statewide ballot question about a homestead property tax assessment exclusion would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution. If the question is voted up, the state Legislature could pass a law to let local governments exclude the entire assessed value of each primary residence from taxation. (Currently they can exclude up to 50 percent of the median assessed valuation of all properties in their jurisdiction, though few have done so.) This would reduce or eliminate residential property taxes in those jurisdictions.
City bond question (Philadelphia only)
This city bond question asks if Philadelphia should be allowed to borrow $172 million through a bond issue to spend on: transit; streets and sanitation; municipal buildings; parks, recreation and museums; and economic and community development.
Polls will be open to New Jersey voters from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Find your polling place by typing your address into the New Jersey Department of State website.
Below are some details about the gubernatorial election, Senate races, and several school board elections.
Republican: Kim Guadagno
Guadagno is currently the lieutenant governor and secretary of state of New Jersey. She is the state’s first lieutenant governor. Prior to this post, she was an assistant U.S. attorney, and, in 2007 she was elected as the first woman to be sheriff of Monmouth County.
As lieutenant governor, Guadagno oversees the state’s economic development strategy, New Jersey Partnership for Action, which has helped attract and retain hundreds of companies to come to or stay in New Jersey.
According to her website, Guadagno wants to fix the state’s transportation and transit infrastructure by eliminating the political panel that decides on transportation spending. She plans to create a funding formula that prioritizes projects based on need, congestion relief, safety, and economic development.
Additionally, Guadagno wants to create a friendlier environment for New Jersey’s veterans by lowering the veteran unemployment rate to the state average and lowering the rates of homelessness and suicide.
Other topics of her platform include fixing state pensions and health benefits; cutting property taxes; auditing Trenton; improving state education; growing jobs; promoting ethics and transparency in state government; and tackling the opioid epidemic.
Guadagno was criticized last month for a television ad that attacked Democratic nominee Phil Murphy for wanting to make New Jersey a sanctuary state. The ad takes a Murphy’s slogan, “A governor who has your back,” and states “Make no mistake, Murphy will have the backs of deranged murderers.”
Guadagno’s running mate is Carlos Rendo, the mayor of Woodcliff Lake in North Jersey. He’s also a practicing attorney in North Bergen.
Democrat: Phil Murphy
Murphy, a financier and the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, is the Democratic nominee for the governor of New Jersey.
Prior to his time as ambassador, he was the finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee and also worked for Goldman Sachs for more than 20 years.
According to his website, Murphy wants to help grow the state into an “innovation economy” by investing in city transformation infrastructure and reinvesting in higher education and community colleges to make them more affordable.
He also has a focus on STEM education and would provide student loan relief to workers in STEM fields. He has plans for a STEM-oriented K-12 curriculum and an expansion of alternative vocational training and apprenticeship programs.
Murphy has also dedicated a segment of his platform to getting tough on gun violence, favoring legislation to keep guns away from gang members and domestic violence abusers, mandating gun-safety training, promoting smart-gun technology, and taxing gun sales.
Other issues on Murphy’s platform include creating new retirement plans, addressing gender inequality, increasing clean energy, and ending Wall Street’s influence on New Jersey.
Murphy has been criticized for serving as president of Goldman Sachs Asia when the division profited from an investment with a Taiwanese company that had several labor abuse and human rights issues.
His running mate, Sheila Oliver, is from Newark and serves in the state Assembly.
All 40 seats of the State Senate are up for election. Democrats currently hold a 24-16 majority in the state Senate, and Republicans would need to win five seats to gain the majority. However, if Democrats pick up three more seats, they will have the supermajority, allowing them to override gubernatorial vetoes.
All 80 seats in the New Jersey Assembly are up for election. State assembly members are elected to two-year terms. Each of the state’s 40 legislative districts elects two representatives to the General Assembly.
Two of the seven seats on the Brick Township Public Schools school board are up for election on Tuesday. The elected officials will be tasked with hiring a new superintendent.
In Cherry Hill, three of the nine seats on the school board are up for election.
Four of the nine seats on the Edison Township Public Schools school board are up for election.
The Hamilton Township Board of Education has three of its nine seats up for election. Susan Lombardo is the only incumbent who filed for re-election, and she is up against 12 candidates.
Three of the nine seats on the Vineland Public Schools school board are up for election. Cedric Holmes, a board member, is the only incumbent to file for re-election, and he is up against 11 candidates, two of whom are former board members.
Three of the nine seats on the Toms River Regional Schools school board are also up for election. Nine candidates are running for the seats.
In the West-Windsor Plainsboro Regional School District, three of the nine seats on the school board are up for by-district election with two seats in West Windsor and one in Plainsboro.
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