More than a ‘stump speech’: Local orgs to host Montco magisterial judge candidate forum

The Montgomery County Courthouse Plaza in Norristown, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Montgomery County Courthouse Plaza in Norristown, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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School board races are becoming hotly contested political battlegrounds, but Montgomery County residents on Thursday night will have the chance to hear from, and even meet, their magisterial judicial court candidates.

The nonprofit Community Hero Action Group — alongside the NAACP Mainline Branch, Greater Norristown NAACP, Cheltenham Area Branch NAACP, and League of Women Voters of Lower Merion and Narbeth — is hosting a candidate forum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Elmwood Park Zoo.

Masks are required for this nonpartisan event, which will also be livestreamed on Community Hero PA’s Facebook page for those who prefer to watch at home.

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Despite their importance, judicial elections often fly under the radar — especially during an off-year. Nicole McGruder, the executive director of Community Hero Action Group, wants to change that.

“Our main focus is, of course, introducing the public to these candidates and also making sure that folks know that there is an election going on,” McGruder said.

All 13 magisterial candidates were invited. As of Thursday morning, there have only been seven confirmations.

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The candidates will be put through the gauntlet.

“We’ve invited different groups from the area to actually pose questions and the questions really reflect basically the populations that they serve. So, we think it’ll be a little bit more poignant than the candidates coming in and just providing a stump speech,” McGruder said.

Representing an organization that focuses on Black civic engagement, McGruder believes these judicial positions hold an increased level of importance. She cited the fact that Black people are disproportionately jailed at higher rates than people of other races.

“We have to make sure that they see our faces so that they understand that we are watching and that we will be holding folks accountable. So it’s very important for us to get out there and show that we care by attending events like this,” McGruder said.

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