Stink bombs in Supreme Court race, and Chaka’s broke

    The first negative ads have appeared in the high-stakes race for three posts on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. They come from an independent group calling itself Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform.

    The ads attack all three Republican candidates. They slam Adams County Judge Michael George as being soft on crime (see above),  Superior Court Judge Judith Olson as being anti-abortion rights, and Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey as lacking integrity.

    The ads drew a sharp rebuke from the watchdog group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

    “Negative ads like these serve no purpose other than to discourage voters from seriously evaluating judicial candidates by using scare tactics such as selective editing and ominous voice overs,” said Executive Director Lynn Marks. “All Supreme Court candidates should publicly and immediately denounce the ads and their content and ask Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform to remove the ads.”

    As we’ve reported, Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform is funded mostly by trial lawyers and unions, which are the strongest backers of the three Democratic candidates in the race. The group had raised about $360,000 as of Sept. 14.

    The three Democratic candidates had raised a combined $5.3 million as of that date, compared with about $1.4 million for Republicans. The next campaign finance reports are due Friday.

    The Pennsylvania race is getting national attention from those who follow court races, including Justice at Stake, which tracks spending in judicial races.

    “As expected, the TV ad war in Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court election is heating up as we get closer to Election Day,” said Liz Seaton, the group’s interim executive director of Justice at Stake. “A final onslaught of ads from all sides is highly likely in upcoming weeks.”

    You can see the back-up material Pennsylvanians for Judicial Reform provided for its claims here.

    Chaka: Busted in more ways than one?

    Philadelphia Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah is facing a re-election battle next spring, running while under a federal corruption indictment.

    One thing you’d think a candidate in his position would want to do is raise a big war chest to discourage potential rivals.

    But campaign finance reports for the 3rd quarter of 2015 were due last week, and they showed Fattah’s coffers just about empty. He reported a campaign fund balance of $2,607, with debts of $1,785.

    Compare that with the $164,315 that one of his rivals, Dan Muroff, reports on hand.

    What gives?

    Fattah has only run one competitive race in 20 years (the 2007 mayor’s race), so he’s probably a little out of practice raising money. And he has some personal distractions at the moment, including his own defense, and the trial of his son Chaka, Jr., on fraud charges, which began last week.

    I reached Fattah this morning, who said his next campaign report, due in December will look different.

    “Right now, I’m focused on doing my job,” Fattah said. “I’ve never been involved in a perpetual campaign.” Fattah said his potential rivals will have plenty to do just to get to know the district and make themselves known. The primary is April 26th of next year.

    Muroff, by the way is the Democratic leader of the 9th ward in Philadelphia. There are two other candidates. Lower Merion Township Commissioner Brian Gordon’s committee reported $18,200 on hand. Philadelphia State Rep. Brian Sims just entered the race and has no fundraising to report.

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