This story originally appeared on Spotlight PA.
Democrats Jill Beck and Timika Lane have defeated Republicans Maria Battista and Harry Smail for two open seats on Pennsylvania’s Superior Court.
The Associated Press called the race for Beck at 11:20 p.m. Tuesday, and for Lane the next morning at 10:40 a.m. Unofficial results show Beck with 28% of the vote and Lane with 25%.
Two sitting judges on Superior Court — Jack Panella and Vic Stabile — also have comfortable margins in favor of their yes-or-no retention elections, though the AP hasn’t formally called those elections. If their victories hold, they will begin additional ten-year terms.
Superior Court cases tend to have a lower profile than the political questions that often go before the Commonwealth and state Supreme Courts. But of the three appellate courts, Superior is the one that an average Pennsylvanian is likeliest to interact with.
The 15-member panel considers criminal, civil, and family cases that are appealed from lower courts such as the Courts of Common Pleas. Its decisions can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Some cases do end up being high-profile. Notable examples include the court’s decision to vacate decade-old gun and drug charges against rapper Meek Mill, its decisions in the long child abuse case against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, and its handling of actor Bill Cosby’s sexual abuse case.
When the winning judges are sworn in next year, there will be nine Democrats and six Republicans serving on the bench.
Judges on Pennsylvania’s appellate courts run for election in statewide, partisan races. While they form political action committees and collect donations to win office, they are governed by stricter rules than most political candidates: They aren’t allowed to solicit those donations directly, and they can’t promise potential supporters that they will rule a certain way.
The Democratic candidates outraised the Republican hopefuls. Between the beginning of 2022 and Oct. 23 of this year, when candidates filed their final full campaign finance reports, Jill Beck brought in more than $1.4 million — the most donations of the four candidates. That total includes some cash rolled over from her unsuccessful 2021 campaign.
The Democratic candidates received much of their support from labor unions, party-affiliated PACs, and a PAC run by the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, while Republicans were likewise bolstered by organizations affiliated with their party’s political leaders.