The Corner

Re: A Conservative Win in Pennsylvania

As Ramesh indicates, in the blue state of Pennsylvania, which Barack Obama won by more than 10 percentage points, a Republican won a statewide race for a vacancy on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The win by Judge Joan Melvin in a partisan election will tip the balance of the court to four Republicans and three Democrats. Melvin won by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent despite being outspent 3 to 1. Her opponent received a million dollars from a single union and a Philadelphia trial-lawyers organization. Republicans also won both open seats on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court and at least two of the four open seats on the Superior Court (the other two races remain too close to call as I write this).

Melvin’s win has implications for the future of state politics. Pennsylvania has a five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission that handles state legislative redistricting. Two members are Republicans, two members are Democrats, and the fifth member is supposed to be chosen by the other four members. But if those four members can’t agree on a choice, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gets to pick the fifth member. This race was not only another defeat for the Democrats, it was also a defeat for their biggest financial supporters, the trial-lawyers bar. And it means that Republicans may end up in the driver’s seat when it comes to state redistricting after the 2010 Census.

One comment on the three races everyone has paid the most attention to (in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York): The White House/DNC spin is that the results in Virginia and New Jersey were not a comment on the president or his policies. But it should be noted that out of these three elections, the only race the Democrats won was the election in New York, where Obama did not appear and did not participate in trying to help the candidate. He made numerous visits to Virginia and New Jersey, the two states where the Democrats lost.

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