Campaigns & Elections

4 things to watch for on Election Day 2023

City & State outlines the narratives and names to keep an eye on going into Tuesday’s general election

Luzerne County employees raise a banner outside of the elections bureau in Wilkes-Barre in October 2020.

Luzerne County employees raise a banner outside of the elections bureau in Wilkes-Barre in October 2020. SOPA/Getty

We’re less than 24 hours away from polls opening in what’s expected to be a close and contentious Election Day in races throughout the commonwealth. And with voters deciding on everything from statewide judicial elections to local decisions for county commissioners, school boards and even ballot measures – there is a lot of information to take in. 

With so much at stake – and so many decisions to make – City & State has your last-minute guide for what to watch for on Tuesday. 

2024 Harbingers 

Being the battleground state it is, Pennsylvania’s 2023 election can’t be discussed without mentioning the potential impacts its races and results could have in 2024 and beyond. No race has gotten more attention than the one for state Supreme Court between Democratic Superior Court Judge Dan McCaffery and Republican Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Carluccio. The race will not only act as a barometer for national issues – with abortion and voting rights dominating the conversation around this race – but also how the state’s courts may be trending in the coming years. 

In addition to the judicial races, there are key races for county commissioner, district attorney, controller and more spanning from Bucks to Westmoreland County. These countywide elections could go a long way in indicating the state of the suburbs going into 2024 – and which party will be overseeing election operations during the presidential election. 

Money talks

Who says so-called “off-year” elections can’t generate big spending? With appellate court seats on the line, plenty of interested parties have made their voices heard through their wallets this cycle. 

Jeffrey Yass, cofounder of the Susquehanna International Group trading firm, and Richard Uihlein, CEO of the shipping and packing supplies distributor U-Line, are just two of the major donors who have used political action committees to spend money in support of their preferred GOP candidates running for Pennsylvania Supreme Court. According to the most recent campaign finance reports available, Carluccio’s campaign reported receiving more than $2.2 million in in-kind contributions from the Yass-backed Commonwealth Leaders Fund, while The Associated Press reported that a PAC associated with Uihlein, Fair Courts America, spent $735,000 on an ad attacking McCaffery. 

On the Democratic side, McCaffery has found allies in attorneys and labor unions, among other organizations. The group Pennsylvanians for Judicial Fairness has spent roughly $4 million to benefit Democratic judicial candidates, according to Spotlight PA, and a review of political spending data from the Department of State shows that the group has spent more than $2.6 million in support of McCaffery’s bid for the high court. 

Movement in the metro areas

The outcome of both the countywide races in Allegheny and the City Council races in Philadelphia will shine a light on the strength of the progressive movements in the state’s two largest cities – and possibly beyond. In Allegheny County, progressive Democrat Sara Innamorato faces Republican Joe Rockey in the race for county executive. Meanwhile, the county’s top prosecutor, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., running as a Republican after losing the Democratic primary, faces a formidable challenger in Democratic nominee and former chief public defender Matt Dugan.

In the southeast, the Philadelphia Republican Party is hoping to hold onto what dwindling power it has left within the city. With former City Councilmember David Oh on the Republican ticket for mayor, Brian O’Neill – who faces a well-funded challenger in Democrat and labor leader Gary Masino – remains the only incumbent Republican councilmember on the ballot. And in the city’s at-large races for city council, where Republicans hope to maintain at least one of the two non-majority party seats, Working Families Party candidates Kendra Brooks and Nic O’Rourke are running to win both of the non-Democrat seats in City Hall. 

Local Look: Bucks, Delaware and Northampton counties

There are several significant races taking place at the local level – including three on the eastern side of the state. 

In Delaware County, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer – the first Democrat elected district attorney in county history – is facing off against Republican Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski, a former prosecutor in that office. Stefanide-Miscichowski has accused Stollsteimer of having his sights on higher office – with her “secret campaign” claim coming after Stollsteimer appeared at a fundraiser where a post from the Westmoreland County Democrat noted that “Jack Stollsteimer for Attorney General” was a “Gold Star Sponsor.” Stollsteimer has said he is considering a run for attorney general but has not made a decision about entering the race and remains committed to his current position.

In Bucks County, the race for county board of commissioners is expected to be a close battle for control of the three-member board. Democrats Bob Harvie and Diane Marseglia are looking to retain their respective seats on the board as GOP candidates Gene DiGirolamo and Pamela Van Blunk look to flip the body to Republican control.

Further north, in Northampton County, voters will determine the fate of term limit ballot measures in addition to controller and county council seats. Three ballot questions in the county could impose term limits on most county-level elected officials. Voters can vote “yes” to amend the county’s home rule charter to limit county controller and executive to two consecutive terms and limit members of the council to three consecutive terms.