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GOP sweep, lawmaker 'slush fund' & toxic hot spots

Plus, secret Pa. rally drew noted white supremacists.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

November 4, 2021 | spotlightpa.org

Electoral outlook, key results, white nationalists, toxic hotspots, ethical queries, Scranton strike, defamation claim, police stops, and 'unjustifiable' expenses.
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Republicans swept Pennsylvania's key judicial races in Tuesday's balloting and made gains in local races from Bucks County to Erie, sounding alarm bells for Democrats ahead of next year's statewide races for governor and U.S. Senate. 

In the pivotal contest for an opening on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, Angela Couloumbis and Danielle Ohl report Republican Kevin Brobson edged out Democrat Maria McLaughlin, ending a contentious race marked by negative ads and big campaign spending.

Brobson's victory won't change the balance of power on the high court, but it staves off a furthering of a Democratic majority with key cases in the wings. It also serves as a potent symbol amid GOP efforts to erode the court's progressive bent.

In other judiciary news: The race for state Superior Court, which handles civil and criminal appeals, went to Republican Megan Sullivan, while contests for Commonwealth Court, the venue for suits involving state agencies, went to Republicans Stacy Wallace and Drew Crompton.

And finally, Tuesday's balloting included a slew of important local races from Pittsburgh to Allentown, and Erie to Bucks County

But Ethan Edward Coston reports tracking the money behind local candidates is harder than you'd think — and harder than it should be, experts say. 

That's because Pennsylvania counties — the repositories of such financial disclosures — aren't required to post them online, and many don't.

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said doing so would reduce work for them and taxpayers

Keep scrolling for more local election results.

Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA
"Who the Republican Party didn't beat was her husband, powerbroker Jonathan Saidel. He solely raised as much money sitting on a bar stool in their condo as all their special interests groups combined."

—Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Maria McLaughlin's campaign touting her husband's fundraising prowess after Tuesday's loss
Some Pennsylvania providers already have Pfizer's child vaccine (ages 5-11) and more will soon as plans to scale up to full capacity start next week; Gov. Tom Wolf's offer of five days paid time off to state employees who get vaccinated could cost $100 million, the state's treasurer says; and two Lancaster police officers were fired over forged vaccination cardsKeep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
» CANNABIS CONUNDRUM: Join us Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. EST via Zoom for a free Q&A on cannabis as a treatment for opioid use disorder, the debate in the medical community, and a look at what the research says. Register here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
While statewide races for Pennsylvania's high courts drew copious amounts of attention and money in this election, important local races were on ballots, too — reflecting running culture wars, political shifts, and a diversifying state.

Here are a few notable results, organized by county.

  • Republican Brenton Davis won the race for county executive over Democrat Tyler Titus, Pennsylvania's first openly trans elected official; the post has overwhelmingly been held by Democrats since the 1970s
  • Democrat Thom Welby won the special election for the state House seat previously held by his former boss, Marty Flynn
  • Allentown voters rejected a measure that would have removed English as the city's official language, and elected the city's first Latino mayor
  • In the race for county executive, incumbent Democrat Lamont McClure won against Republican Steve Lynch, who previously threatened school board members over school mask rules and who responded to Tuesday's loss with an accusatory Facebook post
  • Races for county council were too close to call but leaned toward Democrats maintaining a narrow majority
HATE WATCH: A historic barn just outside Lancaster city housed some of the nation's most notorious white nationalists last year for a rally announcing the creation of a new, tailor-made political party, LancasterOnline found. Experts say the location doesn't surprise them.

HOT SPOTS: There are two Pennsylvania sites — one in York and one in East Greenville — on ProPublica's nationwide map of cancer-causing industrial air pollution hotspots. EPA data show more than 1,000 toxic zones in the U.S. where cancer risks can be significantly elevated.

'SLUSH FUNDS': U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Butler) is one of three federal lawmakers hit with an ethics complaint over spending habits that experts say circumvent legal limits, the Post-Gazette reports. Meanwhile, a stock buy by Kelly's wife has spurred an ethics probe of its own.

ON STRIKE: Scranton teachers have taken their years-long push for better wages and benefits to the picket line. Monday negotiations between the teachers union and district failed, leading to a raucous public meeting and Scranton's second teacher strike in six years, per FOX56.

SLANDER SUIT: A voting machine warehouse supervisor from Delaware County is suing former President Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, and other Big Lie purveyors, saying their allegations of a stolen election in Pennsylvania baselessly defamed his character, per Politico.

» AP: Philly becomes largest U.S. city to ban low-level traffic stops

» THE CAUCUS: Critic blasts Pa. senator's 'unjustifiable' monthly stipend

» THE EXPRESS: Layoff notice given to 26 PASSHE faculty amid mergers

» WESA: Pa. high court rejects Allegheny County eviction ban extension

» WITF: Contested plan could mean more migrants than ever held in Pa.
Send your answers to riddler@spotlightpa.org. Love the riddler? Chip in and become a member of Spotlight PA so we can keep the good times rolling.

MILE MARKERS (Case No. 117)A car's odometer shows 72,927 miles, a palindromic number. What is the minimum number of miles you would need to travel beyond 72,927 miles to form another palindromic number?

Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: Samantha lives in the southern hemisphere. (Find last week's clue here.)

Congrats to Mercedes Y., who will receive Spotlight PA swag. Others who answered correctly: Dan H., George S., Rebecca D., Philip C., Ed N., Jeff P., Alice O., Alberta V., Deborah D., Michael H., Michele M., Judy A., Hagan H., Annette I., George S., Jeffrey F., Sylvia N., Lois P., David T., Karen K., Irene T., Fred O., Joseph M., John H., Beverly M., Shawn T., Burnetta S., Lynda G., Kenneth J., Bruce B., William D., Deborah L., Beth T., Jyotin S., Josephine D., Joel S., Ken S., Anthony E., Norman S., Michelle T., Eileen D., Seth Z., Dennis F., Robert K., Barbara O., Marvin S., Barbara M., Daniel D., Gerry W., Thomas D., and Elizabeth W.
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