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Crunching the numbers: Comparing the Pa. Supreme court elections of 2023 and 2021

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Crunching the numbers: Comparing the Pa. Supreme court elections of 2023 and 2021

Nov 13, 2023 | 6:00 am ET
By John Cole
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Crunching the numbers: Comparing the Pa. Supreme court elections of 2023 and 2021
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Judge Daniel McCaffery

Judge Dan McCaffery flipped three Pennsylvania counties from red to blue in his successful campaign for Supreme Court, in what’s likely to end up being the most expensive judicial race in Pennsylvania history. It was the state’s first post-Roe judicial election, and reproductive rights groups spent time and resources painting Republican Carolyn Carluccio as anti-abortion, a very different environment than the one that allowed Republican Kevin Brobson to win a seat on the court in 2021. 

According to unofficial returns from the Pennsylvania Department of State as of Friday, McCaffery received more than 1.63 million votes, or 53.4% while Carluccio received just over 1.43 million votes, or or 46.6% of the total. McCaffery’s victory was the largest margin of victory of the statewide judicial races this cycle, at 6.72%.

In 2021, Brobson defeated Maria McLaughlin 50.4% to 49.6%

Increased voter turnout, gains made in the densely populated Philadelphia suburbs, Lehigh Valley, and sections of south-central Pennsylvania helped propel McCaffery to victory. 

Allegheny and Philadelphia counties spurred higher-than-usual turnout for an off-year election

According to unofficial returns, 3,061,867 votes were cast in the 2023 Supreme Court race, while the total turnout for the 2021 Supreme Court race was 2,769,282. 

In 2023, McCaffery won 13 counties, while McLaughlin carried 11 counties in 2021. 

Here are the counties McCaffery won, and the margin of victory.

  • Allegheny (25%) 
  • Berks (2.4%)
  • Bucks (10.7%) 
  • Centre (3.7%) 
  • Chester (17.6%)
  • Dauphin (5.2%)
  • Delaware (23.6%)
  • Lackawanna (16.3%)
  • Lehigh (14%)
  • Monroe (6.8%)
  • Montgomery (31.1%)
  • Northampton (14.2%)
  • Philadelphia (67.2%). 

 

Of those, there are three counties that flipped from red to blue between 2021 and 2023: Berks, Bucks, and Dauphin counties. 

Berks County: 

In 2023, McCaffery won by 2.4%. In 2021, Brobson won by 14.5%. That’s a 16.9% shift in the Democrats’ favor. 

Bucks County: 

In 2023, McCaffery won by 10.7%, while Brobson won by just 2.1% in 2021, a 12.8% shift. 

Dauphin County: 

In 2023, McCaffery won by 5.2%, while Brobson won by 3.5% in 2021. 

One county shifted from blue-to-red in 2023: Erie County, where Carluccio won by 1.1%. McLaughlin won Erie County by 14.6% in 2021. 

McCaffery had a larger margin of victory than McLaughlin in 48 counties, while Carluccio outperformed Brobson in 19 counties. 

McCaffery outperformed McLaughlin by double digits in 14 counties: 

  • Berks (16.9%) 
  • Bucks (12.8%)
  • Delaware (12.7%)
  • Lancaster (12%)
  • Northampton (12%)
  • Perry (11.9%)
  • Lehigh (11.8%)
  • Cumberland (11.7%)
  • Snyder (11%)
  • Pike (10.8%)
  • Montgomery (10.3%)
  • Adams (10.3%)
  • Chester (10.1%)
  • Franklin (10%)

Although Carluccio lost, she surpassed Brobson’s 2021 performance by double digits in Greene (17.3%), Huntingdon (17.1%), and Erie (15.7%) counties.

It’s worth noting, however, that the areas where Carluccio made the most improvements are regions that are losing population, while McCaffery made improvements in counties with higher populations. Philadelphia’s mayoral race and Allegheny County Executive and District Attorney, races coupled with several contentious county commissioner races likely helped increase turnout in those areas.

The unrelenting focus on abortion rights, and support for McCaffery from national reproductive rights groups undoubtedly played a role as well. Despite more than $4 million in spending by the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which is backed by Pennsylvania billionaire Jeffery Yass, Carluccio was not able to replicate Brobson’s 2021 success.