Election guide: Amendments and judgeships on the ballot


Students line up to vote in Posvar Hall last November. (Photo by John Hamilton / Managing Editor)

By Rachel Glasser / News Editor

It’s election day in Pittsburgh — but don’t expect campus polling stations to be as crowded as last year’s election.

Mayor Bill Peduto is running unopposed after winning the Democratic primary in May. And Oakland residents won’t have any decision to make on their city council member — incumbent Dan Gilman is also running unopposed. But eager voters, don’t be remiss — your ballot will be filled with two amendment questions and numerous judgeship positions.

Here’s a quick rundown of who and what you’ll be voting for:


Homestead Exclusion Amendment Ballot

Voting ‘yes’ to this ballot question gives the General Assembly the right to pass a law allowing local taxing authorities to exempt the entire value of each homestead, or primary dwelling, from property taxes — essentially eliminating property taxes. Voting ‘no’ does not allow the General Assembly to grant local taxing authorities this ability.

Proponents of the measure say this will eliminate the possibility of individuals to be displaced from their homes because they are unable to afford property taxes.

Opponents argue the loss of income for the tax jurisdiction will have to be made up with additional taxes added to other sectors. Opponents also argue the measure could negatively affect local control and execution of education.

Yes – For the Measure

No – Against the Measure


Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter Amendment

City of Pittsburgh employees can currently only hold one compensated job with the city — with certain established exceptions. Voting ‘yes’ to this measure would add part-time public school athletic coaching and part-time teaching at public institutions of higher education as exceptions — allowing city employees to be paid for both positions.

Yes — For the Measure

No — Against the Measure


Justice of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Pennsylvania comprised of seven members. Justices serve for terms of 10 years. Two candidates — Sallie Mundy and Dwayne Woodruff — will compete for a seat on the bench. Two other sitting justice will be up for a retention (yes or no) vote for successive terms.

Sallie Mundy (R)

Mundy was appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in June 2016 to fill a vacancy. She served on the Pennsylvania Superior Court from 2010 to 2016. Because of the “depth and diversity of her legal background, the devotion and hard work she has shown at all her endeavors, and her collegiality on the bench” the PA Bar Association gave her the rating of “highly recommended.”

Dwayne Woodruff (D)

Woodruff has served as a judge of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas since 2005, dealing mainly with family and juvenile matters. Because of his “strong work ethic and unquestioned integrity” the PA Bar Association gave him a rating of “recommended.”

Debra Todd (D)

Debra Todd served eight years on the Superior Court and has served ten years on the Supreme Court. The PA Bar Association recommended her for retention.

Thomas Saylor (R)

Saylor joined the Supreme Court as a justice in 1998 and has served as Chief Justice since 2015. The PA Bar Association recommended him for retention.


Judge of the Superior Court

The Superior Court is the other Pennsylvania’s two intermediate appellate courts. The court reviews most of the civil and criminal cases appealed from the Courts of Common Pleas and consists of 15 judges who serve 10-year terms. Every voter may vote for up to four candidates in addition to voting for or against the retention of Jacqueline Shogan.

Geoffrey Moulton Jr. (D)

Moulton was sworn into the Superior Court of Pennsylvania as a judge in August 2016, and prior to his appointment he had extensive trial work experience. Because of Moulton’s “legal ability, experience, integrity and temperament” the PA Bar Association “highly recommends” him for the Superior Court.

Debra Kunselman (D)

Kunselman is an administrative judge for the Civil Division of the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas and has served on the court since 2005. Because of “her experience as a practicing attorney, extensive teaching experience, proven record of judicial leadership and strong dedication to improving the quality of justice,” the PA Bar Association “highly recommends” her candidacy.

Maria McLaughlin (D)

McLaughlin has been a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas family law judge since 2012. According to her PA Bar Association evaluation, she is “noted for her patience and fairness to litigants and lawyers who appear before her.” The association “recommends” her candidacy.

Carolyn Nichols (D)

Nichols was elected to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in 2011 and during her time on the bench she has overseen exclusively criminal matters. Because of Nichols’ “strong reputation, experience and judicial temperament,” the PA Bar Association “recommends” her candidacy.

Emil Giordano (R)

Giordano has served on the Court of Common Pleas since 2004 after being retained for a second 10-year term in 2013. Because of his “broad experience a practicing attorney, proven record of judicial leadership, high ethical standards and dedication to the legal profession” the PA bar association “highly recommended” him.

Wade Kargarise (R)

Kagarise has served as a judge on the Blair County Court of Common Pleas since 2013, and as such has dealt with civil and criminal cases as well as case regarding family matters. According to his PA bar association evaluation, “Although the candidate has limited time on the bench, the attorneys who practice before him agree that he has developed a judicial demeanor that will serve him well on the appellate court.” The association “recommends” his candidacy.

Mary Murray (R)

Murray has served as a Magisterial District Judge for 13 years, ruling on civil, criminal, traffic and non-traffic cases. She was rated as “not recommended” by the PA Bar Association because she did not participate in the evaluation process.

Craig Stedman (R)

Stedman has served at the Lancaster County district attorney since 2007. Because of his “intelligence, commitment to fairness and high ethical standard,” the PA Bar Association “highly recommends” his candidacy.

Jules Mermelstein (Green)

Mermelstein has been a Pennsylvania lawyer since 1980 and also taught U.S. history, government and economics in Pennsylvania public schools. Mermelstein was “not recommended” by the PA Bar Association for failure to participate because he announced his candidacy after the Bar Association completed its evaluation process.

Jacqueline Shogan (R)

Shogan is up for a retention (yes or no) vote. She has served on the Superior Court since 2008. The PA Bar association recommended her for retention.


Judge of the Commonwealth Court

The Commonwealth Court deals with legal matters involving state and local government and regulatory agencies, covering topics such as banking, laws affecting taxation, land use, elections, among others. The court is two of PA’s statewide intermediate appellate courts and is comprised of nine judges who serve 10-year terms. Each voter may vote for up to two candidates.

Christine Cannon (R)

Cannon has served as a judge on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas since 2012 while also serving as pretrial judge. The PA Bar Association said Cannon’s “extensive civic activities add depth to her illustrious legal career,” and the association “highly recommends” her candidacy.

Irene M. Clark (D)

Clark has held a number of position handling civil litigation and divorce and custody proceedings. She served on the Pittsburgh Municipal Court from 1993 to 2003. The PA Bar Association wrote in its evaluation that she admitted she has “limited experience as a trial or appellate advocate and no experience in writing briefs or opinions.” For her “minimal experience,” the Bar Association rated her as “not recommended.”

Ellen H. Ceisler (D)

Ceisler has served as a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for nine years. For her administrative experience and judicial temperament of “fairness, thoroughness, independence and integrity,” the PA Bar Association “recommends” her candidacy.

Paul N. Lalley (R)

Lalley graduated from law school in 1996, after which he served as a clerk to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice. He has been in private practice since them. Because of Lalley’s “legal ability, temperament and awareness of the importance of the rule of law,” the PA Bar Association “recommends” Lalley.


Court of Common Pleas Judge

The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas is a trial court with general jurisdiction over the county. Judges serve 10-year terms. Four judges are running for retention — Kelly Eileen Bigley, Cathleen Cawood Bubash, Michael E. McCarthy, Jack McVay, Jr. Three other candidates are running for election.

David Spurgeon

Gov. Wolf appointed Spurgeon to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on June 13, 2016. He is running for re-election and was “highly recommended” by the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Patrick Connelly

Connelly has more than 20 years of experience as a trial attorney and has experience in civil, criminal, family law matters and civil litigation. He was “highly recommended” by the Allegheny County Bar Association for his breadth of experience.

Mary C. McGinley

McGinley has practiced law for almost 15 years at Meyer, Unkovic and Scott, LLP. She serves as a partner in the firm and a member of the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group. The Allegheny County Bar Association “recommends” her.

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