|Panepinto going third-party for the win|
Panepinto going third-party for the win
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto doesn’t want your two-party system.
This week, he became the first Independent candidate on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ballot in about two decades. He says he wants to reform the state’s scandal-ridden court system, a point that’s central to all the other declared candidates’ campaigns , but Panepinto hopes to prove it by running outside the state’s machines.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Panepinto, a Republican who started his career in Philadelphia’s judiciary in 1990. “It was always my vision and dream to be able to reform the court system.”
Considering a statewide court run last winter, Panepinto first went through the Republican state committee process, “a process I’ve hated,” he said. He saw the crowded field collecting for the Supreme Court race, and considered the second-highest court, Superior Court.
Someone suggested that he, as a Philadelphia candidate, run as a Democrat.
“I said, ‘I don’t believe in that kind of thing,’” he said. “So I started to think about it as an Independent.”
Panepinto’s candidacy became official this week when he handed in about 29,000 signatures to the Department of State, nearly doubling the number of signatures required for a third-party candidate to be placed on the ballot. No one challenged the petitions.
Back in January, the Pennsylvania Bar Association gave Panepinto a review of “recommended” for a possible Supreme or Superior court candidacy. The group said he was an “experienced jurist” with a good reputation and noted his work to develop specialty courts and manage “complex litigation matters.”
Traditional election wisdom categorizes independent candidates as long shots, but in this particular race – with three open seats on the state’s highest court and voter disgusted at high-profile court scandals involving both Democrats and Republicans – Panepinto could have a chance.
Discerning clear front-runners is a difficult task. In the primary, each victorious candidate among the Republicans and the Democrats received just 20 to 22 percent of the vote.
Panepinto prefers a system where those who run are non-partisan or cross-filed.
“It’s going to be all name and ballot position,” Panepinto said. “That’s not the way we should elect our judges, if we’re going to elect.”
Since the general election is on Nov. 3, Panepinto has about three months to get the word out about his candidacy. His opponents have been out there since late winter. Whether he can gain steam is anyone’s guess: as always – how much money he can raise will determine how familiar he is to voters when they enter the voting booth… but once there, his name on the ballot offers voters a “none of the above” option that is likely to hold more appeal than ever before.
Regardless, with an unprecedented three open seats on the seven-member bench offering a chance to swing the court in either direction, a wild card candidate makes an already historic election that much more interesting.
Daniels, Mellissa. "Panepinto going third-party for the win." Trib Live.