District attorney primary highlights Tuesday election

Pennsylvania's primary election takes place Tuesday, May 16. Polls open at 7am and close at 8pm. The election will be statewide, but people in Philadelphia will have many choices to make. This list has been made to help avoid surprises and ensure the process runs smoothly.

According to the Committee of Seventy, registered Democrats and Republicans in Philadelphia will choose their parties' candidates for District Attorney, Controller, 9 seats on Philadelphia County's Court of Common Pleas, 2 seats on the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and Election officials (Judge of Elections and Inspectors of Election) in each of the city's 1,686 voting divisions. Those alone are more than 5,000 positions.


The most contested race seems to be Democrats running for DA, to replace indicted Seth Williams who is neither running for reelection nor resigning. The trial in his federal bribery case is now expected to start June 19. It involves charges he promised legal favors in exchange for $100,000 worth of cash and gifts.

According to the Committee of Seventy, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is one of the largest prosecutor's offices in the country, serving more than 1.5 million people. It investigates and prosecutes violations of city and state law within Philadelphia (some 75,000 cases yearly). The office has an annual budget of more than $50 million and a staff of nearly 600 people, including lawyers, detectives and support staff. The Philadelphia District Attorney's salary was $175,572 in 2016.

You may already be familiar with the candidates' names, since several have been running TV commercials. The 7 Democrats running for the nomination (in alphabetical order) are Teresa Carr Deni, Tariq El-Shabazz, Joe Khan, Lawrence Krasner, Rich Negrin, Jack O'Neill, Michael Untermeyer. The lone Republican with a lock on her party's nomination is Beth Grossman. Click here for Committee of Seventy biographies, and links to websites, and Facebook and Twitter pages.


The City Controller is the chief auditor of Philadelphia's financial affairs, required to conduct annual audits of every city office and agency, including the School District, and it authorizes recommendations for improving the efficiency and economy of City government. The controller's salary was $133,596 in 2016.

The Democratic candidates are Alan Butkovitz and Rebecca Rhynhart, and the Republican candidate is Mike Tomlinson. Like above, click here for Committee of Seventy biographies, and links to websites, and Facebook and Twitter pages.

PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS: The Courts of Common Pleas are Pennsylvania's courts of general trial jurisdiction. In Philadelphia, it consists of 90 judges currently assigned as follows: Trial Division, 67; Family Court Division, 20; and Orphans' Court Division, 3. The Court of Common Pleas is supervised by a President Judge who is elected for a five-year term by the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas.

Registered Democrats and Republicans can vote for up to 9 Common Pleas Court candidates in their party's primary. The Democrats have 27 candidates - Wendi Barish, Terri M. Booker, Lawrence J. Bozzelli, Deborah Canty, Deborah Cianfrani, Lucretia C. Clemons, Mark B. Cohen, David Conroy, Leonard Deutchman, Vincent Furlong (also running as a Republican), Leon Goodman, Shanese Johnson, Vikki Kristiansson, John Macoretta, Rania Major, Jon Marshall, Brian McLaughlin, Vincent Melchiorre, Mark J. Moore, Danyl S. Patterson, Crystal B. Powell, Bill Rice, Jennifer Schultz, Zac Shaffer, Henry McGregor Sias, Daniel R. Sulman, and Stella Tsai -- and the Republicans have one -- Vincent Furlong (also running as a Democrat).

PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT: The Philadelphia Municipal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, with 25 law-trained Judges, and is responsible for trying criminal offenses carrying maximum sentences of incarceration of five years or less, civil cases in which the amount is $10,000 or less for Small Claims; unlimited dollar amounts in Landlord and Tenant cases; and $15,000 in real-estate and school-tax cases. The Municipal Court has initial jurisdiction in processing every adult criminal arrest in Philadelphia, and conducts preliminary hearings for most adult felony cases.

Six Democrats are running -- Marissa Brumbach, Jon Marshall, Bill Rice, Sherman Toppin, George Twardy, and Matt Wolf -- but no Republicans.


All Philadelphia voters (not just those registered with a party) will be able to vote on two ballot questions. The first proposed to amend the Home Rule Charter to allow "best value" procurement; the second would create a Community Reinvestment Commission coordinate neighborhood redevelopment efforts in the city.

Click here to read the complete ballot questions which all Philadelphia voters can decide on.

Best Value Procurement: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to allow for the award of certain contracts based on best value to the City?

Community Reinvestment Commission: Shall The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for the creation of a Philadelphia Community Reinvestment Commission to be charged with recommending coordinated community reinvestment strategies for the City of Philadelphia by identifying opportunities for public, private, and philanthropic entities to collaborate and leverage their resources for the public good?

STATEWIDE, registered Democrats and Republicans throughout Pennsylvania will choose their parties' candidates for 1 seat on Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, 4 seats on Pennsylvania's Superior Court, and 2 seats on Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Court.

For Supreme Court, Democratic candidate Dwayne Woodruff is up against Republican candidate Sallie Updyke Mundy.

For Superior Court, the Democrats are Bill Caye, Debra Kunselman, Maria McLaughlin, Geoffrey Moulton Jr., and Carolyn Nichols; and the Republicans are Emil Giordano, Wade Kagarise, Mary Murray, Paula Patrick, and Craig Stedman.

For Commonwealth Court, the Democrats are Bryan Barbin, Timothy Barry, Ellen Ceisler, Irene McLaughlin Clark, Joseph Cosgrove, and Todd Eagan; and the Republicans are Christine Fizzano Cannon and Paul Lally.

PHILADELPHIA ELECTION BOARD OFFICIALS are the poll workers at your local polling place. According to the Committee of Seventy, there are 1,686 voting divisions in Philadelphia, each staffed with a five-member Election Board, but only three of these positions are elected: the Judge of Elections and two Inspectors of Election. The fourth and fifth Election Board members - the Clerk and Machine Inspector - are both appointed. Click here for more details on those positions.

The Committee of Seventy urges voters to review candidates and ballot questions before heading to the polls. Click here to try Seventy's new Ballot Tool to build and share your ballot ahead of Election Day. The platform is powered by BallotReady's CivicEngine, a new resource for nonpartisan voter information.

Click here to see a sample Philadelphia ballot.

Tuesday is the deadline to register to participate in New Jersey's June 6 primary election.