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November 06, 2023

2023 election roundup: Brian O'Neill wins 12th term on Philadelphia City Council, statewide judicial races go to Democrats

Jamie Gauthier also won reelection in her district, and Democrat Dan McCaffery's win in the state Supreme Court race solidifies the party's majority

2023 Election Politics
2023 election results MICHAEL CANDELORI/for PhillyVoice

In Tuesday's election, two district seats in Philadelphia City Council are up for grabs. Voters also will choose judges for key positions in Pennsylvania's courts.

Philadelphia City Council had two district seats up for grabs on Tuesday and both were retained by their incumbents. Voters also chose among judges vying for several key positions in Pennsylvania's statewide courts.

In Philly's 10th district, Republican Brian O'Neill defeated Democrat Gary Masino. In the 3rd District, Democrat Jamie Gauthier beat Jabari Jones of the West Is Best Party. Both of those races were called by the Associated Press around 10 p.m. 

In the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Democrat Daniel McCaffery scored a key victory giving the party a 5-2 majority.  Democrat Jill Beck won one of two Superior Court judgeships and Matt Wolf, another Democrat, won the judicial election for the Commonwealth Court. These elections are expected to have important implications for abortion rights in the state.

MORE 2023 ELECTION COVERAGE: Cherelle Parker and David Oh poised to make history in Philly mayoral election on Tuesday | Will Republicans retain at least one minority seat in Philadelphia City Council at-large election?

The results for City Council's district races and the judicial elections are shown below with the latest available vote counts. All results are unofficial until certified by the city and state. 

Philadelphia City Council – 10th District

The election in the 10th District — covering most of Northeast Philadelphia — featured a challenge to longtime Republican incumbent Brian O'Neill. He's faced Democratic union leader Gary Masino, a moderate who hoped to unseat O'Neill with support from the Northeast's blue collar voters.

O'Neill, the only Republican on City Council entering Tuesday's election, has served the 10th district since 1980. He's fended off multiple challenges from Democrats over the years. Masino is the leader of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 and draws considerable support from the building trades unions.

Ten of City Council's 17 seats are elected based on geographic districts. The other seven seats are filled by at-large council members, who are chosen in a separate election. The city's charter requires at least two of the at-large seats to be reserved for non-majority parties — historically Republicans.

The GOP already is outnumbered in Philadelphia by about 7-to-1 registered voters. In recent years, the party has been squeezed by the emergence of the progressive Working Families Party, which has some political overlap with the Democrats. Republicans held both of the at-large council seats uninterrupted for 70 years until Kendra Brooks won one of them in 2019 as a member of the Working Families Party. 

Both O'Neill and Masino campaigned as moderates in their respective parties. O'Neill has long held the support of Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, whose ranks are are well-represented in the neighborhoods of Northeast Philly.

Philadelphia City Council — 3rd District

The 3rd District covers neighborhoods in West and Southwest Philadelphia including University City, Powelton Village, Mantua, Cobbs Creek and Kingsessing. 

Incumbent Democrat Jamie Gauthier faced a third-party challenge from Jabari Jones of the West Is Best party. Jones represents small businesses along commercial corridors in West Philly and chose to run against Gauthier to bring an alternative approach to council. He withdrew from the Democratic primary earlier this year due to a legal challenge to his campaign paperwork, but opted to run as a third-party candidate in Tuesday's general election. His campaign called for upgrades in crime-fighting technology — such as more security cameras and better forensics — as well as sending more criminal cases to the state attorney general for tougher prosecution.

Gauthier, who's now serving her first term in City Council, campaigned on issues such as affordable housing and gun violence prevention in hard-hit neighborhoods of West Philly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she played a role in establishing tenant protections against eviction and a diversion process to reach agreements instead of sending such matters to court. She also has campaigned for improvements to city services and investments in addressing quality of life concerns.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme plays a crucial role in deciding matters such as reproductive rights, election law and procedural deadlocks in the state legislature.

The key judicial race this year is to fill the vacancy left by the death of late Justice Max Baer last September.  Superior Court Judge Daniel McCaffery, a Democrat from Philadelphia, was projected to beat Montgomery County Court President Judge Carolyn Carluccio, a Republican, according to the Associated Press. The race cost more than $22 million, setting a state record for a high court election, the AP reported.

McCaffery, who began his career in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, was elected to Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2019. He's a military veteran and Temple University graduate. McCaffery also pledges to approach cases with a non-partisan perspective and has compared his judicial philosophy to that of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. 

Carluccio faced heavy skepticism from Democrats who contended she would roll back abortion rights in Pennsylvania, emboldened by last year's U.S. Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade.. Carluccio claimed that she is a proponent of judicial neutrality, the view that judges must set aside their personal opinions even when issues and cases are highly politicized.

Pennsylvania Superior Court

The Pennsylvania Superior Court is the appellate court that handles all criminal and some civil appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas. Two Republicans and two Democrats are vying for two open judgeships on the 15-member court.

The Republican ticket includes Harry Smail, a judge in Westmoreland County, and Clarion County attorney Maria Battista. Smail, originally a bench appointee of former Gov. Tom Corbett, has handled a variety of cases on the Court of Common Pleas. His rulings have shaped the application of laws related to land use, energy exploration and the Second Amendment. Battista is a former assistant district attorney who served as counsel in the state department and health department. She also was a hearing examiner who presided over hundreds of cases involving the state corrections department.

On the Democratic side are Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Timika Lane and Pittsburgh private practice attorney Jill Beck. Both candidates previously ran unsuccessfully for Superior Court in 2021.

In her campaign materials, Lane says her judicial philosophy is based on respect and dignity for all people regardless of their backgrounds and identities. Beck spent the early part of her career advocating for troubled young women and later represented abused and neglected kids in court proceedings. She's a pro-choice candidate who also supports the rights of LGBTQ people.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is made of nine judges who have jurisdiction over administrative and civil public law. Like the Superior Court, it's an intermediate appellate court. It's currently made up of three Democrats and five Republicans, with one vacancy to be filled in Tuesday's election (former Republican judge Kevin Brobson was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2021).

Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Matt Wolf, a Democrat, defeated Republican attorney Megan Martin, the Associated Press reported. 

Wolf is a former civil rights lawyer who spent much of his career fighting against housing discrimination. He's had a long military career and continues to serve in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He's currently the supervising civil judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court and helped establish the city's eviction diversion program during the. COVID-19 pandemic.

Martin, who lives in Cumberland County, recently served as the state Senate's secretary-parliamentarian managing the chamber's legislative process. She also formerly served as an attorney for the U.S. Navy.