While it's hard to stoke the interest of Pennsylvanians in sleepy elections, these are the contests in which a person's vote is especially pivotal. With the outcome determined by a relatively small turnout, the value of voting looms larger and gives citizens who show up an outsized voice in picking the winners.
Tuesday's primary is such a case.
Democrats and Republicans will go to the polls to nominate candidates for two state appellate courts -- Superior and Commonwealth -- and for county Common Pleas Courts. Countywide ballots will feature contenders for various row offices, although in Allegheny County the marquee races are for the right to run for county executive.
Municipalities and school districts also have candidates seeking their party's blessing to vie for local offices. In Pittsburgh that means several battles among Democrats for city council and school board nominations.
While those who win on May 17 will have to win again in November to take office, the first step toward filling thousands of elected posts begins this week, and voters should be informed about the candidates.
With that in mind, the Post-Gazette Editorial Board continued its long-standing tradition of interviewing candidates in competitive races statewide and in Allegheny County to make recommendations to its readers. Here is a recap of our endorsements, published over the last four weeks.
County Chief Executive
While we would normally lead with the statewide races, the big focus locally is on Allegheny County executive. Dan Onorato decided not to seek a third term, so both parties can offer a fresh face for Pennsylvania's third most powerful executive office. Rich Fitzgerald, a businessman from Squirrel Hill, is the better shot for the Democrats. His years on council give him a detailed knowledge of the challenges facing the county. D. Raja, a businessman and Mt. Lebanon commissioner, is the best bet for Republicans. His outlook as a pro-small government cost-cutter could set up a high-contrast choice in the fall.
One of the two Republicans seeking a nomination to run for a seat on the intermediate appellate court will face Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David N. Wecht, who is an unopposed Democrat. Victor P. Stabile is a civil litigator from Cumberland County. Despite being a former county GOP chairman, he has the temperament to leave politics at the courthouse door.
A pair of contenders in both parties want to run for one opening on the specialty bench that hears cases involving state and local government, regulatory agencies, labor, insurance, utilities, banking, zoning and taxes. Kathryn Boockvar, a Bucks County attorney who specializes in election, voting rights and discrimination law, deserves the Democrats' support. Paul P. Panepinto, a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge for 20 years, is the better choice for Republicans.
Common Pleas Court
Seven are running to fill two seats on the Allegheny County bench. Most have cross-filed and are seeking the nominations of both parties. The best of the lot are Alex Bicket of Mt. Lebanon, who has been a trial lawyer for 23 years and is a partner in a civil litigation firm, and Daniel J. Konieczka Jr. of Shaler, who prosecuted cases for two decades in the district attorney's office and now is a partner in a criminal defense firm. They are the only two who were rated "highly recommended" by the Allegheny County Bar Association and both deserve Democratic and Republican votes.
One of three Democrats will face unopposed Republican Robert Howard in the fall to become the county's next fiscal watchdog. Best for the party would be Valerie McDonald Roberts of Churchill, manager of the county's real estate department and former city school board member, city councilwoman and county recorder of deeds.
Republicans have a contest in the nomination for an at-large seat, and trial attorney Heather Heidelbaugh of Mt. Lebanon is the better choice. Democrats have a pair seeking nomination in District 11, and political veteran Barbara Daly Danko of Regent Square deserves it.
Democrats have matchups in all five of the nine council seats up for election this year. Here are the best picks:
District 1: Darlene Harris
District 3: Bruce Kraus
District 5: Corey O'Connor
District 7: Patrick Dowd
District 9: Ricky Burgess
City School Board
Pittsburgh voters have contested races for Democratic nominations in three districts, and since the candidates in District 6 cross-filed for both party nominations, Republicans, too, can make a choice there:
District 2: Regina B. Holley
District 6: Sherry Hazuda
District 8: Lisa Freeman