Headlines: PA Chief Justice Dies at 74

PITTSBURGH (AP) — AP is reporting… Max Baer, the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, has died only months before he was set to retire, the court confirmed Saturday. He was 74.  Baer died overnight at his home near Pittsburgh, the court said in a news release. The court didn’t give a reason for his death but called his “sudden passing” a “tremendous loss for the court and all of Pennsylvania.”  The court said Justice Debra Todd now becomes chief justice “as the justice of longest and continuous service on the court.” She is the first female chief justice in the commonwealth’s history, a court spokesperson confirmed.

 

“Chief Justice Baer was an influential and intellectual jurist whose unwavering focus was on administering fair and balanced justice,” Todd said in the release. “He was a tireless champion for children, devoted to protecting and providing for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.”  Gov. Tom Wolf ordered state flags at commonwealth facilities, public buildings and grounds lowered to half-staff, saying he was “extremely saddened” by the death of such a “respected and esteemed jurist with decades of service to our courts and our commonwealth.”  Baer, a Duquesne Law graduate, was an Allegheny County family court judge and an administrative judge in family court before he was elected to the high court in 2003 and became its chief justice last year.

 

Baer also served as deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania from 1975 to 1980 and was in private practice before entering the judiciary.  Earlier this year, Baer was part of the 5-2 majority as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a wide expansion of mail-in voting in Pennsylvania.  Baer was set to retire at the end of 2022 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. The court said the seat had already been slated to be on the 2023 ballot, and “in the interim the governor may choose to make an appointment, subject to confirmation by the Senate.” Baer was elected as a Democrat and his death leaves a 4-2 Democratic majority on the high court.

 

PITTSBURGH – Triblive is reporting… U.S. Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman rallied Saturday afternoon before hundreds of supporters in Pittsburgh’s Strip District despite a downpour as the remnants of tropical storm Ian passed through.  In a 12-minute speech, Fetterman, addressed his stroke recovery, saying that it causes him at times to have auditory processing issues and to miss some words.  Republican candidate Mehmet Oz has called on Fetterman, a Democrat, to release his health records and has questioned how fit Fetterman is to serve in the Senate with these auditory processing issues.  Fetterman criticized Oz, a celebrity heart surgeon, for calling out his stroke recovery efforts.

 

“Sometimes, I might mush two words together,” Fetterman said.  There were moments during Fetterman’s speech where he paused at length or struggled with some words, but it marked an improvement over the last time he spoke in the Pittsburgh area, when President Biden visited the Mon Valley on Sept. 5.  He then mocked Oz about a video his campaign put out where Oz called a Central Pennsylvania grocery store by mashing together names of two grocery chains.  ”Let me give you an example. Let’s assume I wanted to shop at Wegmans, and I am actually standing in a Redner’s, but I actually think I am shopping in Wegner’s.”

 

Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race is one of the most hotly contested in the country, as it could determine which party holds control of the chamber after the midterm elections. Fetterman attempted to tie Oz to the Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who has said he wants to ban abortion with no exceptions.  On Friday, Oz said he supports abortion bans, but with exceptions for the health of the mother, rape, and incest, and he tried to distance himself from Mastriano.  Oz and Republicans like Sen. Pat Toomey has been attacking Fetterman for his record on crime and criminal justice issues, claiming that Fetterman supports releasing hardened criminals from prison.

 

At the Saturday rally, Fetterman said he is running on his record on crime and his work as the former Braddock Mayor, touting that the borough saw no gun deaths for over five years during his 12 years as mayor and that he worked with the police and the community.  “We fought to make Braddock a safer community, and I did that,” he said.  According to FBI data, the average violent crime rate during Fetterman’s tenure as Braddock mayor from 2006-18 was about 4.4 annual incidents per 1,000 residents. The average violent crime rate in Pennsylvania over the same time span was about 3.6 annually per 1,000 people.

 

Fetterman wrapped up his short speech by talking about his support for raising the minimum wage, blocking any right-to-work laws, lowering the costs of prescription drugs, protecting same-sex marriage rights, and codifying Roe abortion protections into federal law.  Fetterman was also joined by local progressives, including Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and state Representative Summer Lee.  Lee, who has clashed with Fetterman in the past, gave her full-throated support to Fetterman at the rally. Lee, who is running for Congress in the Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, said Fetterman will be an ally to Democratic priorities, like protecting abortion access and growing the organized labor movement.

 

“There is a movement here in Pittsburgh … with our candidate John Fetterman, we are about to build the strongest labor movement in Pittsburgh,” Lee said.  The rally appeared to be about the entire Democratic coalition — the moderates and the progressives — coming together to support Fetterman.  U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, a moderate from Mt. Lebanon who lost to Fetterman in the primary, attended and spoke to rally-goers in the crowd.  Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey criticized Republican candidates for being too extreme and wanting to take away abortion rights. He also praised Fetterman for wanting to “empower” Pennsylvanians, and attacked Oz from recently moving from out of state to run to become a senator from Pennsylvania.

 

“From York to Pittsburgh, we know Pennsylvania. I don’t know nothing about Pa., if I come from New Jersey,” he said, referencing Oz.  According to a recent Fox News poll, Democratic candidate John Fetterman leads the senate race with 48% of support compared to 44% for Oz. That poll went on to say Fetterman has a big enthusiasm advantage over Oz, with 61% of Fetterman supporters enthusiastic to support him, while only 38% are enthusiastically supporting Oz.  He also has the edge among independent voters, 33% to Oz’s 29%.  But compared to earlier in the summer, the Senate race has tightened significantly.

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