Our Freedoms are on the 2023 Ballot

While the 2024 presidential drama unfolds, very quietly important changes are happening in our communities that shape our daily lives: “Off-year” elections.

On November 7, across Allegheny County and Pennsylvania, we will elect School Boards, Magistrates, Judges, council members, Mayors, the District Attorney, and the County Executive. While the 2024 elections will paint the broad brush-strokes of the country – in a post-Roe world, the people we elect on the ground in 2023 affect us directly.

Critical to maintaining freedom are the statewide appellate judges: we’re electing four. One to the PA Supreme Court, two to the PA Superior Court, and one to the PA Commonwealth Court. Dan McCaffery will cement a Democratic Majority on the Supreme Court – he will be a staunch defender of everyday working people, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Jill Beck and Timika Lane will ensure the Superior Court remains a fair, competent, and well-run court. Importantly, Matt Wolf will flip the Republican-dominated Commonwealth Court — the court where challenges to Reproductive, LGBTQ+, and Labor rights will first be heard.

Twice in ten years, the Supreme Court intervened to prevent gerrymandering in the state-wide district maps. Fair maps allowed a Democratic State House majority that is now working for us!

And for the first time, we can have a Supreme Court Judge in Dan McCaffery who has a proud history of supporting and promoting transgender people, the most attacked members of our community.  His commitment as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community is deep and proven.

Here in Allegheny County, people going to court are most likely to interact with a Magistrate or a Common Pleas Judge, both elected. Importantly, the Magistrates deal with landlord-tenant disputes, small claims, and often set initial bail. Despite being innocent until proven guilty, many untried people sit in jail awaiting a hearing because they can’t afford cash bail, meanwhile, they can’t go to work and support their families. We need good magistrates that understand both when bail should and should not be set at all – and when bail is set, to make it accessible to working people.

Matt Dugan, with a resume as Public Defender, is running to overhaul the District Attorney’s Office, while Stephen Zappala is running as a Republican to ‘fix’ the problems of him already being in office for 25 years.

Sara Innamorato, beyond being an exceptional candidate, will also play a role as the County Executive on the Board of Elections. Across the country, Republicans have been trying and sometimes succeeding in circumventing elections – a Republican as County Executive will endanger free and fair elections and the sanctity of the vote.

Finally, please pay attention to School Board races. In boroughs and townships across Allegheny County, Republicans are running homophobic and transphobic candidates in school races to enact book bans and to undermine protections for LGBTQ+ youth. Try to learn as much as possible about these hyper-local candidates ahead of voting.

It’s exhausting that so much pivots on every election. But your efforts pay-off: Allegheny County is an example to the country on what an engaged, informed electorate can do, and how it can make positive changes. We have elected Sen. Fetterman, Rep Lee, and Mayor Gainey –  and we can keep electing people who look like us. Encourage your friends to vote, it makes a difference. The importance of getting your friends and neighbors to vote for the Democratic candidates to ensure our freedoms hold is paramount.

People will say voting is not enough, and it’s true. We need poll workers, candidates for borough councils and school boards, Democratic Committee members, and other civic leaders. You should run!

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