A long-time Republican judge who lost three previous bids for the statewide appellate bench is running this year as an independent for one of three open state Supreme Court seats, a campaign spokesman said Monday.
Paul Panepinto, a Philadelphia judge for 24 years, changed his voter registration in March and is gathering at least 16,639 signatures he needs by Aug. 3, plus as many extras as possible to fend off a likely challenge to his candidacy, spokesman Joe Sterns said.
"He is an independent at heart," Sterns said.
Panepinto, 66, competed in the primaries for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2007 and 2009 and for Commonwealth Court in 2011, but he lost the nomination each time to candidates who had been endorsed by the state party. If he gathers enough signatures, he would be a candidate in the Nov. 3 general election.
The chairman of the Republican State Committee, Rob Gleason, said the party is helping raise money for its slate — Superior Court Judge Judy Olson, Adams County Judge Mike George and Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey — and he doubts Panepinto's potential candidacy would hinder their election prospects.
Party candidates need only 1,000 signatures but must compete in the statewide primary election for the nomination.
Gleason said the party would carefully scrutinize Panepinto's petitions, a process through which political foes have sometimes succeeded in disqualifying enough signatures to keep independent candidates off the ballot.
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"We think that there is a process to be followed," Gleason said. "Our candidates all followed the process and got the nomination."
The Democratic nominees are Superior Court Judge David Wecht, Philadelphia Judge Kevin Dougherty and Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue.
Twelve candidates competed in the May 19 primary, raising more than $5 million collectively. Three Republicans and three Democratic candidates were defeated.