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Danielle Ohl of Spotlight PA

HARRISBURG — A close race for one of two open seats on a key Pennsylvania appellate court has triggered an automatic recount.

Unofficial election results show Democrat Lori Dumas leading Republican Drew Crompton by 16,804 votes to secure a spot on Commonwealth Court. Dumas is a judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, while Crompton is already an appointee to the bench.

In Pennsylvania, a recount is automatically triggered when the margin is .5% or less. The margin in the race was 0.33%.

Counties must complete the recount by noon Nov. 23 and submit the results to the Department of State no later than the following day, agency spokesperson Ellen Lyon said. The department estimated the statewide recount would cost at least $1.3 million.

Shortly after the Nov. 2 election, Republicans appeared poised to sweep all four open appellate seats. Current Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson is the projected winner of a state Supreme Court seat, while unofficial results show Megan Sullivan, who has served as deputy state attorney general, easily securing a spot on Superior Court.

Of the four candidates for Commonwealth Court, Republican Stacy Wallace — who currently practices at her own firm and serves as president of the McKean County Bar Association — was the top vote-getter.

Crompton last week was leading Democrats Dumas and David Spurgeon. But as counties including Montgomery and Philadelphia continued counting mail ballots, his lead shrank until he was overtaken by Dumas on Friday.

Dumas has served as a Common Pleas judge since 2002, hearing family, criminal, and civil cases. Prior to her time as a judge, she served as general counsel to Wordsworth Academy, a residential school for young people with behavioral needs.

Of the state’s 31 appellate judges, just one — Superior Court’s Carolyn Nichols — is a person of color, according to Kadida Kenner, co-chair of Why Courts Matter-PA. Dumas, a Black woman, would bring the total to two.

Crompton currently serves on Commonwealth Court as an appointee, hearing workers’ compensation and unemployment cases as well as zoning, election, and other governmental disputes. He must be elected to keep his seat.

Before being appointed to the court by Gov. Tom Wolf, Crompton served as chief of staff and counsel to former state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson). He was also general counsel to the Senate Republican Caucus.

Commonwealth Court is an intermediate appellate court, but it exclusively handles legal matters involving government entities. In recent weeks, it has been the venue for lawsuits filed by state Senate Democrats and Attorney General Josh Shapiro to stop a Republican-led investigation of the state’s last two elections. Several Republican legislators have also filed a suit in the court opposing Act 77, a state law expanding mail voting.

Judges serve initial 10-year terms, then face a retention vote, which usually succeeds.

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