Baer funding beats Orie’s in race for seat on state’s top court
HARRISBURG — Democrat Max Baer has raised more than a half-million dollars in his bid for the state Supreme Court — more than Republican foe Joan Orie Melvin, but only because of loans from his generous family.
In terms of cash contributions, Melvin has accumulated more — about $444,000 compared to about $325,000 for Baer — as the candidates brace for a potentially expensive showdown this fall.
As of Sept. 15, the last day covered by campaign-finance reports filed this week, Melvin’s campaign had more than $300,000 in cash on hand, compared to Baer’s $50,000.
Baer, an Allegheny County judge, hopes to raise more than $1.5 million for his statewide campaign, most of which would be spent on television advertising, spokesman John Marshall said.
“People don’t concentrate on judicial races, so you have to hit them (with campaign commercials) more often,” Marshall said.
John Brabender of Brabender Cox, Melvin’s Pittsburgh-based media consultant, said he did not know how much Melvin’s campaign expects to spend but speculated that the effort would be concentrated in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets, where voter turnout is expected to be relatively high.
“This is an off-year election,” he noted.
The Supreme Court race features the same campaign strategists who guided the candidates in last year’s gubernatorial race.
Brabender Cox served as media consultant for Mike Fisher, the state attorney general and Republican nominee. The Campaign Group, the Philadelphia company that handled media consulting for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, has already received $200,000 in payments from Baer’s campaign.
The campaign-finance reports show that Baer had taken in more than $508,000 through Sept. 15. Of the total, more than $183,000 was in the form of loans from Baer’s brother, Washington County car dealer Mark Baer; their father, Henry Baer; and the candidate himself.
Baer’s campaign committee — the Committee to Elect the Fighting Judge, a reference to the famous boxer whose name he shares — also still owes nearly $176,000 that the trio loaned to Baer’s 1989 campaign for the county judgeship he now holds.
“The debt is family debt” that does not have to be repaid right away, Marshall said, although he allowed that, “if he can raise enough money down the road, it’d be nice to pay somebody back.”
Melvin, a judge on the state Superior Court, listed no debt in her latest report.
From mid-June to mid-September, the period covered by the report, Melvin raised more than $255,000 and spent $64,000. Baer raised $161,000 and spent $133,000.