Republican Beth Grossman learned plenty in her 21 years as a Philadelphia prosecutor, but she still describes her campaign for district attorney as an arduous education in politics.
Although some thought she had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to win the District Attorney's Office for the GOP, she took only 25 percent of the vote, losing to Democrat Larry Krasner. She also faced criticism on the campaign trail for leading the city's civil asset forfeiture program, which sometimes seized people's cash and property even when they weren't convicted of a crime.
Now she's in political graduate school: Grossman has been recommended by Republican Party leaders to fill one of five vacancies on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
But squabbles that have nothing to do with her are delaying the state Senate from filling 39 judicial vacancies across the state. And that standstill will last at least three more months, since lawmakers left Harrisburg last week and will not return to session until September.
Usually, Democratic and Republican leaders in Philly agree to nominations for posts that have been vacated due to death, retirement, or other reasons. Each political party gets something in the deal.
That agreement then gets added to a larger political pact on judicial nominations between parties that the governor submits, which first has to clear the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee and then must be approved by the full Senate.
It's an all-or-nothing proposition. So disagreement on any part of the pact can stall the whole process. Which brings us to Bucks County.
A law approved last year added two new seats to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas and one new judgeship for each of six other counties.
We hear that State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney Jr., a Republican who represents Bucks County, proposed two Republicans for the two new seats in that county. We're also told Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, instead wants the new judicial positions to go to one Democrat and one Republican.
Hence the holdup.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican who chairs the judiciary committee and represents part of Bucks County, declined to be interviewed about the dispute. Wolf and McIlhinney didn't want to talk about it much, either.
Grossman is sanguine, saying she's honored to be considered for the bench and joking about her run for office last year.
"Man, I took one for the team," she said. "But I loved it. I met such great people."
That's remarkably similar to what U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, leader of the city's Democratic Party, had to say when we called to confirm that his party was cool with Grossman's becoming a judge.
"It's a pain in the ass," he said of running citywide in Philadelphia as a Republican. "But to take one for the team and back into a judgeship, it's not a bad move."
To hear Renee Tartaglione's lawyers tell it, one of Philadelphia's most prominent political families may fade away if she is sent to prison at her sentencing hearing next month.
The 63-year-old former chief deputy in the Office of the City Commissioners is facing serious time after her federal court conviction last year for embezzling more than $2 million in public funds from a mental-health clinic she ran in Fairhill.
But Tartaglione's defense team argued in court papers last week that it is her famous family that truly will suffer if she is incarcerated. According to the documents, she's a primary caregiver to a brood of ailing luminaries — including her sister Tina Tartaglione, a state senator; Renee's husband, Carlos Matos, a ward leader in North Philly; and her mother, Marge Tartaglione, the city's former tough-as-nails elections chief for 36 years.
Clout found this all a little curious: After all, Tina is running for reelection in her Northeast Philadelphia district, and Matos is a larger-than-life guy who, as ward leader, is charged with getting out the vote in a key election year for Democrats. Marge is also a ward boss.
Defense lawyers William DeStefano and Terri Pawelski painted the Tartaglione clan, which has long held an iron grip on its corner of the city's Democratic machine, as a family now tottering toward extinction.
They described Tina as an "invalid," wheelchair-bound from a 2003 boating accident, and almost completely reliant on her sister's care.
In the defense filings, Matos — whom prosecutors identified as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in his wife's case — is portrayed as "wayward and not-too-healthy," still grappling with the effects of a 2017 stroke. Marge, 85, has cancer and is living in her daughter's home, they said.
But after a brief court hearing Wednesday, Matos said it might be Renee who is facing the truly mortal threat. "She's never, ever been in trouble her whole life," Matos told WHYY. "If they put her away, it may even kill her. Is that the kind of justice people are looking for?"
On Dec. 17, the Inquirer and Daily News published a story about State Sen. Daylin Leach: Eight women and three men accused the Democrat of inappropriately touching or making sexual comments to female staffers. Leach says he's never inappropriately touched women.
Six days before the article came out, Leach paid $5,000 to a law firm, his state campaign finance reports show. In February and March, he shelled out an additional $18,000 combined to law firms and attorney Joseph Podraza. The documents describe the expenditures as "legal."
A political consultant for Leach, who said she was traveling Thursday, did not provide details. Podraza did not return an email from Clout. It's common practice for politicians to spend campaign money on law firms amid allegations.
If Podraza's name sounds familiar, that's because he has represented State Rep. Nick Miccarelli, a Republican accused of sexual and physical assault. He has denied any wrongdoing. Miccarelli and Leach share a communications guy, too: Frank Keel. Leach paid $1,000 to Keel — who also would not comment — in March.