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Retired state judge to run for Senate (Updated)

A former Commonwealth Court judge has decided to seek the Democratic nomination for Senate, adding another face to one of the country’s most high-profile and contentious primaries.

Doris Smith-Ribner, who served on the Commonwealth Court for more than two decades before retiring this summer, told Democrats gathered at an NAACP gala Friday night that she would be entering the race, according to someone who was there. She had been increasingly showing up at political events for weeks, and had heard rumors of her looming decision, but was unable to reach her after multiple attempts.

But in an interview with late Friday night, Smith-Ribner said she had decided to run after receiving a great deal of encouragement from supporters across the state.

“It’s not a decision that you make lightly,” she said. “This is a very major undertaking, and after spending 21 years as a state appeals court judge, you don’t just go out and make a decision on a whim. It was after a lot of reflection and deliberation.”

The source who attended the NAACP dinner said that Smith-Ribner promised there would be “more to come soon,” but was deliberate in not offering any more details. The other two main Democratic candidates in the race, Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak, also spoke at the dinner. State Representative Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) is also running.

Whether Smith-Ribner can gain significant political traction in an expensive, competitive race remains to be seen. Specter and Sestak have already raised millions, and running judicial races—where party organizations are dominant players—is unlike a statewide Senate race a Commonwealth full of expensive media markets.

Smith-Ribner said she would have whatever “resources that will be needed to win.”

“I will do whatever it takes to make this a very strong and viable campaign,” Smith-Ribner.

Complete coverage from

Smith-Ribner not intimidated by high-profile race

Says it’s not about Arlen Specter

Her paperwork is in the mail

October 9, 2009 at 10:41 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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