Democrats claimed another victory at the state level after a strong showing in the 2022 midterms, claiming control of the Pennsylvania House.
Democrats followed up statehouse takeovers in Minnesota and Michigan by winning three special elections in the Pennsylvania statehouse on Tuesday. The victories gave them a one-seat majority and brought to a close the battle for control of the chamber that has continued since November. It was an upset: Redistricting made the electoral map more competitive for Democrats, and the Pennsylvania House was rated “lean Republican” before the November election by Sabato’s crystal ball. Democrats have not controlled the chamber since 2010.
And it’s another moment of reckoning for Republicans in a critical swing state that sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate for the first time in more than 70 years, and Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governorship by nearly 15 points over his Republican challenger. Denial Doug Mastriano.
The results are based on Democrats’ gains in state capitals during the midterms. The party previously struggled to compete with more than a decade of Republican dominance at the state level. This is the first time since 1934 that a sitting president’s party has not lost a state legislative chamber. In fact, they gained five. Democratic state legislatures now govern more people than those controlled by Republicans, though the GOP still won slightly more seats overall in 2022.
All three seats that Democrats won in Pennsylvania were in traditionally blue Allegheny County. In the 32nd District, Joe McAndrew, formerly executive director of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, will replace the late Tony DeLuca, also a Democrat. In the 34th District, Abigail Salisbury, an attorney and Swissvale Borough Council president, will fill the vacancy left by U.S. Rep. Summer Lee. And in the 35th District, City of McKeesport Finance Director Matt Gergely will fill the vacancy left by current Lt. Gov. Austin Davis.
With their new House majority, Pennsylvania Democrats will now be able to repeal more restrictions on abortion, including a proposal advanced by Republicans that would limit public funding of health care centers that perform advanced abortions. And they would be able to reject a measure that could go on the ballot in 2023 to amend the state constitution to declare that “there are no taxpayer-funded abortion or other abortion-related rights.”
“Voters rejected the Pennsylvania GOP’s radical policies, and with this win… Democrats are ready to turn their back on these MAGA extremists,” said Heather Williams, interim president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Democratic Party’s fundraising organization dedicated to the state legislative race.
Even so, Pennsylvania will have a divided government: Shapiro won the governor’s race and Republicans retain control of the state Senate. That can limit what’s possible from a policy standpoint, especially since even a single defection from a party position in the House can destroy any Democratic agenda item.
Pennsylvania Democrats are already managing expectations in that regard. They are projecting that they cannot codify Roe v. Wade After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision last year, but hope that on labor and the economy, they have a real chance to achieve reform because those are areas of broad agreement in the caucus and where they might even be able to attract some Republicans. vote
“We’re going to be able to dodge a lot of bullets just going from defense to offense,” Lee told Pittsburgh’s NPR news station WESA. “We can advance the workers’ rights agenda.”