Blue Pennsylvania: Undecided State House Races May Cause Party Power Shift

The balance of political power in Pennsylvania has taken a left turn as the Republican-controlled state House lost at least 12 Republican seats in the Nov. 8 election and could lose more. Control of the chamber will remain undecided until at least next week because results in two races are too close to call.

Democrat Mark Moffa, with 15,095 votes, has two votes more than Republican Joe Hogan’s 15,093 in District 142, Bucks County. Neither candidate is an incumbent; this is a new district due to redistricting.

Those totals are not expected to change for days, Jim O’Malley, deputy director of communications for Bucks County told The Epoch Times. Currently, Bucks County election workers are inspecting provisional and segregated ballots and determining which ones can be counted. They will make a report about those ballots to the Bucks County Board of Elections on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and the board will determine the next steps for those ballots.

The process is similar in Montgomery County’s District 151, where Rep. William Todd Stephens, a Republican incumbent, has 16,611 votes and leads with 26 votes over Democrat Melissa Cerrato’s 16,585 votes.

No automatic recount is triggered for legislative races. A campaign or other organization would have to file a request to recount, Montgomery County spokeswoman Kelly Cofrancisco told The Epoch Times.

“The other outstanding ballots include our provisional and military/overseas ballots which we have until next week, Nov. 15, to accept,” Cofrancisco said. “Next week our Board of Elections will hold a provisional ballot hearing to determine which ballots will be included in the final count. We have until Nov. 28 to certify the election.”

Dead Candidate Wins

In total, there are 203 Pennsylvania House seats. In the current session there are 113 Republicans, 88 Democrats, and two vacant seats.

The new configuration, so far, is 101 Republicans and 100 Democrats, plus those two undetermined races.

And here is a wrinkle: the new House will have three vacant seats right away.

Longtime Democrat Rep. Anthony M. “Tony” DeLuca, 85, died on Oct. 9, and having held the seat for 39 years, was running for another term. When he died, the ballots had already been printed.

Voters chose to cast their ballots for a dead man rather than the Green Party candidate. DeLuca got 85 percent of the vote compared with 14 percent for Green candidate Queonia “Zarah” Livingston. No Republican ran in this race.

Democrat state Representatives Summer Lee and Austin Davis both ran for two offices at once and won all four seats. Lee was reelected to the state house and also elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Davis was also reelected to the state house and at the same time, elected as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, filling the seat vacated by John Fetterman.

House seats all come up for election every two years. House members will be sworn in Jan. 3, 2023. The new speaker of the House will then schedule special elections for the vacant positions. The house votes as a whole to name a speaker. It is possible that Davis and Lee will be sworn in to the state House to help choose the speaker, then vacate their seats.

But DeLuca can’t vote from the grave.

If the final house count is 101 Republicans and 102 Democrats, with DeLuca missing, there will be 101 votes for each party. It is unclear how the House will determine speaker, and that issue has caused some chatter in the hallways of the Capitol in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania House and Senate have been solidly Republican-controlled since 2011. Outgoing Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has had a sometimes-contentious relationship with the General Assembly. Wolf was never able to convince Republicans to raise the minimum wage or legalize recreational marijuana, although during the Wolf administration Pennsylvania did legalize medical marijuana. Wolf used executive orders to move his agenda forward.

While Pennsylvania’s Senate remains Republican, the House is close to flipping to Democrat control, giving incoming Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro a smoother ride to advance his agenda.

It will also signal a less purple Pennsylvania ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Even if Democrats don’t get control of the House, they have gained much ground. Republicans, who have been accustomed to having enough votes to move legislation, only to have it stopped by the governor’s veto, will have to work harder to negotiate with Democrats.

From The Epoch Times