GOP hopes to keep legislative control despite new districts
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday will send dozens of new representatives and senators to the Legislature, thanks to a slew of retirements and new district maps that were revamped by the state’s redistricting commission.
Republicans hold solid leads in both chambers — 29-21 in the Senate and 113-90 in the House — and are generally expected to retain majority control of both chambers for the coming two-year session.
Democrats have not held a majority in either chamber since 2010.
The GOP is targeting pickup opportunities in rural areas outside Pittsburgh, a region that has been steadily moving away from Democrats for decades, as well as the northeast, where a similar trend has been playing out. Longtime Democratic incumbents in the House are retiring in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Greene and Mercer counties.
Democrats see a mirror image in the state’s most populous region, the Philadelphia suburbs, where their candidates have been performing better in local, state and national election cycles. In Bucks County, and in the growing Pocono Mountains region north of Philadelphia, Democratic strategists see demographic tail winds this year, along with hopes they can overcome incumbents in suburban Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
Polls close at 8 p.m., although a judge in Luzerne County ordered several polling places to stay open until 10 p.m. after they ran low on supplies.
The results of redistricting were felt by sitting lawmakers in the spring primary, when some were forced into nomination races with colleagues from their own party and others lost to challengers from outside the Legislature.
Two of the most powerful Republican lawmakers in the state, House Appropriations chair Stan Saylor of York County and Senate Appropriations chair Pat Browne of Lehigh County, both lost primaries. The top-ranking state senator, President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, gave up his seat to run for governor but lost the primary to fellow Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin.
Mastriano has kept his seat, which doesn’t go before voters for two years, while he ran for governor against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
All six Senate retirements this year are Republicans.
The result has been months of under-the-radar campaigning by ambitious senior Republicans to succeed the departing legislative leaders, efforts that will play out in caucus votes before year’s end. Others have been positioning themselves to fill other leadership spots that are also becoming available because of retirement and defeat.
One practical result of the legislative elections may be that Republicans, assuming they retain control of both chambers, will have the power to put on the 2023 spring ballot one or all of six potential constitutional amendments.
Those proposals would amend the state constitution to say it establishes no right to an abortion or abortion funding, to authorize election audits by the state auditor general, to let governor candidates pick their running mates, to temporarily allow otherwise outdated lawsuits over child sexual abuse, to mandate voter ID, and to reduce the governor’s power over state regulations.