Although many political pundits predicted a Trump-inspired “blue wave” of Democrats overwhelming Congress and state legislators across the country, the actual results nationwide were not as dramatic as expected on November 6. The Democrats did indeed regain control of the US House of Representatives, but not by the margins that have been customarily seen in “mid-term” elections after a new president is elected. The parties of Clinton, Bush and Obama all lost more seats than the Republicans did this year, and they actually ADDED to their majority in the US Senate, giving President Trump even more of an advantage should another Supreme Court seat come open.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats did make inroads in reducing their deficits in both the state House and Senate, with nearly all of those seat switches coming in the “collar counties” surrounding Philadelphia. Hardest hit were the Chester and Delaware County Republican delegations, where Republican Reps. Becky Corbin (155th - Chester); Warren Kampf (157th – Chester), Eric Roe (158th- Chester) Duane Milne (167th -Chester), and Jamie Santora – 163rd (Delaware); Alex Charlton – 165th (Delaware) and Sen. Tom McGarrigle (26th -Delaware) all were defeated. Over in Montgomery, Reps. Kate Harper (61st) and Tom Quigley (146th) also lost their seats, and Democrats flipped long-held Republican Senate seats in Montgomery and Bucks Counties.
The GOP entered election night with a commanding 121-79 majority in the House, with three vacancies in Democratic seats, while Senate Republicans looked to defend their 34-16 cushion. While a couple of House election results are still being determined, it appears the ratio will be 110-92, plus the seat currently by Democrat State Rep. Vanessa Lowery-Brown who won re-election, but will be sentenced November 28 for her bribery conviction. The GOP was successful in knocking off just two Democratic incumbents, Bryan Barbin (71st-Cambria) and Helen Tai (178th –Bucks). A third seat, the 49th (Fayette/Washington), currently held by GOP State Rep. Bud Cook, is also the subject of ballot challenges.
Pending the outcome of some contested close races, including the 6th Senate district in Bucks County, where long-time incumbent Republican Sen. Tommy Tomlinson appears to have squeaked out a 100-vote victory over Democrat State Rep. Tina Davis, the Senate will swear in 28 Republicans and 21 Democrats, and newly elected Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will call a Special Election to fill a vacancy created in the 37th district by the resignation of Republican Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, who was elected to Congress on election night. Davis, who also easily won re-election to her own House seat, was calling for a recount at this writing. In the 10th Senate district, Democrat Steve Santarsiero beat State Rep. Marguerite Quinn, flipping the Bucks County seat, and Democrat Maria Collett won a victory over Stewart Greenleaf Jr. to capture the 12th district Montgomery/Bucks seat held since 1977 by Greenleaf’s father. The most unexpected upset occurred in the 44th (Montgomery/Chester ), where first-time candidate Katie Muth unseated Republican Sen. John Rafferty, who had served the district since 2003. Over in the Pittsburgh suburbs, Democrat Lindsey Williams beat Republican Jeremy Shaeffer, who had upset incumbent Sen. Randy Vulakovich in the 38th to pick up another seat for the Dems.
It remains to be seen how these smaller majorities, and a Governor entering his second and final term, will affect the flow and nature of legislation in the new session.
Statewide, the races for Governor and US Senate came in pretty much as expected. Governor Tom Wolf easily won a second term, defeating Republican Scott Wagner by a 58%-41% margin after a blistering campaign, mostly on the part of the challenger. Wolf will be joined by a new Lieutenant Governor as he enters his new term, as the aforementioned John Fetterman takes over for current Lt. Governor Mike Stack, whom Fetterman defeated in the May primary.
PA’s Senior Senator, Bob Casey, Jr. also easily defeated his opponent for U.S. Senate, Congressman Lou Barletta, by a roughly 55%-42% margin, to earn a third term.
In Congress, Republicans went in with a 13-5 advantage in the PA delegation, but a combination of newly drawn Congressional maps and backlash against the President resulted in the Democrats winning the new 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 17th Congressional Districts, while the GOP won the new 14th. The PA Congressional delegation will now be split 9-9, including a historic four women.
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