Those who lack a TV, radio, smart phone and mailbox are maybe the only people (blissfully) unaware that Pennsylvania has many competitive campaigns for elected office this year. Indeed, election day is next Tuesday, November 8th and campaign activity from US Senate to State House is full force across the Commonwealth.
Pennsylvania may very well decide the
make-up of the US Senate and even the US House of Representatives.
US Senate - The race between John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz for US Senate has arguably seen the most campaign activity, especially on the airwaves. This is because not only their respective campaigns, but also national parties and groups are pouring millions of dollars into PA to support, or more likely criticize, Fetterman or Oz since the majority of the Senate is in question. This race to replace retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey is in a statistical dead heat so expect to hear more from the candidates and other stakeholders in the next few days. If you are a registered voter this likely includes texts, calls, mail, email and visits to your door by party officials. And, of course for all to see is the barrage of TV ads up to and including during the remaining World Series Games where ad time is apparently north of $150k for just one commercial!
US House – The Democrat majority of the United States House of Representatives may also change in this midterm election. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania saw the loss of one congressional seat due to the Census from 18 to 17 seats. Out of those 17 there are at least two competitive seats within Pennsylvania.
First, is Democrat incumbent Congressman Matt Cartwright who is being challenged by Republican Jim Bognet in the northwestern part of the state for the 8th Congressional District (CD). Next, Congresswoman Susan Wild, another incumbent Democrat, is facing a serious challenge from Republican Lisa Scheller in the 7th CD roughly comprised of the Lehigh Valley. Both of these races have also attracted national attention and funds and if you live within the same media markets you have almost definitely seen their campaign commercials even if you do not live within those actual districts.
While PA voters may have the chance to decide the make-up of Congress due to the aforementioned campaigns, the direction of the state is also in the hands of PA Voters with races for Governor and the state’s General Assembly.
PA Governor – Pennsylvania only allows Governors to serve for two terms leading to an election to replace outgoing Governor Tom Wolf. By all accounts, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democrat nominee, has a commanding lead over the Republican candidate, State Senator Doug Mastriano. This race is obviously of importance within the boundaries of the Commonwealth but has also attracted national funds with Shapiro setting records on fundraising. This has given him the ability to outspend Mastriano almost 8 to 1.
As with the US Congress and President, the relationship (or often the lack thereof) between the new Governor and PA Legislature will determine many items, including the mandated annual state budget, in the next Legislative Session. Due to this, the elections of PA Senators and House members are also crucial with most of them on the ballot next Tuesday.
PA Senate -Twenty-five, or half of the PA Senate districts, are up for election this year. Currently, the Republicans hold a 29-seat majority which includes Independent Senator John Yudichak who caucuses with the Republicans. However, Sen Yudichak decided not to run for re-election along with 4 other Republicans. Another Republican Senator lost in the Primary election creating 6 “open seat” campaigns that the Republicans now have to defend. Five of those are potentially competitive.
However, at least one, arguably two, Democrat incumbents are vulnerable with their own re-elections.
That leads to potentially seven seats in question. If Democrats win every one of these, they will have a slim majority going into next year, but this is unexpected and instead it is more likely that a similar make up in the Senate remains with each party seeing similar gains and losses.
However, while the Republicans may still hold the majority for the next Legislative Session, there will definitely be leadership changes in their Caucus. President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, Caucus Chair Bob Mensch and Policy Chair Mario Scavello did not seek re-election and Pat Browne, the Appropriations Committee Chair, which is considered a leadership position, lost in the primary.
PA House – Each of the 203 House Districts are up for election due to two-year terms. Out of those 203 there are at least 12 vulnerable Republican incumbents and 2 endangered incumbent Democrats. In addition, there are 46 open seats where members decided not to run, lost their primaries or are running for different offices. Republicans are defending 31 of those open seats, with potentially 8 of them being competitive. Out of the 15 open seats the Democrats are defending, three are potentially competitive.
Thus, hypothetically 20 seats could go from Republican to Democrat, while only 5 could go from Democrat to Republican. If so, the House could become a 107 to 96 majority for the Democrats. However, that is also unlikely and in this intense political environment it is close to impossible to clearly determine the outcomes on each House campaign. Indeed, there will likely be surprises across the state where “safe” members are defeated and competitive seats are blow outs.
Regardless of who obtains a majority, the House will see at least 25% of the body overturn due to retirements and lost primaries. This includes 13 current Committee chairs!
All elections have consequences, and for Pennsylvania voters there are opportunities to decide the direction of not only the state but arguable the country.