With election victories stacking up, Democrats expect to take control in Pa. House

‘We just needed fair maps. And when you have fair maps, Democrats win,’ Rep. Jordan Harris said

By: - November 9, 2022 5:02 pm

House Minority LeaderJoanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a Legislative Reapportionment Commission meeting on August 24, 2021. (Courtesy of House Democrats)

With more than two dozen state House races undecided Wednesday afternoon, Democrats predicted they would take control of the General Assembly’s lower chamber.

Democratic House leaders said their confidence in the prediction was bolstered by victories in unexpected districts, the Democratic trend of mail-in ballots that were still being counted, and the competitive districts created in last year’s redistricting process.

“We just needed fair maps. And when you have fair maps, Democrats win,” Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, the Democratic whip, said. “And that’s what you saw on Election Day. And that’s how we can project confidently that House Democrats will take the majority.”

The Associated Press had not called the House races that would decide control of the 203-member chamber. The Republican caucus, which has controlled the House since 1994, save for a Democratic interregnum from 2007 to 2010, stands to lose as many as a dozen seats, based on the races Democrats had already cinched or were leading Wednesday afternoon.

If the prediction holds true, Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, who is currently the minority leader, would become the first woman elected speaker of the House.

“Pennsylvania voters rejected, overwhelmingly, fear. Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly rejected hatred. Pennsylvania voters overwhelmingly rejected division,” McClinton said. “And the fact that it’s here in the birthplace of our nation and the birthplace of our democracy, it is much more than symbolic that we will finally have a woman that has the gavel in the Pennsylvania House.”

Democratic control of the house would have a significant bearing on Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro’s ability to advance his agenda and enact policy in the next two years, McClinton said.

While Republicans will have control of the state Senate, it will be by a narrower majority than in the past session, and Democratic control of the House would put Shapiro at an advantage in negotiations with the General Assembly.

Democratic gains included victories in a number of newly created districts including the 30th Legislative District in Allegheny County, where political newcomer Dr. Arvind Venkat defeated Republican former county council member Cynthia Kirk by 11 points, according to unofficial tallies.

In the 33rd Legislative District, Democrat Mandy Steele defeated Republican Ted Tomson by 9 points in a race to represent economically diverse Allegheny County suburbs seen as a bellwether race for Democrats, unofficial tallies showed.

In Centre County’s newly created 82nd District, Democrat Paul Takac Jr. defeated Republican Justin Behrens with a 12-point lead, according to unofficial results.

Democrats did not win decisively in all of the redrawn districts considered competitive, however. 

In the 142nd District, where longtime Republican state Rep. Frank Farry ran for state Senate this year, Republican Joe Hogan and Democrat Mark Moffa were two votes apart at publication time, according to unofficial tallies. 

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.