Democrats won control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in a special election Tuesday, wresting partial power from Republicans for the first time in a dozen years in the competitive swing state.
Democrats won all three vacant Pittsburgh-area House seats to claim a slim edge over Republicans, ultimately securing a majority they first appeared to have won in last November's general election. Republicans still hold the Senate, creating a political divide that could make it harder for lawmakers to send priority bills to the new Democratic governor Josh Shapiro .
The special elections capped several months of electoral drama.
Republicans held a comfortable 113-90 majority in the House last year. But once-a-decade redistricting and strong performance in statewide races helped democrats to get enough seats in the fall elections to win a 102-101 majority in the House. Or so it seemed. Three of those Democratic seats quickly fell vacant, raising uncertainty about who actually controlled the chamber.
Rep. Tony DeLuca died of cancer in October shortly before winning re-election, Rep. Summer Lee resigned after also winning a congressional election, and Rep. Austin Davis resigned before being sworn in as lieutenant governor.
That left the Republicans with more people in the House than the Democrats and led to a political impasse. The camera chose Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi as speaker when the new session began on January 3, but only after Republican leaders and some other members of the GOP joined all Democrats in voting.
The Chamber has been frozen since Rozzi took office and has not approved internal rules of operation, assigned members to committees or approved any legislation. Rozzi said last week that wants to retain the presidency when the Democrats meet with their newly elected members.
At a press conference in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, Democratic floor leader Rep. Joanna McClinton said the three Democratic candidates had been "thrown on the mixing board very quickly" to compete in the special election.
He noted that Democrats have been in the House minority for 24 of the past 28 years.
McClinton wants the speaker's position, but said he didn't want to "get ahead of the days" as the election results are fully tabulated and certified, and asked people to "stay tuned to see what the will of this body will be." » when the Chamber returns to voting session.
A few minutes after McClinton finished speaking, the clerk's office sent an email with a notice that the House of Representatives would resume session in two weeks.
Democrats were expected to win Tuesday's special election, having easily won the same seats last fall.
DeLuca's previous seat was won by Democrat Joe McAndrew, 32, a business owner who was a member of the Democratic state House staff and former executive director of the Allegheny County Democratic committee. Lee's old seat was won by Abigail Salisbury, 40, a lawyer and Democratic member of the Swissvale city council. Matthew Gergely, a Democrat who works for the McKeesport city government, was chosen to succeed Davis.
The special election came only after the courts rejected an attempt by House Republican Leader Rep. Bryan Cutler to prevent two of the races from being decided Tuesday.
When newly elected lawmakers take office, the House may still be short of a member for its full complement. That's because Republican Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver won a special election on January 31 to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate.