The Republicans were anticipated to maintain control of the state House even though their candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, was widely projected to lose.
Image courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty
Their joy, however, was fleeting. Summer Lee and Austin Davis, both Democrats in the state House, quit when they were elected to higher positions. Rep. Tony DeLuca, another Democrat, passed away just before the election. At the start of the following year, Democrats were expected to hold 99 seats to the Republicans’ 101.
On the same day Lee and Davis announced their resignations, McClinton was sworn in as president by a county court. After that, McClintock’s proposed dates for the three special elections to be held on February 7 were approved by the acting secretary of state, whom Democratic Governor Tom Wolf had chosen.
But soon after McClinton’s decision, Cutler tried to set up special elections for Lee and Davis for the end of May. He did this after being officially sworn in as majority leader by another county court. Cutler and Clinton have decided to hold the DeLuca seat election on February 7.
Cutler filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of State simultaneously, claiming that McClinton lacked the authority to call the special elections and that the Commonwealth Court should now decide who has the authority to call them.
McClintock said in an interview that she is the rightful leader of the majority because “102 districts elected Democrats to represent them, to represent their values, and to speak for them, and they rejected the extremism and election denial of the Republican caucus in a significant way.”
The data “speaks for itself,” according to Cutler’s spokesperson, Jason Gottesman, who also said that Democrats are trying to “redefine the term majority” to say somehow that a 99-seat minority gives them the power.
In this unstable situation, politicians are fighting over who will be the House Speaker the following year. On January 3, lawmakers are expected to be sworn in and elect the position. McClinton is running for Speaker, but Cutler says he is not. McClinton just took over as majority leader, but Cutler says he is not. Rep. Valerie Gaydos, also a Republican, recently sent a letter to her colleagues in the House of Representatives to tell them she was running for Speaker.
Republicans have no room for error if they stay together, even if they have the votes to choose a Speaker in January. Democrats are committed to preventing it from occurring. When questioned about whether she was attempting to recruit a few Republicans to her campaign, McClinton responded, “People of our leadership team are talking to members of the Republican caucus about really just developing a great and beneficial relationship throughout the next term.”
The fact that a Republican state House member is competing for a vacant state Senate seat that will be filled in January only muddies matters further. As a result, there might be only 100 Republicans left in the House. Both parties might wind up with 100 state House seats for a while if Democrats take the DeLuca seat as expected and the court decides to hold the other two special elections in May.
If the Republicans take the speakership, it will probably not last long. Whenever the three special elections are held, Democrats are expected to win all of them. Republicans did not even file a challenger to Lee; Davis and DeLuca won their state House districts by double digits.
Charlie Gerow, vice chair of the Conservative Political Action Coalition in Pennsylvania, says that we are “sailing in new waters” in Harrisburg and that there is a “possibility for surges,” such as a compromised speaker.
While acknowledging that the “abortion one will be a little bit more challenging,” he predicted that House Republicans will pass certain proposed modifications to the state constitution next year, calling voter ID “sort of a layup.” Other Republicans have stated that the backlash from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the election makes it unlikely that the abortion proposal, which would declare that the procedure is not protected in the state constitution, will be brought up in the House.
Earlier this year, Republican efforts to change the Constitution about voter ID, abortion, and other issues were successful. If they flourish again next year, the measures may be put to the vote as early as May 2023.
Shapiro’s first few months in office will be even more challenging because of the fight for control of the state House.
The next governor, who won by over 15 percentage points, has a track record of cooperating with opposing parties. During his campaign, he got support from many current and former Republican officials, and some of them are now on his transition team. However, attempts at bipartisanship may be hampered by the uncertainty surrounding the state House.
According to Larry Ceisler, a longtime state political analyst who works in public relations, “if you want to hit the ground running in sort of the legendary first 100 days, I think it poses a hurdle, at least in terms of passing legislation.” And if the Republicans win and make changes to the Constitution, that could lead to anger and mistrust.
Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network