PA Democrats sweep special elections and gain control of the House
The three winners will be sworn in later this month, handing Democrats 102 votes in the 203-member House.
Pennsylvania Democrats, for the first time in 12 years, gained a majority in the House of Representatives after securing victories in three special elections in Allegheny on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
By attaining a majority over Republicans with a two-seat margin, Democrats can now set forward their agenda for the incoming administration if the House is able to restore trust after a chaotic Speaker vote and a gridlocked chamber.
The wins were delivered by Joe McAndrew (HD-32), Abigail Salisbury (HD-34), and Matt Gergely (HD-35) after AP News called the election results late Tuesday.
“We elected a Democratic majority for the second time in a row. The voters in Allegheny County have elected three new Democrats to the House — and with that, they protected the 102-seat majority that millions of Pennsylvanians first elected almost three months ago,” PA House Democrats wrote in a statement on Twitter.
Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, the newly elected Reading representative, told AL DÍA she was “super happy” to hear about the wins across Allegheny and is looking forward to returning to Harrisburg to begin work on the party’s agenda.
“I couldn’t tell you the temperature in the House because we’ve been in recess,” she added.
Among some of her priorities, Cepeda-Freytiz hopes to address safe gun laws — patrolled by state preemption laws — and minimum wage.
“I think it will be a very productive, positive, and impactful two years,” she added.
For Danilo Burgos, who represents District 197: “I’m glad the wait is over.”
The Dems’ victory was quickly dampened by a standstill House due to the administrative chaos that overtook the lower chamber following the midterm elections. Rep. Mark Rozzi’s Speaker vote rocked the House.
He rose to House leadership chair through internal deliberation driven by Republicans — compounded by absolute consensus from Democrats —- by striking a bipartisan form and, along with other promises, pledging to lead as an independent.
To date, Rozzi remains a registered Democrat, giving pause to House Republicans who’d heard otherwise in closed-door negotiations.
Further, disagreements over House rules have the lower chamber in a gridlock and unable to take up any legislative issues, regardless of who was in control. Disagreements bubbled in late January, compelling Rozzi to convene a recess until Feb. 27 and kickstarting a “listening tour” to hear from constituents across PA.
“As a rank-and-file member of the House for ten years, I was never involved in the behind-the-scenes politics of the General Assembly,” Rozzi told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
“Now, having been thrust into it over the last two weeks, I can tell you one thing: Harrisburg is broken.”
Rozzi, a child sexual assault survivor, also said he would halt any other issue until the House moves to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that opens a two-year window for victims of child sexual abuse to file civil claims against their abuse, currently barred by the state’s statute of limitations.
The issue of the Speakership itself is a lingering issue. Given that Democrats achieved a palpable majority, Rep. Johanna McClinton may again become a contender for Speaker of the House.
Asked by Spotlight PA on Tuesday night, McClinton said to observe the “will” of the House when it reconvenes upon their return to the State Capitol.
“I don’t know if it’ll happen now, but I know at some point Leader McClinton will be the leader of the State House,” Burgos affirmed.
McClinton needs Rozzi’s go-ahead to pursue a vote for Speaker, which is seemingly unlikely as he’s said he intends to remain Speaker.
“I think there is a strong possibility for Leader McClinton to become Speaker,” said Cepeda-Freytiz.