The election has come and gone that will bring some familiar faces into 2019, while a slew of newly elected officials have also burst onto the scene. Here’s the annual Ups & Downs.
Women. 2018 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman” by countless outlets and the impact was felt from women on and off the ballot in Pennsylvania. The state’s Congressional delegation is all male no more with the election of four women to Congress; two of them winning special elections and have already been sworn in. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, when the state legislature is seated next week, 18 newly elected women will join the state House for their first term, bringing the total number of women representatives to 52. The state Senate will add five newly elected women to join the seven female incumbents to have a total of 12 women state Senators in the next session. This is still far short of half of the state legislature, but higher than previous years. Women also were the driving forces behind the landslide victories of incumbents Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf. According to NBC News exit polling, Wolf carried 65% of the women vote, while Casey captured 63% helping them coast to double digit wins.
Old Guard. Time for some new faces in Pennsylvania politics, huh? Reps. Bob Brady and Bill Shuster are just two of the well known names who called it quits in 2018 deciding to not seek another term. Brady has held his seat in Philadelphia and surrounding counties since 1998, while a Shuster has represented south-central Pennsylvania in Congress for the past 46 years. Brady and Shuster’s retirements, coupled with various other retiring/resigning Congressional representatives has opened the door to eight new faces in Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation for the start of the next session. In 2018, we say goodbye to Reps. Barletta, Brady, Costello, Dent, Meehan, Murphy, Rothfus, and Shuster. In 2019, Pennsylvania welcomes Reps. Lamb, Scanlon, and Wild for their first full terms and representative-elects Dean, Houlahan, Joyce, Meuser, and Reschenthaler.
Democrats. This year has been kind to Pennsylvania Democrats from start to finish. In February, the state Supreme Court released the new Congressional map that provided much more favorable boundaries to the Dems. In March, Conor Lamb bested state Rep. Rick Saccone in a special election for the Trump friendly 18th District. In November, Democrats added 11 state House seats and 5 state Senate seats. The Congressional delegation is now split at 9 a piece in the state with the GOP, when they entered the year with just 5 Congressional representatives. Oh and Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf both secured another term by cruising to victories over state Sen. Scott Wagner and Rep. Lou Barletta.
MeToo in Harrisburg. One walks away (not empty handed), while two more stick around. State Rep. Nick Miccarelli decided not to seek reelection this year, but he walks away with a lifetime of benefits. State Rep. Tom Caltagirone and state Sen. Daylin Leach are still in the state legislature entering 2019.
Brian Fitzpatrick. The blue wave came crashing down in the suburbs of Philadelphia in November, but the Freshman Republican Congressman weathered the storm to win a second term. Wolf and Casey both won Bucks County, but Fitzpatrick was able to beat his Democratic challenger Scott Wallace by a couple of points. He successfully united conservative support while being able to boast endorsements from progressive groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety and the AFL-CIO. If the GOP can take one positive away from the Philly burbs in 2018, it was the victory of Fitzpatrick and Bucks County.
Moderate GOP. Speaking of the suburbs of Philly… Moderate Republicans across the state faced difficult elections this year, which ultimately led to the 11 member net loss in the state House and 5 member net loss in the state Senate. While those who may be viewed as “RINO’s” to some are exiting office, it is sure to make the next GOP caucus in Harrisburg and D.C. more conservative/Trump friendly.
Conor Lamb. Pennsylvanians may be getting used to hearing this name a lot. Lamb captured national headlines in March as he pulled a stunning upset victory in a special election in the pro-Trump 18th Congressional District. Lamb followed it up by taking down fellow incumbent Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Allegheny) in the only race in the nation that pitted two sitting Congressmen against each other. Following a campaign promise, Lamb was the only Democrat in PA to not vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Lamb may not be popular among the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing of the party, but his moderate profile has the potential to make him a household name in the Pennsylvania political scene for years to come.
Mike Stack. While his superior coasted to notching a second term, Stack did not join him for the ride this time around finishing 4th in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. Reports surfaced over the summer that Stack is already hoping the next year is more kind to him as he eyes potential seats in Philadelphia’s City Council.
DSA. Multiple candidates successfully won hard fought primaries and are punching their tickets to Harrisburg. In SD38, Republicans went full bore at state Senator-elect Lindsey William’s over her DSA connection and lost. Every incumbent Democrat in PA is now looking over their left shoulder for 2020.
Disgraced Dems. 2018 couldn’t get much worse for this group of now former Democratic elected officials. Former PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane started her prison sentence last month. Former PA Treasurer Rob McCord was sentenced to 30 months in prison in August. Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski reported to federal prison to begin his 12 plus year sentence. State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown “resigned under protest” earlier this month after being sentenced to 23 months of probation in a bribery case.
Josh Shapiro. The state’s Attorney General garnered headlines worldwide after he released his findings of “widespread sexual abuse” of children in the Catholic Church. Shapiro also penned an open letter to Pope Francis asking him to direct church leaders to release his office’s findings. In the past week the Philadelphia Inquirer detailed four Democrat “row office” holders and labeled Shapiro for being “in the strongest position to seek and win the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022.
Bryan Cutler. Who says nice guys finish last? The incoming House Majority Leader built his way to power with classic Lancaster County charm. First he helped coalesce and mobilize the Lancaster delegation into a bloc, then all of south central PA. All the while he avoided the knife fights and grudges that characterize some other legislative leaders who shall remain nameless.
Mark Rozzi. A victim of clergy sex abuse, the state Representative has fought hard the past couple of years to address the state’s statutes of limitation laws. Rozzi championed a bill that passed with bipartisan support through the House, but did not receive enough support in the Senate to address the reforms he was seeking.