Democrats and Republicans alike are both making the Pennsylvania state legislature a key focus in 2020. According to the most recent ratings from the election analysts at the Cook Political Report, the state House and Senate both lean Republican in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania may be a swing state in higher offices, but it’s been pretty solidly red for a long while at the legislative level,” writes Louis Jacobson for the Cook Political Report. “The Democrats had a tie in the Senate about three decades ago, and they mustered narrow leads in the House after the 2006 and 2008 elections.”
In 2018, Democrats made gains in the state House and Senate, although Republicans maintain a majority in both chambers. Democrats were able to flip 5 state Senate seats and 11 state House seats in the most recent election, mostly gaining seats in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs.
“Now, the Democrats have a shot at taking over at least one chamber, although the GOP starts the cycle with an edge,” Jacobson writes. “Pennsylvania will a major focus of national attention in 2020, potentially producing unpredictable downballot effects.”
In Jacobson’s fifty state breakdown, Pennsylvania is the lone state that has both chambers controlled by Republicans “leaning” to stay in their control.
A question that he poses is what kind of impact Trump will have on these down ballot races in the upcoming election.
“Will an energized Trump base in rural areas of states like Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania help the GOP maintain vulnerable legislative chambers? Or will the Democrats succeed in flipping some of those Trump-won swing states, aiding the party’s quest to flip GOP held chambers?,” Jacobson writes. “No one knows yet.”
For the Democrats to regain a majority in both chambers they would need the state House to flip 9 seats, while flipping 4 state Senate seats.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced in December that Pennsylvania is one of their seven target states included in their $50 million spending goal for 2020, aimed at flipping state legislatures before the next round of redistricting. A spokesperson from the DLCC told PoliticsPA in late December that they believe there is a “very clear path to victory” in both chambers.
While the DLCC has yet to officially announce their target districts in 2020, the races that are being viewed as necessary to flip to regain a majority include unseating state Sens. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin), Tom Killion (R-Delaware), Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), and Scott Martin (R-Lancaster).
The Republican State Leadership Committee has also included Pennsylvania in their top tier states, with a spokesperson telling PoliticsPA that out of the 12 states named thus far in their “Right Lines 2020” initiative, Pennsylvania is one of “less than six states” in their top tier. The RSLC expressed optimism in not only holding seats in the state House and Senate, but thinks there is a real chance at picking up seats in rural regions of the state where he expects Trump to perform well in again in 2020.
The Cook Political Report’s 50 state report on state legislature control was released on Jan. 15, prior to Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announcing that he wasn’t seeking another term.
The full Cook report ratings can be found here.