Dems Flip 5 State Senate Seats
Republicans no longer hold a veto-proof, 34-to-16 majority in the Pennsylvania State Senate. Democrats hit rock bottom in 2016 but they bounced back in a big way on Tuesday.
The party netted five seats on Tuesday. The seven Democratic incumbents on the ballot won, two of 13 GOP incumbents lost, and three of five open GOP seats switched parties.
The educated suburbs were a killing field for the GOP, as incumbent Sens. Tom McGarrigle and John Rafferty went down to defeat.
Sens. Pat Browne and Tommy Tomlinson each eked out a narrow victory: Browne by 3%, Tomlinson by a mere 100 votes. Browne faced Mark Pinsley, who owns a skin care business and is a South Whitehall Township Commissioner. Tomlinson defeated State Rep. Tina Davis (who easily won re-election to her House seat on Tuesday).
The two parties will fight it out in a special election for another swing seat in the coming months. Republican Sen. Guy Reschenthaler will vacate his district in southern Allegheny County after he won the race for Congress in PA14. He flipped the seat from Dems in a special election in 2015. In fact, this will be the fourth time in a row that this district will choose a new Senator via special election.
Half of PA Senate seats come up in alternating election cycles. The state-level redistricting process, reapportionment, has been controlled by the GOP for two decades. Party leaders deliberately gave SEPA Senate districts even numbers, meaning they would coincide with midterm elections, to avoid the Democratic boost of presidential ones.
The decimation of its moderate wing means the Senate GOP Senate will be more conservative in 2019.
Here are the seats that flipped:
SD10. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R) decided not to seek another term in this Bucks County seat. Former State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D) defeated State Rep. Marguerite Quinn (R) by 5 points, 52-to-47.
SD12. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf Sr. (R) is retiring from this Montgomery County seat. His son Stewart Greenleaf Jr. is an attorney who served as Montgomery County controller. Democrat Maria Collett is a nurse and former attorney. She won by 5 points, 52-to-47, with 99% of precincts reporting.
SD26. State Sen.Tom McGarrigle lost the Delaware County seat by 8 points, 54-to-46, continuing the precipitous slide of Delaware County into the Democratic fold. Architect and two-term Swarthmore Mayor Tim Kearney will take his place.
SD38. It comprises the North Hills of Allegheny County and a few precincts in the city of Pittsburgh. Education advocate and former labor organizer Lindsey Williams had the closest Democratic win of the night, a 617 vote, 0.5% margin of victory over Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer. Shaffer defeated incumbent Randy Vulakovich in the spring. The campaign swung on Williams’ affiliation with the Democratic Socialists of America. She sought the Pittsburgh chapter’s endorsement and Shaffer’s campaign overwhelming emphasized the socialist label in TV ads, mailers and yard signs.
SD44. State Sen. John Rafferty was denied a fifth term Tuesday, losing by 5 points to Democratic challenger Kate Muth in this district split between Chester and Montgomery counties (with a bit of Berks). Muth is an adjunct professor of kinesiology and an athletic trainer at at Eastern University. She won 52-to-47.