In 2018, Democrats flipped 5 seats in the state Senate and 11 seats in the state House in Pennsylvania, but still remained in the minority. Heading into November, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is making a play to flip both chambers in the Keystone State and announced 27 “spotlight candidates” in its push to regain the majority.
“Our lineup of Spotlight candidates in Pennsylvania is prepared to build off of our victories in 2018,” said DLCC President Jessica Post. “These candidates are community leaders, small business owners, and veterans who are determined to continue fighting for their communities in Harrisburg.”
“We’re excited to work with these fantastic candidates to flip both chambers blue and give Pennsylvanians the leadership they deserve,” Post continued.
The DLCC claims in the press release that the “GOP’s hold on the Keystone State continues to loosen,” and cites recent polling that shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump in the state, the GOP effort in the state legislature opposing Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 reopen plans, plus House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) resigning in mid June and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati announcing he won’t seek reelection.
“It’s clear that the Pennsylvania GOP is in retreat and Democrats are ready to take charge in Harrisburg,” the release reads from the DLCC reads.
The Republican State Leadership Committee described the Democratic platform for the upcoming election as “dangerous” and said that the GOP will be victorious in the fall.
“Democrats and their dangerous platform threaten to completely upend the American way of life, and they have Pennsylvania in their crosshairs,” said Stami Williams, RSLC Communications Director. “While Republican state leaders are focused on protecting you and your family, radical socialists are crying out to defund the police, put your communities in extreme danger, and push policies that threaten the commonwealth’s economy. Pennsylvanians will not allow for this extremist agenda to take root in Harrisburg and will vote accordingly in November.”
Out of the DLCC’s 27 “spotlight candidates,” 7 of them are running for the state Senate, while 20 are running for the state House. However, not all 27 candidates in the DLCC press release are attempting to unseat a Republican. 10 Democratic incumbents, 3 in the Senate and 7 in the House, are included in this list.
The “spotlight” House candidates that are attempting to unseat Republicans are Emily Skopov (HD-28), Marlene Katz (HD-29), Michele Knoll (HD-44), Brittney Rodas (HD-105), Lindsay Drew (HD-106), Joanna Bryn Smith (HD-120), Kevin Branco (HD-131), Gary Spillane (HD-144), Jonathan Kassa (HD-151), Nancy Guenst (HD-152), Claudette Williams (HD-176), and Ann Marie Mitchell (HD-178).
Two of those seats in the Philadelphia suburbs, HD151 and HD152, are districts that voted for Sec. Hillary Clinton by double digits over President Donald Trump in 2016. The other ten “spotlight” candidates that are attempting to flip the seat blue are running in districts that went to Trump in 2016, although five of those districts only supported Trump by single digits over Clinton.
Democrats would have to unseat 9 Republicans in the state House to gain a majority.
The seven House seats that Democrats are playing defense in for the “spotlight” candidates include House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (HD-33), Reps. Pam Snyder (HD-50), Steve Malagari (HD-53), Gerald Mullery (HD-119), Wendy Ullman (HD-143), Joe Ciresi (HD-146), and Jennifer O’Mara (HD-165).
The two most Trump friendly districts that the Democrats are playing defense in is HD-50 and HD119, where Trump carried Snyder’s district by 30 points and Mullery’s district by 26 points.
The Democratic road to flipping the state Senate became more difficult when state Sen. John Yudichak (I-Luzerne) announced in November 2019 that he was leaving the Democratic Party to register as an Independent and caucus with Republicans. The DLCC includes four Democratic challengers for the Senate, while the party needs four seats to flip in order to regain a majority.
The five state Senate “spotlight” challengers are John Kane (SD-9), Janet Diaz (SD-13), George Scott (SD-15), and Julie Slomski (SD-49).
State Sens. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) and Tom Killion (R-Delaware), who represent the 9th and 15th Districts, eked out victories by around 3 points in their most recent reelection bids, while state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) won by close to 7 points in the 49th District and state Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) coasted to a 15 point victory in the 13th District in 2016.
The three Senators included in the DLCC’s “spotlight” candidates are Judy Schwank (SD-11), Pam Iovino (SD-37), and Jim Brewster (SD-45). Schwank’s is the safest of those three, while Trump carried both Brewster and Iovino’s districts in 2016.
Republicans have also set lofty goals for themselves in Pennsylvania for the upcoming races in the general assembly. In June, the RSLC announced that they are targeting 17 districts, 15 House and 2 Senate, that Trump carried in 2016 that are currently represented by Democrats.
Both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly are top targets in the DLCC’s $50 million “Flip Everything” campaign to win legislative majorities across the country. A spokesperson from the DLCC told PoliticsPA in December that they view the state as a “top target because it is very flippable.”
This story was updated to note that Marlene Katz is running for the state House, not the state Senate.