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May 21 Special Elections Mean Likely Holds for Dems

Sam Smith
House Speaker Sam Smith

It looks like Republicans aren’t planning a full court press to pick up the seats of former state Reps. Eugene DePasquale and Matt Smith.

House Speaker Sam Smith announced today that the special elections for those seats will coincide with the municipal primary on May 21, rather than a separate scheduled day.

DePasquale was sworn in Tuesday as Pennsylvania’s Auditor General after serving three terms in his York-based district. Smith was sworn in Jan. 1 as a state Senator after three terms serving Mt. Lebanon in Allegheny County. Both are Democrats.

The path to victory for a Republican in either seat would have improved in a lower turnout special election because both districts offer Democrats a wide voter registration advantage.

The cost of a special state House race separate from the municipal primary would have been about $150,000 each based on estimates from previous elections.

Under constitutional guidelines, Smith could have scheduled a special election in HD-95 as early as March 19. Smith himself doesn’t have a history of picking special election dates that benefit his party, but it’s a fairly common practice in Harrisburg.

A few consultants who spoke with PoliticsPA agreed that it would cost the GOP around $250,000 to stand a serious chance of flipping each seat even in a March special. And while DePasquale’s York district would remain about the same under the currently proposed redistricting plan, Matt Smith’s would become significantly more Democratic.

The politicos agreed that the GOP’s money will be better spent protecting the party’s 111 to 92 state House majority in 2014.

All that said, municipal primaries are only relatively higher turnout affairs than special state house elections, so it’s not a done deal for the Dems. The caliber of the candidates and their campaigns (and in the Republicans’ case, their ability to support themselves financially) will determine how competitive the races are.

The official candidate selection process can begin now that the election dates have been set. But 3 of the four candidates, for practical purposes, are already chosen.

In HD-95 in York, Democrats are likely to nominate Kevin Schreiber, 32, who works for the York Redevelopment Authority. Republicans are poised to pick Bryan Tate, 45, the Vice President of Philanthropy at the York County Community Foundation.

In HD-42 in Allegheny County, Democrats are likely to nominate Dan Miller, 39, an attorney and former member of the Mt. Lebanon Board of Commissioners (and a Smith ally). Republicans don’t have their nominee yet. The two names we’re hearing are Mt. Lebanon School Board member Dan Remely and businessman John Schnatterly.

In any case, it will be a good trial run for Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montco), the newly minted chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

4 Responses

  1. I’m hoping that this “Sam Smith policy” as opposed to just not caring about these two seats. For now, I’m grateful as special elections outside of primary or general elections are generally a waste of time, energy and valuable resources.

  2. Cherelle Parker was just convicted of DUI so I am expecting she will resign and there will be a special election. She is a Democrat so a criminal conviction is not necessarily a negative. So maybe she won’t resign.

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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