Republicans lost seats in the Pennsylvania state House and Senate in the 2018 election, but held on to their majorities in both chambers. In 2020, they are hoping to not only keep their majority, but expand their advantage by targeting Trump won districts held by Democrats in the Pennsylvania state legislature.
The Republican State Leadership Committee sent out a release announcing that their “path to victory begins with flipping Trump won Democrat-held districts,” in Pennsylvania. There are a total of 17 seats in the state legislature, 15 state House and 2 state Senate, that fall into this category and described Pittsburgh as “critical to Republican success with close to half of the targeted districts located in the area.”
“The Democratic Party is desperate to make gains in Pennsylvania, and liberal mega- donors have shown they are willing to spend whatever it takes to buy a decade of power,” said Edith Jorge-Tuñón, RSLC Political Director. “Organizations led by Barack Obama and Eric Holder are working to silence conservative voices across the Keystone State, and the RSLC is leading the fight to stop them. We know we have better candidates, that run better campaigns, and have a better message — we are confident that we will be successful this fall.”
The release from the RSLC said that the announcement will be “reinforced by robust in-state earned media and digital campaigns” focused on attempting to draw a contrast between both parties. The RSLC added that they have already spent over $300,000 in Pennsylvania thus far and are “all-in to protect House and Senate majorities in November.”
Although there are 17 Democratic-held seats in districts that Trump won, the release specifically pinpointed House Districts 33, 55, 72, and 123 as “just a few targets for Republicans” in the upcoming election.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) represents the least Trump friendly district of those four targets, with the president carrying the 33rd state House District by 5 points over Sec. Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to DailyKos. Dermody’s closest reelection bid since the last two presidential elections was in 2014 when he fended off Republican Sean Watson by 6 points, according to Ballotpedia. Dermody is slated to face Carrie DelRosso, an Oakmont Borough Councilmember and businesswoman, for the seat in the fall.
State Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria) represents the most Trump friendly district of the four targets with Trump winning the 72nd state House District by 43 points over Clinton in 2016. Burns’ closest reelection bid since the past two presidential elections was in 2018 when he edged out Republican Gerald Carnicella by 5 points, according to Ballotpedia. Burns will face Republican Howard Terndrup for his reelection bid in November.
State Rep. Joe Petrarca’s (D-Westmoreland) 55th state House District is also very favorable to Trump with the president carrying his district by 33 points in 2016, according to DailyKos. Petrarca ran unopposed in 2018 and his closest reelection bid since the past two presidential elections was in 2012 when he defeated Republican John Hauser, although his 2016 victory over Republican Michael Geiselhart was a 13 point win, according to Ballotpedia. Republican Jason Silvis will attempt to unseat Petrarca for the seat in the fall.
The 123rd state House District is an open seat that pits Democrat Peter Symons Jr against Republican Tim Twardzik. Rep. Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill), who is retiring at the end of his term, ran unopposed in every election since 2012, although Trump carried the district by 33 points over Clinton.
Out of the other 13 districts that are being targeted, the following four are running in districts that Trump won by double digits: Reps. Chris Sainato (D-Lawrence) in a district Trump won by 23 points, Pam Snyder (D-Greene) in a district Trump won by 30 points, Gerald Mullery (D-Luzerne) in a district Trump won by 26 points, and Mike Carroll (D-Lackawanna) in a district Trump won by 15 points. The following four Democrats are running unopposed this November: state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), Mark Longietti (D-Mercer), Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), and Nick Pisciottano Jr., who is running for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny).
The two Democratic state Senators that represent Trump won district both hail from Allegheny County: state Sens. Jim Brewster and Pam Iovino.
Democrats pointed to recent gains made in the state legislature nationwide since Trump entered office as proof they are confident that momentum is on their side for the upcoming election.
“We’ve flipped 450 seats from red to blue since Trump’s election so best of luck to the PA GOP trying to defend their vulnerable majority, but this ‘target list’ isn’t going to cut it. Our path to victory runs through the suburban seats where President Trump is toxically unpopular,” said Christina Polizzi, National Press Secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “Pennsylvania Republicans weren’t able to pick up or hold these seats in 2016 or 2018 and since then their party has only gotten more extreme. The RSLC is just desperate to pretend they have a coherent strategy after spending $1 million to lose a Supreme Court race in Wisconsin and losing Trump-won districts across the country.”
Although Republicans have set lofty goals for themselves for the upcoming election, the DLCC has also placed Pennsylvania as one of their top targets for the upcoming election. A spokesperson from the DLCC told PoliticsPA in December that they view the state as a “top target because it is very flippable.”
This article was updated to correct the county that Rep. Gerald Mullery represents.