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The Five State Senate Races to Watch on Election Night

State Budget Senate GOPWhile many have been paying attention to the gubernatorial election and the various congressional races, the story of Election Night may well be the State Senate.

Currently, the Republican Party holds a 27 to 23 majority in the legislature’s upper chamber. Democrats need to pick up a net of two seats if Tom Wolf wins the Governor’s race (and Mike Stack doesn’t cause a constitutional crisis) and three seats if Gov. Corbett wins re-election.

We’ve narrowed down the five Senate races that are most likely to switch party control on Nov. 4th. The good news for Democrats, a path exists to take control of the Senate. The good news for Republicans, the Dems would have to win a clean sweep of these five races and the Gov contest.

Each district has been ranked by the likelihood it will switch parties, starting with the least likely.

5. 6th District: Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R) vs. Kim Rose (D)

Likely going GOP, but in a dream scenario for Democrats this seat could flip.

Democrats are dreaming that a potential Tom Wolf landslide will negate all national trends (which seem to be leaning Republican) and bring legitimate coattails. The best place to check for a possible “blue wave” in PA is this district. Located in Central and Lower Bucks County, the Sixth is a Democratic district on paper. Sen. Tomlinson, though, has deep roots in the community. He was first elected in 1994, was a State Rep. for four years before that and began his public career all the way back in 1978, when he was elected to the Bensalem school board.

Rose, meanwhile, is a member of the Northampton Twp. Board of Supervisors. She’s hammered the incumbent on TV for his votes to support Gov. Corbett budgets. If the first-time candidate can take down the veteran pol, it would indicate that the Democrats are going to have a very good night.

4. 46th District: Sen. Tim Solobay (D) vs. Camera Bartolotta (R)

This seat has been the GOP’s white whale district for years. If Republicans flip this district, it’s highly likely they’ll hold the Senate.

The 46th district covers the Southwestern corner of the Keystone State and consists of Greene County as well as parts of Beaver and Washington. Three-quarters of its voters, though, live in Washington County. The GOP is hoping to unseat incumbent freshman Sen. Tim Solobay. Southwest PA has become increasingly conservative as the Eastern part of the state becomes more progressive, leading Republicans to believe they can turn this seat.

GOP nominee Camera Bartolotta is a first-time candidate, however, who previously worked in the film industry. Meanwhile, Sen. Solobay has tried to emphasize his community ties by referencing his work as a volunteer firefighter.

3. 40th District: Rep. Mario Scavello (R) vs. Mark Aurand (D)

Redistricting put this once-safe Dem seat within striking distance for the GOP.

The 40th district is a peculiar case as it is an entirely new seat created during the latest round of redistricting. As a result the district, which consists of parts of Monroe and Northampton counties, is untested political ground.

Technically, it is retiring Democratic Senator Jim Ferlo’s seat, so it represents a pickup opportunity for the GOP. Additionally, Republican nominee State Rep. Mario Scavello, seemingly has the advantage since about 75% of his current constituents reside in the new district.

Attorney Mark Aurand is the Democratic nominee, after pulling an upset over establishment favorite Northampton County Councilman Scott Parsons. Aurand is attempting to paint Scavello as a “rubber stamp” for Governor Corbett but a September Harper Poll showed Scavello with a solid lead.

2. 32nd District: Rep. Deb Kula (D) vs. Pat Stefano (R)

The is the most conservative district held by a Democrat and a big GOP opportunity.

The 32nd district, which represents Fayette and Somerset counties along with a bit of Westmoreland, is Republicans’ top target this cycle. Incumbent Rich Kasunic dropped out after businessman Pat Stefano entered the race. Given the fact that President Obama lost this district by twenty points and even Senator Bob Casey lost it by ten, it would seem to be a prime GOP opportunity.

Yet State Rep. Deb Kula is giving it all she’s got. She is trying to use Corbett against Stefano while the Republican is touting his business experience and blasting Rep. Kula for her Harrisburg history.

This is another Southwestern seat Democrats will probably need to hold if they want to win the upper chamber.

1. 26th District: Tom McGarrigle (R) vs. John Kane (D)

This open seat is a battle royale between the parties in a district that, on paper, is evenly split.

Ever since GOP Sen. Tim Erickson announced his impending retirement back in the summer of 2013 this seat has been the most contested of the 2014 cycle. Located in Chester and Delaware counties, the 26th district presents Democrats with a huge opportunity to pick up a Republican seat. President Obama won the 26th with 56% of the vote in 2012.

The candidates in the race are polar opposites and the campaign has been fierce. Republican nominee Tom McGarrigle is the Delaware County Council Chair but is also a businessman. On the other hand, Democratic nominee John Kane is the Business Manager of the Plumbers Local 690.

McGarrigle has hit Kane with some sharp attacks and the recent revelation of past family drama was an embarrassment for Kane. Nevertheless, the Democratic nominee is still very much in this race and if he can pull it out, he just might be a part of the majority party in Harrisburg come January.

16 Responses

  1. Wish we here in the southwest corner could unseat GOP’s Assembly man Tim Krieger. He is this religious fanatic who misinterprets bills in front of him.
    He voted against the Sandusky Act which would require reporting of sexual abuse of children by organizations where it occurs—-such as the one Jerry Sandusky was in when he was able to hide his years of predatory behaviors. I fault Gov. Corbett for dropping the ball as well when an AG running for Gov.

    Krieger was one of just 4 Republicans who voted against the act, and he made some ridiculous out of touch statement that how would parents be able to discipline their kids in grocery store…argghhh
    We have a wonderful Democrat running much more intelligent and knowledgable.

  2. Robert-
    You’ve cross-posted these same tired posts in the other thread about the legislative races. Stop being such a douche-bag and posting off topic. And stop being such a f*cking liar and claiming that I didn’t respond, when mine is the most recent reply on the thread (timestamp October 29, 2014 at 1:41 am).

    I’d ask you to post something intelligent on the current senate topic, but that would be asking for something beyond your capabilities.

  3. @ DD:

    Also, in military terminology, you have outstretched your supply-line regarding your defense of AG-Holder; “HIS ONE ‘DO OVER’: Holder regrets subpoena to Fox News reporter.”
    Your [reflex] defense of his having signed-off on the warrant [claiming inter-alia that James Rosen was a flight-risk] smears still more egg within the nostrils upon your face.

  4. @ DD:

    You can run, but you cannot hide; as anticipated, after you were confronted elsewhere, you persisted in discussing Voter-ID rather than attempting to rectify your prior gross-errors.

    Furthermore, after your lengthy subjective attack on advocates of Voter-ID were “answered” by a series of hyperlinks that contradicted your claims–objectively–you failed to reply.

    Thus, you have again demonstrated why you merely consider posting on this site to be “sport,” pursued to satisfy your desire for entertainment; this also explains why no one should take you seriously.

  5. watch out for a big under reported upset in pa-50 when muha takes the open senate seat for michele brooks. it looks pretty bad for her up here. bad press on her part for over a month. Muha 50.3% Brooks 48.7%

  6. It seems to me that Pileggi’s best bet for hanging on is maintaining the status quo or gaining a seat. If they do better or worse than that, he’s toast, and then the Dems take the Senate by 2016 or sooner if there are retirements (and I suspect there will be if Pileggi loses). Wolf has his work cut out for him, but it’s sounding like he’ll come into office with a nice mandate and a Republican-controlled Assembly that’s willing to make some deals after being shut-out, used, and abused by Corbett. It’ll be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the House, though I’m less confident of major Democratic gains there.

  7. The gross negligence is recruiting an oaf for a candidate who lied to his advisors and let them start his campaign talking about his kids and how their education was the issue…… except he has got another kid right in the same town that he IGNORED for 31 years. He certainly didn’t give a S>>t about her education. Then they allow him to follow it up by saying he really doesn’t make what the tax return shows because he had to use retirement funds to pay for his kids college….again not the kid he ignored!!!
    Last and best bit…his fellow union bosses have declared Nov 4th a HOLIDAY for all trades. Those morons expect their guys to show and work more than their usual 8 hr day.. HAHAHAHA BLAHAHA
    I wish I owned a bar. My receipts would definitely be increased on Tuesday.

  8. I think Scavello easily wins the old Ferlo seat, so that’s +1 GOP, and I think Kula’s chances of keeping the Kasunic seat in Democrat hands are starting to dwindle, so maybe +2 GOP.

    It doesn’t appear as though the Democrats will pick up the two most vulnerable GOP seats, with the GOP candidates being a moderate-to-liberal Republican incumbent and a carbon copy of the moderate-to-liberal GOP senator currently holding the other seat. And I think Solobay keeps his seat because he fit the district he represents.

    So, even if I’m wrong about one of the two vulnerable GOP seats and wrong about Kula’s race, at best, the Democrats keep things where they are now. At worst – and that’s quite possible if the voter turnout is going to be as light as is being predicted – the GOP push their advantage to 29 – 21, with the potential to pick up another two seats in 2016 (the ones they lost in 2012 due to working off of the old district maps, not the new ones that make two of the Democratic seats very hard for a Democrat to hold).

    So if Wolf wins, like most people think he will, on Tuesday, he’s facing the prospect of having a 31 – 19 GOP-controlled Senate in two years and a House with what will likely still be a significant GOP majority.

    Wolf better be able to compromise, because if he wants a second term, it’s all going to come down to what he can get the GOP-controlled Legislature to do during the next 4 years. Since he didn’t spend several years trying to put many of them in jail on corruption charges, he’s got a leg up on Corbett, but not much of one, given some of the policies he said he wants to pursue (with most of those policies, other than some form of severance tax, dead-on-arrival in the House and likely to require major alterations for the Senate to consider them).

  9. I took at look at the registration numbers. Except for the 26th, the Dems have a registration advantage (though it’s more conservative Dems).

    The 6th, 32nd and 46th have good Dem registration numbers and in 2010 more Dems turnout out then Reps.

    The 46th has a better than 3 to 2 registration advantage and better than 3 to 2 turnout in 2010. You’ve got a Dem incumbent against a first time GOP candidate, in a year with the most unpopular GOP governor. Of the 25 Senate districts this year, it has the 7th best Dem registration and performance numbers. I wouldn’t even consider this district in play.

    The 6th has a decent Dem registration advantage, and the Dems did turnout more voters than the GOP. So, it’s winnable for the Dems if everyone votes along party lines. It’s always tough running against an incumbent, which is worth a few points. The best hopes for the Dems here is Wolf and SDCC having a good voter turnout operation and tying Tommy Tomlinson to Tom Corbett.

    The 32nd has good Dem performance, 9th out of 25, as well as an incumbent. I haven’t seen any polling, ads or “message”. Given the raw numbers, and hopefully a bad night for Corbett hurting the GOP ticket, this would seem a seat I’d expect the Dems to be able to hold.

    In the 40th, the Dems have a 10,000 registration advantage, but in 2010 had a 2,500 voter turnout disadvantage. Of course, 2010 was a GOP year, and Onarato and Sestak performed poorly with no coordinated campaign nor coattails downticket.

    In the 26th, the Republicans are a bit more moderate, and will likely go for Wolf like the rest of Delaware county. To win, Kane is going to need four things:
    1) a good GOTV operation and poll coverage
    2) coattails from Wolf with above average Dem turnout
    3) negatives from Corbett depressing GOP turnout
    4) strong numbers from the independent voters

    From the numbers, it looks doubtful that any of the 5 seats will switch parties, leaving the Senate at 27 to 23 at the end of the night.

    The registration/turnout numbers in the 26th favor the GOP. It’s the 8th best of 25 from the GOP perspective. It’s amazing that it is in play at all.

    But, the consensus is that it is in play and too close to call and the Delco GOP seems nervous. So, it’s a coin-flip instead of a solid GOP win.

    So, at the end of the night:
    50% chance the senate is 27-23
    50% chance the senate is 26-24
    100% chance Wolf wins for governor

    Three months from now, Wolf is going to regret not having put resources into the 6th and the 40th. The feedback I keep hearing from Dems is that the Wolf no-coattail strategy is an appeasement to the GOP in hopes of getting better cooperation from their majority rule. This Sunday, Wolf should ask Obama about how well the GOP cooperates when they have the upper hand.

    The better strategy would have been for Wolf to promote the entire Dem ticket and ask voters for help in turning back the Corbett agenda. Every race he helps a Dem flip, is saves him finding GOP legislators he needs to convince to pass legislation.

  10. “This is another Southwestern seat Democrats will probably need to hold if they want to win the upper chamber.” Why on earth would you be so wishy-washy here? If the Democrats lose *either* SD32 or SD46, they don’t have any path (NONE) to a 25-25 split — let alone a path to “win the upper chamber.”

  11. “Technically” (your word), SD40 is the Vulakovich seat. Vulakovich and Ferlo were merged into a single seat which kept the number of Ferlo’s district: SD38.

  12. John-
    Those are some strong words (and you are not the first to make such comments). However, could you give some examples of this “gross negligence”?

    For example… message? ratio of ground to air campaign? mailing strategy? volunteer recruitment? media strategy? … etc

    I’m still hoping Kane pulls off this win (and becomes my state senator). It’s a tough district due to GOP registration advantages and Delco GOP machine. Kane has raised enough money to compete for ads, staff, and mailings to get his name/message out. He should also have a good election day ground game with lots of union volunteers.

  13. D’s lose everyone here except the Solobay race. Poor Jay Costa and his 25-25 Senate. He’s closer to 30-20. The SDCC failed us this election season by screwing around with Scavello and Tomlinson. Now we lost Kane and Kula as well. Here’s hoping Solobay wins. Fire Daylin Leach puppet Aren Platt for gross negligence and crimes against a Pennsylvania Democratic Senate.

  14. Too bad you guys didnt list the 50th district race. But NWPA never gets any love. Michele Brooks is a failed candidate and a poor communicator. She cant even be bothered to attend candidate forums – and when she does, she always seems to leave early. I guess she hasnt had a real job interview in years. #careerpolitician #nothingtooffer

  • 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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