Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Democrats succeeded in taking control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the first time in over a decade this November. Democrats won a total of 102 seats by beating Republican incumbents in four districts, and flipping four more seats in races where the Republican incumbent retired. There are a total of 203 Representatives in the Pennsylvania House, meaning Democrats have only a one seat margin, but it is enough to choose the next Speaker of the House.
Democratic candidates who focused on education and defending abortion care access seemed to do well this year. Arvind Venkat won House District 30 after the district was redrawn by a bipartisan panel earlier this year. Venkat will represent a district that has been controlled by Republicans since it was first drawn in 1969, aside from an 8 month period in 2006 where a Democrat took over after a Republican resigned mid-year. In a statement, Venkat said he looked forward to “representing all of our community to the best of my ability.”
Venkat is joined by Mandy Steele and Paul Takac who also won their elections. As previously reported, each candidate made defending abortion care access a major piece of their platform. All three candidates also campaigned on ensuring adequate funding for public schools in the state.
Even though Democrats control the House, the start of 2023 is likely to have a rocky start for leadership. Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D., Allegheny) passed away due to cancer in October, too late to change his name on the ballot. He won re-election, but his position will need to be filled by special election next year. Representatives Austin Davis (D., Allegheny) and Summer Lee (D., Allegheny) each won two elections this year. Davis will be the next Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania, and Lee will be a Representative in the U.S. House instead of the Pennsylvania State House. Since Pennsylvania law does not allow someone to hold two political offices simultaneously, each of them will need to step down from their role in the state house before they can be sworn into their new office.
Unfortunately, that means Democrats will have a maximum of 101 votes on January 3, 2023 when the next Speaker of the House will be elected. The Pennsylvania Speaker must be elected by a majority of the Representatives, meaning that Democrats need to convince at least one Republican to vote with them in order to elect the next speaker. Democrats will be nominating Rep. Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia) to be speaker. McClinton, a former public defender, would be the first woman and first black woman to hold the position in Pennsylvania if confirmed.