What will the election results bring?
Written by Legislative Consultant, Bruce Hironimus

The turnover on Election Night was much greater than this week’s leadership elections.  The Pennsylvania Senate Democrats and Republicans selected their leadership teams for the upcoming 2019-2020 legislative session, with very little change occurring on either side.

The Republicans are only losing one member from the previous leadership team with the retirement of Sen. Chuck McIlhenny (R-Bucks) who serves as the Majority Caucus Administrator until the completion of this session. That position will be appointed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati on the first day of session.

The Republicans are bringing back Scarnati (R-Jefferson) as President Pro Tempore, Sens. Jake Corman (R-Centre) for a third term as Majority Leader, Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) for another term as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, John Gordner (R-Snyder/Northumberland/Montour/Columbia/Luzerne) re-elected as Majority Whip, Bob Mensch (R-Berks/Bucks/Montgomery) for another term as Majority Caucus Chairman, and Richard Alloway (R-Franklin) re-elected as Majority Caucus Secretary.

The Democrats have re-elected their entire leadership team, Sens. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) as Senate Minority Leader, Anthony Hardy Williams (D-Philadelphia) as Senate Minority Whip, Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) as Minority Appropriations Committee Chair, Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) as Minority Caucus Chair, Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) as Minority Caucus Secretary, Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) as Minority Policy Committee Chair, John Blake (D-Lackawanna) for Minority Caucus Administrator and Judy Schwank (D-Berks) as Vice Chair of the Minority Appropriations Committee.

The Democrats flipped five state Senate seats on Election night, four in the suburbs of Philadelphia and one in the Pittsburgh region, trimming the Republican majority from an 18 seat advantage to eight seats. The Republicans will enter the next session with 29 Senators, while the Democrats bring in 21. 

The Pennsylvania House selected their leadership team for the upcoming 2019-2020 legislative session.

Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) was selected as the new Majority Leader in the House of Representatives taking over for Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana). Reed, the retiring eight-term representative in the 62nd District, announced in March he would not seek office in November, and later accepted a role as a Regional President for First Commonwealth Bank.  

Taking over Cutler’s role as House Majority Whip in the next session will be Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre, Mifflin). Benninghoff has been a member of the House since 1996 and is completing his second term as Republican Policy Committee chairman. Benninghoff has also served as the chairman of the House Finance Committee, Cancer Caucus and Rural Health Caucus in the past.

Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) will maintain his role as Speaker of the House for a third term. Turzai will oversee a Republican majority over the next two years, although the Democrats made a net gain of 11 state House seats from this year’s election, mainly coming from the Philadelphia suburbs.

The GOP holds a 110-93 majority in the state House, but two vacancies will exist in the beginning of the new session. Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich (D-Lackawanna) died in October, and Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown (D-Philadelphia) was convicted of “violating state conflict of interest laws and accepting bribes.” Special election dates for these seats will be selected by the speaker in January.

19 newly elected Republican members participated in today’s leadership elections that also included the following positions being filled: Reps. Stan Saylor (R-York) for Appropriations Chair, Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery) as Caucus Chair, Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion, Forest) for Policy Committee Chair, Kurt Masser (R-Columbia, Montour, Northumberland) as Caucus Administrator and Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland, Somerset) for Caucus Secretary.

The Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus selected their leadership team for the upcoming 2019-2020 legislative session, with the Democrats in the Philadelphia region walking away as the big winners.  

Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) was selected as the new House Minority Whip after defeating Rep. Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne). Harris, first elected in 2012 and current chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, is taking the place of retiring Rep. Mike Hanna (D-Clinton).

Rep. Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) was selected as the new House Minority Appropriations Chair after besting Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny),  Bradford, first elected in 2008 and previous Democratic Chair of the State Government Committee, is replacing retiring Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny).

Another new face in the leadership team from the Southeastern part of the state is Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) taking on the role as House Minority Caucus Chair. McClinton, serving in the House since 2015, defeated Reps. Robert Freeman (D-Northampton) and Robert Matzie (D-Beaver) for this post. Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) ran unopposed and will maintain his role as the House Minority Leader. The Democrats remain in the minority over the next two years, although they made a net gain of 11 state House seats, coming from Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.

24 newly elected Democratic members participated in yesterday’s leadership elections that also included the following members being re-elected to the following positions: Reps. Rosita Youngblood (D-Philadelphia) as Caucus Secretary, Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) for Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee and Neal Goodman (D-Schuylkill) as Caucus Administrator.

What does this all mean? The stability of the leadership within the Senate and House Republican Caucuses, coupled with an increased conservative membership will face an increased liberal presence from their Democratic Senate and House colleagues and a term-limited Governor Wolf.  Thus, public policy actions are likely to be slowed as compromise and eventual solutions will be difficult.  POMA priority issues remain but we will be aggressive in our advocacy and are well positioned due to strategic support in the legislature.  POMPAC contributions and other political education efforts remain important tools for our success.