The much-hyped down-ballot problems some suggested Republican Donald Trump would cause in Pennsylvania did not appear in the races for the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s available seats in 2016.
In fact, Trump’s historic win in Pennsylvania may have helped Republicans expand their majorities in both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, with the latter chamber appearing to secure a veto-proof majority – a total of 34 seats.
All 203 seats in the state House of Representatives were up for grabs, although nearly half of the chamber’s incumbents ran unopposed, with many more in relatively safe districts. That presented a difficult scenario for Democrats hoping to slice into the Republican Party’s current 119-84 majority in the chamber. In the end, the GOP majority looks to have grown by as many as 3 seats.
If the Democrats’ path to denting the GOP’s majority in the House was difficult, their task was herculean in the Senate, where the GOP held a 31-19 majority going into the election. Twenty-five of the chamber’s 50 seats were on the ballot, but there were only a handful deemed by Republican and Democratic campaign insiders as having the ability to shift the chamber’s current political composition.
And shift it did, with Republicans winning three seats – thanks to a Trump wave in most areas of the state west of Harrisburg – and holding on to one GOP seat thought vulnerable to the Democrats.
In a rematch of a special election earlier this year, incumbent GOP Sen. Tom Killion narrowly defeated Democrat Martin Molloy, 51.39 to 48.61 percent (a nearly 6,300-vote margin) to hold on to the 9th Senatorial District in Delaware County. The earlier special election was prompted by Sen. Dominic Pileggi’s election as a Delaware County judge.
Republicans had targeted incumbent Democratic Sen. Rob Teplitz in the 15th Senatorial District.
Teplitz’s 2012 election was in a district drawn in 2000, due to problems with the 2010 reapportionment maps. Since his election, the 15th District was redrawn to add all of heavily Republican (but not heavily populated) Perry County.
That tipped the scales for Republican challenger John DiSanto, who defeated Teplitz 51.42 to 48.58 percent (a 3,380-vote margin).
And the western Pennsylvania Trump wave crashed on incumbent Democratic Sen. Sean Wiley in his first reelection effort, following his win in 2012 with 60 percent of the vote.
Republican challenger Daniel Laughlin defeated Wiley 53.5 to46.5 percent for the Erie County seat.
Sen. John Wozniak’s decision to retire – some say due to rumors that started earlier this year that he would lose reelection – left an open seat in western Pennsylvania.
Republican Wayne Langerholc thumped Democrat Ed Cernic Jr., 62.54 to 37.46 percent, for the 35th Senatorial District, which includes Bedford, Cambria and part of Clearfield counties
House races .
Incumbent Democrat Jaret Gibbons lost his relection bid to Republican challenger Aaron Bernstine, 41.37 to 58.63 percent, in the 10th District, which includes Beaver and Lawrence counties.
Democrats look to have barely held on to the open Bucks County 31st District seat held by Rep. Steve Santarsiero, who lost his congressional bid on Nov. 8
Democrat Perry Warren defeated Republican Ryan Gallagher by 28 votes (50.04 to 49.96 percent).
Democrats did not retain the 49th District in Washington County, open due to the retirement of longtime Rep. Peter Daley, II. Republican Donald Cook defeated Democrat Alan Benyak 54.25 to 45.75 percent.
The GOP also picked up the currently Democrat-held 51st District in Fayette County, with Republican challenger Matthew Dowling besting incumbent Democrat Tim Mahoney 52.82 to 47.18 percent.
In the 58th District, open due to Democrat Ted Harhai, Republican Justin Walsh defeated Democrat Mary Popovich, 62 to 38 percent.
In the east, the GOP thought they may have picked up another seat, but late returns appear to have given incumbent Democratic Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, from the 161st District in Delaware County, a 240-vote win (50.35 to49.65 percent) over Republican Patti Rodgers Morrisette.
Incumbent Republican Harry Lewis also appears to have survived against Democrat Joshua Maxwell in Chester County’s 74th District, 51.93 to48.07 percent (or an 880-vote margin).
However, for the 115th District, incumbent Republican David C. Parker looks to have lost to Democrat Maureen Madden, 51.94 to 48.06 percent (or by a margin of about 841 votes).
Republican incumbent Tom Quigley bested Democrat Joseph Ciresi, 51 to 49 percent (a margin of 544 votes) for Montgomery County’s 146th District.
Republican incumbent Rep. Dan Truitt, who both GOP and Democratic insiders thought might lose his reelection bid may have retained Chester County’s 156th District by a scant 78 votes ( 50.11 to 49.89 percent) over Democrat Carolyn Comitta.
And in a bit of a surprise to some, Republican incumbent Martina White appears to have won reelection to her Philadelphia-based 170th District seat. White – who was a surprise win for the GOP in Philadelphia in a 2015 special election (because then Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle was elected to Congress and vacated the seat), owing to political infighting by some of the city’s Democratic powerbrokers – defeated Democratic challenger Matthew Darragh, 54.27 to 45.73 percent.
In Montgomery County’s 150th District, Republican Michael Corr defeated Democrat Linda Weaver, 54.37 to 45.63 percent.
In Chester County’s 158th District, Republican Eric Roe defeated Democrat Susan Rzucidlo, 53.18 to 46.82 percent.
Iin Delaware County’s 165th District, Republican Alexander Charlton defeated Democrat Elaine Schaefer 56.54 to 43.46 percent.