Democrats have flipped the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, unexpectedly gaining control of the legislative chamber for the first time in a decade.
The Associated Press confirmed that Democrats had flipped 12 seats, enough to hold a narrow majority in the state House, on Saturday, when it called a final outstanding race for Democratic candidate Melissa Cerrato.
Despite the result, there are three seats that will soon be vacant because two Democratic state House members won elections for other offices in November, while a third died. That could put Republicans back in the majority at least until special elections to fill the seats.
As in Michigan, where Democrats won majority control of both the state House and Senate, the party attributed its wins to fairer legislative maps that limited the power of Republican gerrymandering efforts ― although Pennsylvania does not use the sort of independent redistricting commission that Michigan voters adopted in 2018.
“One thing we’ve seen after decades of gerrymandered maps, that it turns out, 50% of Pennsylvania voters vote Democrat,” state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D), who will likely become the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the Pennsylvania House, said the day after the election, according to local TV station WHYY. “It’s an amazing thing. It’s an amazing thing what a fair opportunity and fair maps and a fair district will provide.”
The shocking victory also suggests that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade heavily motivated voters to turn out and turn against Republicans, especially in battleground states where Democrats argued that the future of abortion rights was on the ballot.
Democrats will retake control of the state House for the first time since 2011. Republicans will still hold the majority in the state Senate.
Pennsylvania House Democrats originally declared victory on Nov. 9, when it was clear that the party had won 99 of the state’s 203 seats. Three others in the Philadelphia suburbs remained close with ballots still to count, but party leaders felt confident that they would win all three to take a 102-101 majority in the chamber.
State Democrats entered the 2022 midterms needing to flip 12 seats in order to take away the Pennsylvania House majority from Republicans. They were confident that high-profile races for U.S. Senate and governor would help them eat into the GOP’s margins, but flipping the chamber was considered a longer shot than similar efforts to win control of legislatures in Michigan and Arizona.
However, the States Project, a progressive group that focuses on state legislatures, poured money into Pennsylvania in an effort to boost candidates in key races. The group saw chipping away at the GOP majority as a way to help protect the 2024 presidential election from potential Republican efforts to undermine it ― as some GOP lawmakers in the state, including Republican nominee for governor Doug Mastriano, attempted to do after former President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020.
The effort took on even more importance, States Project research director Aaron Kleinman told HuffPost before the election, when the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could grant more power to state legislatures to contest or overturn future election results.
Democrats will still have to compromise with Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled state Senate, but they could use the House to advance major priorities, including efforts to expand voting rights and protect abortion access.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) won the race to become the state’s next governor.