HARRISBURG – Democrat York businessman Tom Wolf easily defeated incumbent Tom Corbett 54.8% to 45.2% (1,892,193 to 1,559,954 votes) while Republicans strengthened their control over both Senate and House in Tuesday’s mid-term election. Senate Republicans will have a ratio of 30 Republicans to 20 Democrats while the House GOP will have at least a 33-vote cushion.
Key to Republican Election Strength
One key to Republicans’ new Senate strength were victories in southeastern Pennsylvania despite it being a region where voter sentiment has leaned more Democratic and liberal in recent years. Vote margins for southeast Republican incumbents were: Stewart Greenleaf (Montgomery) 63.6% ; John Rafferty (Montgomery) 61.4%; Robert Mensch (Montgomery) 59.9%; Chuck McIlhinney (Bucks) 58.7%, Tommy Tomlinson (Bucks) 61.8%.
Open Republican seats also went to the GOP. One Democratic seat in Allegheny County was moved to Monroe County via redistricting (Senator Jim Ferlo-D-Allegheny retired) and was picked by the GOP. The closest race in the southeast was the open Chester County seat vacated by Senator Edwin Erickson (R-Chester) who retired. He is succeeded by Republican Tom McGarrigle who won with a 52% to 48% margin.
Two turnovers occurred in traditionally Democratic southwestern PA which has been tending more conservatively Republican in recent years. An open seat formerly held by Democrat Richard Kasunic in Fayette County was taken by Republican Patrick Stefano 57.3% to 42.7% (36,197 to 26,935 votes) over current Rep. Deberah Kula who had sought the higher office. GOP Senate turnover win number two came with the loss of Washington County incumbent Democrat Tim Solobay to Republican Camera Bartolotta 53.6% to 46.7% (35,820 to 31,436 votes).
GOP Adds to Majority
The House GOP added to its majority by adding at least seven new seats to Republican ranks. The new ratio will be either 119 Republicans to 84 Democrats or 118 Republicans to 85 Democrats depending on final tallies.
HARRISBURG – The election created a number of legislative vacancies in key agricultural posts. Among these is Fayette County’s Rep. Deberah Kula who did not prevail in her drive to succeed retired Senator Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette). Kula served on both the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee and House Appropriations Committee and championed funding for agricultural research and restoration of the state premium subsidy program for Crop Insurance.
Also not returning is agriculture stalwart Senator Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster), former chair of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee who did not seek re-election. Add Senator Bob Robbins, member of the Ag Committee as one who served but is retiring. On the Democratic side, Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee member Tim Solobay (D-Washington) was defeated.
Vacancies on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee include Republican (running as a Democrat after losing his primary) Mike Fleck (Huntingdon), Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster) who lost in a primary contest to succeed Senator Brubaker, Kula, mentioned above, and Michelle Brooks (R-Mercer) who won the open seat being vacated by retiring Senator Bob Robbins.
When the new session begins, there will be considerable committee shuffling on the House side because of the number of House committee chairs that are open due to retirements: Transportation, Environmental Resources & Energy, Education, Labor & Industry, and Tourism & Recreational Development.
Movement from House to Senate
Several representatives will take office as newly elected Senators. As mentioned above, Michelle Brooks (R-Mercer) fills Bob Robbins’ seat in northwest PA. Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe) assumes office in Monroe County’s new Senate district. Rep. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) fills the vacancy created with Senator Brubaker’s decision to retire.
Senate: All New Legislators but Haywood are Republicans
Michelle Brooks (Bob Robbin’s northwest PA seat) served on the House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.
Arthur Haywood III (Leanna Washington’s Phila. seat) is an attorney and township commissioner
Tom McGarrigle (Edwin Erickson’s seat in Chester/Delaware Counties) is a small businessman and a member of Delaware County Council
Scott Wagner (York County) won for a full term after defeating Ron Miller is a hotly contested special election early this year. He owns a waste management firm.
Patrick Stefano (Richard Kasunic’s Fayette County seat) is a commercial printer.
Ryan Aument (Mike Brubaker’s Lancaster County seat) was chief of staff for Rep. Bryan Cutler.
Camera Bartolotta (who defeated Washington County incumbent Tim Solobay) owns a small business.
With 26 new House members for the 2015-16 session, their collective backgrounds are too space-consuming to publish in this issue of AG ONE. Having said that, four legislators are Democrats, 22 are Republicans. Occupationally: two have law enforcement experience (assistant DA, corrections officer); two are educators; one is a school board member; nine have governmental experience as township supervisor or local/county officeholder or staff; two are small business owners; two worked for large corporations; one is a real estate agent; one is a community organizer; one is a social worker; two come from the banking community; one is a marketing rep for a casino; two are practicing attorneys; and one is a farmer.
HARRISBURG – Although successful in retaining control of the 13th congressional district open seat that is being vacated by Allyson Schwartz who lost in the Democratic primary for governor, Democrats were unable to win the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Jim Gerlach.
Traditionally vulnerable first-term congresspeople were successful in winning a second term with comfortable vote margins. Republican Mike Kelly in northwest PA won with 60.5%, Republican Keith Rothfus from western PA won with 59.3% of the vote, Republican Scott Perry from south central PA won with 74.5%, and first-term Democrat Matt Cartwright from north central PA won with 56.8%. The ratio of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation remains thirteen Republicans and five Democrats.