Election Update #2
Dear PAOLMA Members,
The counting of General Election ballots in Pennsylvania is still not complete. As of this hour:
Former Vice President Biden has a 49.74%-49.11% lead over President Trump. Under state law an automatic recount of any statewide race is permitted if the winning margin in the race is 0.5% or less. In the presidential race the Secretary of State (Democrat Kathy Boockvar) would have to call for the recount. Boockvar has been heavily criticized in the past month for her department’s administration of the election mechanics in Pennsylvania, and the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader have both publicly called for her resignation in the past week. Finally, the Trump campaign has filed numerous lawsuits in Commonwealth Court regarding voting/counting irregularities and the inability to attend and view the vote counting of mail-in and absentee ballots. One can only wonder the dramatic scene that might occur when PA’s 20 presidential Electors arrive in Harrisburg to cast their votes on December 14, 2020!
The PA congressional delegation did not change. The current field of 9 Democrats and 9 Republicans were all re-elected and will return to Congress for the 117th Session. Democrat Conor Lamb won a close and hard-fought battle in Southwest PA as did Democrats Susan Wild in the Lehigh Valley/Allentown and Matt Cartwright in Northeast PA. Republican Scott Perry was a national target of the DCCC in 2020 but garnered 56% of the vote on the way to victory.
A “Red Wave” swept through the 3 PA row offices– each currently held by a Democrat. Democrat Josh Shapiro will now adjust his focus to running for Governor in 2022 after narrowly defeating a no-name Republican with 50.6% of the vote. His victory was not a surprise but the margin leads one to pause. In a historic race, Republican Tim DeFoor becomes the first person of color to be elected to one of Pennsylvania’s 3 statewide row offices as he has easily been elected Auditor General. A bright political career begins! Incumbent Treasurer Joe Torsella (D) is in trouble and still trails Republican Stacy Garrity by 81,000 votes in his re-election bid. This seat may flip in the next 24 hours.
One State Senate seat is still too close to call and Allegheny County will continue to count mail-in and provisional ballot votes through Tuesday of this week to determine the outcome. A Republican challenger leads incumbent Democrat Jim Brewster by 400 votes with 3,200 ballots to count. If Brewster loses, the Republican majority in the State Senate will be 29-20-1. Of course, if he wins, that will shift to 28-21-1. Too close to call and both sides appear optimistic. Currently Republicans have lost one incumbent in Southeast PA and Democrats have lost a member in Southwest PA—continuing the statewide trend that eastern PA is a growing Democrat demographic and western PA is growing as a Republican base.
In the House it appears that the Republicans will grow their current majority to 113-90 over the Democrats with the surprising upset occurring for current House Minority Leader Frank Dermody. Again, in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), where the counting continues, Leader Dermody is trailing. If he loses, as anticipated, the Republicans will have flipped 4 Democrat seats and lost one Republican seat.
In a not-so-scientific practice I have tracked the change of membership in the General Assembly in Pennsylvania every two years since the early 1990’s and have generally concluded that, on average, the 253 seats see a 13%-16% change in membership after these biennial elections (with one or two cycles being notable exceptions). If current election results hold the Assembly will see a 12.2% turnover as a result of the 2020 election.
Leadership elections for each of the four caucuses in the Senate and House had been scheduled for tomorrow, November 10th, to select new leadership teams for the 2021-22 session of the General Assembly. The uncertainty of election outcomes has forced the postponement of three of the four caucus leadership elections to a later date. Only House Republicans will elect their new leadership team on November 10th. Senate Republicans have postponed until November 12th. The Democrat caucuses are still waiting to decide on new dates.
Finally, legislatively, there is a good chance that the General Assembly will schedule session for November 16-18, 2020 to enact the remainder of the 2020-21 fiscal year budget. As you may recall, Pennsylvania funded a budget in late May, 2020 for only the first 5 months of the fiscal 2020-21 year to end on November 30, 2020. The General Assembly will now return to fund the remaining 7 months of government operations and programs. Upon completion of the remaining budget the General Assembly is expected to recess for the year, the 2019-20 legislative session will conclude by constitutional mandate on November 30, 2020 and a new General Assembly will be sworn in during the first week of January 2021.
We will try to provide a very brief synopsis of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania once all votes have been counted and the Department of State publishes final and official results in all races.