November 17 – As of right now, it looks like the Democrats may have a one-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
But that could change depending on a number of factors.
The recent contested race in Montgomery County looks like it will go to the Democrat who is ahead by about 40 votes. That will give the Dems a one-seat majority in the House.
But, wait. There’s more.
PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “There are some provisional ballots left. There is a chance that the Republican could still pull it out, but I think the likelihood is that the Democrat wins that race. That race in Montgomery County brings the balance of power to 101, 101. It’s tied, but then you also have the dynamic of one of the Reps who was elected, she ran for Congress and for state Rep. She can’t be sworn into both jobs at the same time. So what’s the dynamic there?”
The newly elected lieutenant governor is also in the same situation.
Kauffman noted, “The balance of power I wouldn’t say, even with this race, is still in limbo because there are a lot of variables out there that could see the House Republicans retain control of the House, at least for a time, if not for the session.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “What are the rules for replacing? Is that still kind of foggy?”
The rules for replacing members is a special election.
Kauffman explained, “The special election would be called by the Speaker, so once the House convenes again in the New Year, those special elections could be called. As Republicans have been in control of the House, we usually go by the primary election for special elections because it’s less cost for the election officials and the counties. Democrats would likely prefer a late March/early April timeframe for those special elections. That would probably also be decided regarding who’s in control of the legislature who would decide when those races would happen.”
But there isn’t any party in control of the legislature at the moment – and possibly depending on what party is in control will depend on how this all plays out.
Kauffman said, “There would likely be some horse trading, some negotiations that go on in figuring this out. We could be Speaker-less, but the idea is those two members who have to take other positions could not be members of the House. The Democrats, until those members are replaced, they would not have control of the House because they wouldn’t have a majority.”
How all this shakes out remains to be seen.
“This is history in the making,” Kauffman said. “I wish I had my crystal ball and could tell you how this is going to play out, but I do not know. The optimal situation would be that we would be in control of the legislature come January 3, whether it be outright or through negotiations.”
Both Austin Davis, the new lieutenant governor, and Summer Lee, a Congress woman from the Pittsburgh area, will both have to resign their positions in the PA House to accept their new seats.
Kauffman noted, “Here’s the irony. You have two Democrats who, they like to run for two offices at the same time because you know you can’t risk being out of public office because heaven forbid you get off the public dole. So they run for two offices at the same time. So these situations put the Democrats in this situation.”