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Democrats again secure one-vote Pa. House majority after special election win

by Stephen Caruso of Spotlight PA |

A sign that reads House of Representatives inside the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.
Amanda Berg / For Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — Democrats have once again secured a one-vote majority in the Pennsylvania House, prevailing in an Allegheny County special election the party was widely favored to win.

The Associated Press called the race for Democrat Lindsay Powell, a former mayoral staffer and member of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Powell faced Republican Erin Connolly Autenreith, a realtor who chairs a local GOP committee.

Powell’s win will end a two-month tie in the 203-member lower chamber that has existed since progressive state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D., Allegheny) resigned to focus on her run for Allegheny County executive.

Her resignation coincided with a weeks-long budget impasse — partially resolved in early August — between the Republican-controlled state Senate, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, and the state House.

With the state House back at its full complement, Democrats once again will have undisputed control of the chamber. The House’s last voting session was on July 7; its next voting day is scheduled for Sept. 26.

To finish the budget, the two chambers must agree on so-called code bills — omnibus budget-enabling legislation that reauthorizes the state's taxing and spending authority every year. While much of the $45.4 billion plan can be enacted without these bills, a little over $1 billion in spending, including on a number of key Democratic priorities like housing and public legal defense, cannot be implemented without them.

Tuesday’s contest was the sixth state House special election since January.

Democrats won a one-vote majority in the November 2022 election, but the death of one winner and the resignations of two others for higher office prompted three special elections.

Two more special elections were held during the May municipal primary to replace a GOP representative who won a state Senate special election and a Democratic lawmaker who resigned over sexual harassment allegations.

At the same time, two state House Democrats won primary elections for local offices — Innamorato for county executive, and state Rep. John Galloway (D., Bucks) for a local judgeship.

Galloway won both the Democratic and Republican nods, and he will not be challenged on the November ballot.

Still, he previously told Spotlight PA he didn’t plan to resign until absolutely necessary, adding Tuesday that he planned to”finish strong.”

In theory, Galloway could continue serving in the state House until he’s sworn in as a judge in January. That would mean the special election to replace him wouldn’t be held until March 2024.

While Democrats have reliably won his suburban Philadelphia seat, it has also trended Republican in recent statewide elections, and could be a tougher race than most of the other specials, which took place in safe Democratic seats.

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