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The Capitol

Democrats maintain control of Pennsylvania House after Bucks County special election

by Stephen Caruso of Spotlight PA |

The exterior of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.
Amanda Berg / For Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania House Democrats have again won a special election that helps preserve their majority, this time in suburban Philadelphia.

The Associated Press called the Bucks County race for Democrat Jim Prokopiak, a local school board member, shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Prokopiak faced Republican Candace Cabanas, a home health care worker.

The seat was vacated by former state Rep. John Galloway, a Democrat who resigned in December after winning a local judgeship.

Prokopiak is the sixth Democrat to win a special election since the start of the latest legislative session in January 2023. During this period, the party has navigated a half-dozen vacancies created by a death, members winning other offices, and a resignation due to allegations of sexual harassment.

The Democrat was favored to win Tuesday’s election due to the political registration and voting history of the district. The other five special elections had similar backgrounds.

When Prokopiak takes office, Democrats will again hold 102 of the 203 seats in the lower chamber. The bare majority allows the party to set the agenda in the state House, advance their priorities, such as a minimum wage hike and increased education spending, and block what they oppose, such as stricter abortion restrictions or making it easier to block state regulations.

Overall, this win enhances the party’s — and Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s — leverage in coming budget negotiations.

The race’s short-term stakes were lowered last week when state Rep. Joe Adams (R., Pike) announced his resignation, restoring Democrats one-vote majority.

The first-term lawmaker had previously said he would not seek reelection due to “some medical news.”

"Taking care of my family, understandably, must now be my priority," Adams said in a statement Friday.

Meanwhile, another Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Joe Kerwin (R., Dauphin), is deployed to East Africa as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard. He cannot vote on bills, but is still in office.

Prokopiak will serve out the remainder of Galloway’s term. To continue serving in 2025, he needs to win the April primary and November general election.

The state House chamber is currently closed as workers repair a leak above its ceiling. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to voting session on March 17.

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