Pennsylvania Democrats see a chance to flip state legislature seats

Pat Loeb
November 03, 2018 - 10:00 pm

Dreamstime

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Congressional races have gotten a lot of attention this campaign season, but some of the tightest races in Pennsylvania are for the state legislature. 

State house and senate districts are as gerrymandered as congressional districts were before the recent court decision redrew the map, so while Democrats hold a slim registration edge in the state, Republicans have a two-thirds majority in the legislature. 

Democrats see a chance to change that on Tuesday.

"There are a number of factors that have changed dramatically," said Dave Landau, former Democratic chairman in Delaware County. 

READ: Philadelphia election officials expect unusually high turn-out for Midterms

Democrats, he says, are energized by the national political climate. He also thinks the legislature's poor performance and conservative agenda have turned off many voters. But he says there has also been a slow evolution in the County. 

"You have registration changes which have brought some of the state House seats down from double digit deficits for democrats into the low single digits," he said.

He points to the state senate race where incumbent Republican Tom McGarrigle is facing a strong challenge from Swarthmore Mayor Tim Kearney.

Bucks County Democratic chair John Cordisco sees the same thing, noting gains the party made in local offices, last year.

"With a good candidate and a good campaign and a good get-out-the-vote effort, we could basically win anywhere in Bucks County," he said.

READ: Midterms 2018: A look at Bucks County congressional race

Montgomery County Republican leader Liz Havey agrees there are more competitive races, but she blames it on PAC spending.

"We estimate there will be well over a million dollars spent against just a handful of candidates in the Southeast. That has never been spent before," she said.

Republicans are also spending more than ever, says Democratic campaign consultant Tommy McDonald of the Campaign Group.

"The Republicans are up in over 24 districts on television. It's one of the largest battlefields we've seen in a generation for these seats," he said.

READ: Midterms 2018: A look at Montgomery County’s 4th District race

Some of the races have become competitive because of retirements. They include the Philadelphia House seat vacated by Republican John Taylor, where Democrat John Hohenstein is running against Patty Pat Kozlowski. 

Political analyst Larry Ceisler, of Ceisler Media, thinks Republicans are going to have a particularly hard time in suburban Philadelphia because the candidates for governor and U.S. senator at the top of their ticket are not expected to do well. 

"For these Republicans to succeed, they have to hope that people want to come in and just vote for them," he said, adding that's a long shot. "Most people do not know who their member of the state house or the state senate is. Some do have name recognition, but incumbency only has so much of an advantage in a race like this. If people want to vote straight Democrat, it's not going to matter that maybe they liked that Republican incumbent."

Ceisler thinks Democrats will gain seats, but he doesn't think it will be enough to gain a majority, which he says may give them a new problem.

"The Republican majority in the state house is going to be smaller," he said, "but it's also going to be much more conservative because they're going to lose the moderate members from the Philadelphia suburbs."