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State Dems Will Need To Repeat In 2020

November 30, 2018

Democrats won big in state House and Senate elections three weeks ago, but they have to do it again in 2020 if they want to regain control of the two lawmaking chambers.

“I joke and say it depends on how many (Republican) seats are left in the Philly suburbs,” said G. Terry Madonna, the Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political analyst, referring to Democrats’ chances at control. “But that’s not a joke.”

Democrats cut sharply into Republican majorities in both Houses almost exclusively by winning seats in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

With local state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-118, Avoca, leading their efforts in the House, Democrats won 14 Republican-held seats in the four counties around Philadelphia — Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery. Republicans won three Democratic seats — one in the west, one in central Pennsylvania and one in Bucks. That gave Democrats a net gain of 11, pushing their numbers to 93 seats from 82. Republicans dropped from 121 to 110. Half the seats Democrats won were in districts where an incumbent Republican retired and did not seek re-election; in the other half, Republican incumbents lost.

In the Senate, Democrats netted five seats — all in the Philly suburbs but one, which was in Allegheny County. That pushed their numbers from 16 to 21 and dropped Republicans from 34 to 29.

Control of the 203-member House requires 102 votes so Democrats must flip nine more seats. For solid control of the 50-member Senate, Democrats need to flip five more seats to reach 26, though they could gain Senate control for at least two years if they get to 25 seats in the 2020 election. That’s because Democrat John Fetterman will be lieutenant governor then and lieutenant governors break Senate voting ties.

Anger with President Donald Trump fueled the Democratic southeast effort, Carroll said, with women leading the way.

“There was wild enthusiasm in southeastern Pennsylvania, in suburban counties in particular,” he said. “That happened organically as a result of the presidential election of 2016. The women’s march (the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration) and all of the various organizations that were spawned from the presidential election really manifested themselves in southeast PA.”

Carroll said he and Democrats spent time finding good candidates, who campaigned heavily door-to-door and leaned on energetic volunteers, phone calls, social media and some cable television advertising.

“It really was a solid effort,” he said.

Carroll said several southeast Republicans remain vulnerable for the 2020 race, but it’s too difficult to predict if Democrats can gain nine seats in 2020 because too much remains unknown.

“Tell me who the roster is of retirees in 2020, how solid our candidates are in 2020, tell me who the Republican candidates are in 2020 and I can give you a better assessment of the prospects,” Carroll said. “I’ll say this: I think that the enthusiasm that was on display in those four suburban counties in 2018 will continue to be on display in 2020.”

He doesn’t think Democrats can regain the House majority without winning some seats outside the southeast, “especially if you continue to shed seats everywhere else.”

Republicans expanded their numbers and moved to huge majorities in both houses in the previous four state and federal elections, starting with the 2010 revolt against Democratic President Barack Obama.

Montgomery County Republican Party chairwoman Elizabeth Preate Havey said several southeast Republicans who ran for state offices and Congress survived in the face of a massive Democratic campaign spending onslaught.

“In this blue wave, there were some diamonds in the rough for Republicans,” Havey said.

She called on Republicans to “get back to basics,” starting with local election races next year. They must identify issues that matter to voters, recruit good candidates for local offices and develop the grass-roots efforts that can win, Havey said.

“It would be great if the White House has a message (in 2020) that resonates with the suburbs, but that’s not something that I can control,” she said.

Contact the writer:

bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147

@BorysBlogTT

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