Democrats win enough for a narrow majority in the Pennsylvania House – Metro Philadelphia

By MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Democrats won a race in the Philadelphia State House suburb on Friday, barely giving them enough seats to take the chamber majority after 12 years, though two of their re-elected incumbents also won senior office and a third died in October.

The Associated Press on Friday declared Democrat Melissa Cerrato’s race for the Montgomery County seat. Incumbent Republican Congressman Todd Stephens conceded late Thursday.

Their victory means Democrats have flipped a web of 12 districts, exactly the number they needed to control the House of Representatives by the start of the 2023-24 session in January.

But there is uncertainty because of the death of Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, and because two other Allegheny County Democrats who won new House terms, Reps. Austin Davis and Summer Lee, also elected Lieutenant Governor and to the US Congress.

Lee’s swearing-in in Congress is scheduled for January 3, the same day the Pennsylvania House begins its new session. Davis and Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro will be inaugurated Jan. 17.

In another close race in the Philadelphia suburbs, Democrat Mark Moffa conceded in a statement on Facebook late Thursday, stepping aside for Republican Joe Hogan to retain the previous GOP seat.

A 102-101 Democratic lead falls to 101-99 for Republicans when counting the three vacancies, at least until a special election is scheduled for early next year.

House Secretary Brooke Wheeler is expected to preside during the Jan. 3 inauguration pending a speaker’s election. The next speaker must schedule the three special elections before or on the same day as the May 16 spring primary.

Mike Straub, spokesman for current House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said the situation could be brought into better focus after the two caucuses gather to elect their own leaders next week.

Straub said he anticipates “talks between both leadership groups about what is a way forward as we achieve a very unique swearing-in day.”

A spokeswoman for current House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, declined to comment. Following the successful election, McClinton said she expects to become the first black woman in state history to be elected speaker.

Also on Friday, Cutler appointed three proxies to preside over the impeachment trial of Philadelphia Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner during a Senate trial that may not take place until next year.

But the two majority party members he picked could be in the minority once the trial begins, and the lone Democrat has voted against impeachment.

They are Rep. Tim Bonner, R-Mercer; Rep. Craig Williams, R-Delaware; and Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia. The House of Representatives passed the resolution against Krasner with no Democratic votes, leaving Solomon to help administer a case he voted against in both the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The list of reasons Republicans want Krasner removed from office includes not prosecuting some minor crimes due to advancing criminal policies and reports that his office does not adequately inform crime victims or their families about the status of some cases informed. The House GOP also accused Krasner of obstructing the House investigation in his office.

Solomon, who has criticized Krasner, said in a phone interview Friday that he had agreed to serve with the goal of upholding the state’s constitution.

“This presents us with a real test of whether or not we take this oath seriously. Are we prepared to uphold the law, or are we just going to use the constitution as a political vehicle, jettison the law and just engage in the worst kind of political killjoy?” Solomon said.

Krasner “needs to be held accountable and we as Philadelphians need to hold him accountable. But impeachment is certainly not the way to go,” he said.