By Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs, ABC Keystone
Just a year ago, Senate Republicans held a more than comfortable margin in the 50-member state Senate, with 34 members. The number was so high that Republicans had achieved the so-called “veto-proof majority,” meaning that if the caucus voted together, they would have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto on legislation. In the past year, however, things have gone downhill.
The 2018 election saw the loss of six Republicans – four from the moderate southeastern region of Pennsylvania and two from the rapidly expanding Pittsburgh suburbs. One of those western suburban losses was a graduation of sorts – Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, who had achieved an A+ rating with ABC, ran for Congress in an open seat and handily won, leaving the fate of his moderate state Senate seat in jeopardy. With Senate Republicans already down to 28 members, the sudden retirement of Sens. Rich Alloway (R-Franklin) and Don White (R-Indiana) created the slimmest of margins.
The rapid descent had Democrats licking their chops this week as Allegheny County Republican Committee chair D. Raja, a self-made successful business owner, faced Democrat nominee Pam Iovino in a special election to replace Reschenthaler. Polls had the race tight – within a couple points – up until election day as the two candidates hammered each other in media. Iovino, a Navy veteran, touted her armed forces background and Raja pushed his business acumen.
Ultimately, Iovino edged out Raja by roughly 2,500 votes, winning a 52%-48% victory to claim the Senate seat. Democrats and building trades allies, who had invested heavily in Iovino’s campaign, claimed victory and momentum in this week’s results, pushing Senate Democrats ever closer to their goal of a majority. While Iovino will have to run again in next year’s regularly scheduled election, Democrats have mapped out a potential road to majority by focusing on three other vulnerable Senate seats – Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin), and Sen. Tom Killion (R-Delaware).
April 4, 2019