Pennsylvania is the darling of US electoral politics, and for good reason. With Florida’s slow but steady rightward trend, Pennsylvania now boasts the most electoral votes in the cadre of legitimate swing states and hosts highly consequential contests for US Senate and Governor this year.
Down the ballot, Pennsylvania has been known to host highly competitive races for its row offices but rarely did the state legislature come into play over the last decade. This was mainly due to the gerrymandered maps generated by the GOP legislature in the 2010 redistricting process. That process has now been turned on its head, with a bipartisan commission drawing legislative maps for the next ten years. Now, the State House is highly competitive while the incumbent State Senators are vying to retain their seats.
Republicans currently hold a 28-21 advantage in the State Senate with independent John Yudicak caucusing with the GOP majority. Democrats need a net gain of 4 seats as well as the Governorship to claim control of the chamber. Even as exactly four now-eligible GOP-held seats went to either Trump or Biden by less than a point, strong Republican recruits and the national environment eases any doubt about who will end up controlling the chamber. We currently have the Pennsylvania Senate rated as Safe Republican, with the odds of a tie at 4% and odds of an outright Democratic majority statically irrelevant.
Republican State Rep. Frank Furry is the strongest Republican legislative candidate in Lower Bucks, outrunning former President Trump by 19.5% in his 2020 reelection. His candidacy in this open Trump +0.2 seat solidifies GOP standing in what would otherwise be a highly competitive race. The Democratic nominee for this seat is Ann Marie Mitchell, who failed to unseat GOP State Rep. Wendi Thomas in 2020 and underperformed Biden by 12.3% in the process. The clear difference in candidate quality and the political environment leads CNalysis to rate this race as Likely Republican.
The 10th is the most Democratic of the Bucks County districts, but a Biden +14.4 seat should still be very competitive in this environment (at least on paper) due to a strong GOP presence down-ballot. But the early campaign doesn’t seem to be gaining any traction, with Republican challenger Matt McCullough reporting an alarming $2,278 in the bank as of the most recent campaign finance reports. Democratic incumbent Steve Santarsiero seems to be in a strong position here, and the CNalysis rating for this seat is Likely Democratic.
The 14th is quite an interesting race in the Allentown area. Nominally represented by retiring GOP-caucusing independent John Yudicak, the new district has a territorial overlap of 0% with the old district. The Republican nominee for this open seat, Dean Browning, has earned some less than favorable notoriety on Twitter but nonetheless has a solid shot of winning this Biden +7 district. Democrats had an extremely close primary between Allentown school board member Nick Miller and Northampton County Council commissioner Tara Zrinski, with Miller prevailing by 42 votes. We’ve got this seat rated as a Toss-Up, and it’s the only one rated as such in the chamber.
Democratic Senator Lisa Boscola ran uncontested in a relatively safe seat in 2018, but she does not have that luxury this time around as she faces the most competitive reelection of her career in this new Biden +8 seat in Northampton. Bethlehem Township Commissioner John Merhottein is a credible Republican recruit at first brush, but he has a massive cash deficit against the incumbent. Boscola is favored to hold her seat in a race we have rated as Tilt Democratic.
Scranton is well-known in the world of politics for many different reasons, but for legislative purposes, the most important thing to keep in mind is the heavy advantage Democrats have down-ballot. Legislative Democrats in Lackawanna County outperformed President Biden’s margins by double digits; the 2020 Treasurer’s Race result of D +15 is a more accurate depiction of the district’s down-ballot leanings than the Presidential result of D +10. Democratic incumbent Martin Flynn, first elected in a 2021 special election, faces a challenge from Republican Thomas Bassett, a high school teacher, in a race we rate as Likely Democratic.
The 24th is the most marginal seat in the chamber, with Biden winning it by 0.09% over Trump in the 2020 Presidential race. Republicans have found a strong candidate to hold this open seat, with State Rep. Tracy Pennycuick as their nominee. Jill Dennin, whom Pennycuick defeated in 2020, is the Democratic nominee for this seat. This is likely the best chance for a Democratic pickup in the chamber (though the 14th is likewise promising), but Republicans have the candidate quality and favorable conditions on their side in this evenly-matched seat. We have this race rated as Likely Republican.
Despite voting for Biden by a 10-point margin, many Pennsylvania strategists believe that this seat in the Pittsburgh suburbs is the best GOP pickup opportunity in the chamber. Many reasons for this outlook exist, but the most prominent is their candidate: State Representative Lori Mizgorski, who outran Trump by 9.5% in her 2020 election. Back in 2018, Democrat Lindsey Williams had the advantage of capitalizing on GOP infighting in the district but only ran even with Clinton in the blue wave year. Now, she’s set in a Biden +10 district and running for reelection against a strong candidate. The partisanship of the district leads us to tilt the race toward the incumbent, but this will definitely be a hotly contested race.
The 40th is quite an interesting district, taking in all of Monroe and some of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties. It narrowly went to Trump by 0.5% in 2020 and by almost 6% in 2016, but it voted for martyred Democratic candidates Joe Torsella in the 2020 Treasurer race and Katie McGinty in the 2016 Senate race, in a sign of its down-ballot Democratic roots. This race ought to be close, but Republican nominee State Rep. Rosemary Brown is considered an S-tier recruit for the GOP, having outperformed Trump by 20.4% in her House race in 2020. Stroud Township Supervisor Jennifer Shukaitis is not necessarily a weak challenger, but a win for the Democrats would signal an overhaul of expectations in both the political environment and candidate quality. We’ve got this race rated as Likely Republican.
A wealthy suburban seat mainly located in Chester, this is the type of seat where we would expect a legislative Republican to significantly outperform the topline result. While this Biden +12.4 seat looks unthreatening on the surface when analyzing legislative outcomes, the Treasurer’s Race result of Torsella +5.2 is perhaps a better representation of its voting patterns. Democratic Senator Katie Muth has the institutional and financial advantage over her Republican opponent Jessica Florio, so we’re giving the incumbent an early advantage and rating this race as Leans Democratic.