Election 2022-State Legislatures (copy)

In this Feb. 8, 2022, file photo, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address for the 2022-23 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg.

HARRISBURG — A pair of candidate concessions in two undecided Pennsylvania House races on Thursday signaled an informal end to the Commonwealth’s legislative elections but any expectation of clarity as to which party will wield majority control in the new year remains unrealized.

Democrat Melissa Cerrato declared victory in the 151st Legislative District in suburban Philadelphia, narrowly leading incumbent Republican Todd Stephens by 59 votes, according to updated results of Montgomery County’s unofficial count. Stephens conceded Thursday afternoon.

The result was enough to push Democrats ahead of Republicans, at least on paper, for the upcoming 2023-24 session, even as the GOP’s Joseph Hogan won his own tight race in the 142nd Legislative District. Democrat Mark Moffa conceded Thursday. The updated unofficial count in Bucks County has Hogan leading by 53 votes.

The deadline for all 67 Pennsylvania counties to formalize election results is Nov. 28.

The state House has 203 seats.

As it stands, Democrats won 102 of them this fall, giving the party a one-seat advantage over Republicans. The GOP had a 113-90 majority through the bulk of the current expiring session.

The Democrats last controlled the General Assembly’s lower chamber from 2007-2010 under then-Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat. They look to take control under another Democratic executive, Governor-elect Josh Shapiro. His own victory marks the first time Democrats have the office for three consecutive terms in the party’s modern history.

But, there are complicating factors for three Democratic-held seats in the Pittsburgh area that would actually put Republicans in the majority when the next session begins at noon Jan. 3, as mandated by the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Longtime state Rep. Tony DeLuca died of cancer on Oct. 9, after ballots had been printed. His name couldn’t be removed and his re-election in the 32nd District is posthumous.

State representatives Summer Lee and Austin Davis also won re-election to the 34th and 35th districts, respectively. However, both ran and won other offices concurrently.

Davis is set to become lieutenant governor. Voters chose Lee to join the U.S. House, representing Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.

Davis won’t begin his executive role until Jan. 17. Lee, however, is double-booked for Jan. 3. That day, members of the Pennsylvania House and the U.S. House are slated to be sworn into office at noon.

The scenario puts Republicans in control, 101-100. When a new session begins, a new Speaker of the House is elected. Democrats won’t have a majority to select on their own their presumptive nominee state Rep. Joanna McClinton, the party’s current House leader.

The House speaker, under Pennsylvania’s Election Code, sets the dates for special elections when vacancies occur in the state House or Senate.

There’s a 60-day buffer from when special elections are announced, putting the earliest date sometime in March. The latest would be at the May primary election.

The speaker also presides over the House and leads its daily session activities.

Counties operate and pay for elections whether they’re routine or special. In the case of a special election for the General Assembly, the Election Code calls for reimbursement by the Department of State.

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CNHI Harrisburg Bureau

Eric Scicchitano is the CNHI Pennsylvania state reporter. He is a former CNHI Reporter of the Year and previously worked at The (Sunbury) Daily Item before until he took over the Harrisburg beat in January 2022. Email him at erics@cnhinews.com.

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