6 Races That Could Help Determine Future of the Pennsylvania State Legislature

FILE- In this file photo from Nov. 19, 2019, a man is silhouetted in the shade as he walks by the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By Ashley Adams

September 23, 2022

All 203 of the state’s House seats are up for reelection in November. With new legislative districts and a number of GOP incumbents not seeking reelection, Democrats have the potential to narrow the majority gap with new candidates.

While all eyes are focused on the contentious races for governor and US Senate in Pennsylvania, they aren’t the only seats up for grabs that will help shape the state’s political future.

The elected lawmakers in the state House and Senate arguably have the most impact on the day-to-day lives of Pennsylvanians. The makeup of the state legislature is crucial in determining the future of such issues as abortion rights and elections in the commonwealth. 

All 203 state House seats are up for election in November. Republicans have controlled the state House for 24 of the last 30 years. But with new legislative districts and a number of incumbents not seeking reelection, the potential for Democrats to chip away at the GOP majority is a real possibility. 

And it could be realized in the following legislative districts:

26th District

Incumbent GOP Rep. Tim Hennessey is running for reelection in the 26th legislative district, which includes Chester County. He faces Democratic candidate Paul Friel in the November election.

First elected to his seat in 1992, Hennessey is chair of the House Transportation Committee. He also served for 12 years as chair of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.

Hennessey was among 64 Republicans who signed a letter in December 2020  asking Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to oppose the state’s 20 votes in the electoral college for Joe Biden.

He also voted in favor of a bill proposing to change the state constitution to clarify that there is no right to an abortion or taxpayer funding of abortions in the commonwealth.

While Hennessey supports the idea of raising the minimum wage, he does not support Democratic proposals “to essentially double it in a few years.”

Democratic challenger Friel is the owner of PACE Environmental, a Mid-Atlantic environmental testing and engineering firm, and is president of the Owen J. Roberts School Board.

Friel said his top priorities include equitable funding and charter school funding reform, assisting small businesses in recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and environmental issues that will help spur economic growth. He also supports raising the minimum wage by small increments over time.

29th District

Rep. Megahan Schroeder currently represents the 29th legislative district, which includes part of Bucks County. Schroeder is not seeking reelection. Instead, Democratic candidate Tim Brennan faces Republican Diane Smith in the November election.

Brennan is an attorney and is certified as a specialist in workers’ compensation law. He has represented municipal governments in the commonwealth and was appointed by the state Supreme Court as a senior hearing panel member for the Disciplinary Board. Brennan also provides pro bono representation to the LGBTQ community. 

If elected, Brennan said he would enact electoral reform such as same-day voter registration, pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots, and redistricting reform. He also supports reproductive rights, raising the minimum wage, expanding access to health care, and paid family medical leave.

GOP challenger Smith works as a district manager for Rep. Shelby Labs (R-Bucks) and as a realtor with Class Harlan Real Estate in Doylestown.

If elected, Smith said she would support small businesses, expand access to affordable healthcare, and provide better educational opportunities. 

30th District

Rep. Lori Mizgorski (R) currently represents the 30th legislative district, which includes part of Allegheny County. Mizgorski is not seeking reelection. Instead, Democratic candidate Arvind Venkat faces Republican Cindy Kirk in the November election.

Venkat is an ER doctor. He also serves on the McCandless-Franklin Park Ambulance Authority. He supports reproductive rights, expanding affordable and accessible healthcare, protecting the environment, and expanding voting rights.

GOP challenger Kirk is a nurse. She supports abortion bans, voter ID requirements, preserving gun rights, and better access to healthcare.

82nd District

Rep. John Hershey (R) currently represents the 82nd legislative district, which originally included parts of Franklin and Mifflin counties and all of Juniata County. Hershey’s district was drawn into the 86th district, so Hershey is unable to run for reelection in his current district. The new 82nd district includes part of Centre County. Democrat Paul Takac faces Republican Justin Behrens in the November election.

Takac is a member of the College Township Council, chair of the Spring Creek Watershed Commission, and chair of the Centre Regional Council of Government’s Public Safety Committee.

Takac supports reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ equality, increasing the minimum wage to $15, unionization, and protecting the right to vote.

GOP challenger Behrens is a US Army veteran and social worker. He supports lowering the state gas tax, expanding access to broadband, increasing funding to trade schools, and implementing a school voucher program. 

129th District

Rep. Jim Cox (R) currently represents the 129th legislative district, which includes part of Berks County. Cox is not seeking reelection. Instead, Democratic candidate Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz faces Republican Barry Llewellyn in the November election.

Cepeda-Freytiz is the owner of Mi Casa Su Casa restaurant in Reading. She serves on the Reading City Council, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance board of directors, and the board of Centro Hispano. 

She supports raising the minimum wage, gun safety legislation, protecting voting rights, and property tax reform for the elderly.

GOP challenger Llewellyn has worked as a school teacher and wastewater analyst. He supports abortion bans, school choice for parents, and gun rights. He is opposed to adding sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class in the state nondiscrimination law.

189th District

Rep. Rosemary Brown (R) currently represents the 189th legislative district, which includes parts of Monroe and Pike counties. Brown is not seeking reelection. Instead, Democratic candidate Tarah Probst faces Republican Stephen Ertle in the November election.

Probst is the mayor of Stroudsburg, the first female to ever hold that position. She serves on the Stroud Area Regional Police Commission, the I-80 Task Force Committee, and the Council of Governments.

Probst supports comprehensive tax reform, increasing technical and skilled trades training, expanding access to healthcare, protecting voting rights, and campaign finance reform. 

GOP challenger Ertle is owner and manager of The Lounge at Baymont Inn. If elected, Ertle said his top priorities will be addressing affordable housing, increasing tourism revenue, continuing economic development, and expanding broadband.


  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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