In an Attempted Power Grab, House GOP Lawmakers Try to Set Special Elections in Dem-Leaning Districts for May

Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, speaker at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. Democrats in the Pennsylvania House moved to control the chamber, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022 after they barely won back a majority of seats in November but one of their incumbents died and two others won higher office. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By Ashley Adams

December 16, 2022

While House Democrats flipped a total of 12 seats in November to win a House majority, three seats are now vacant and Republicans are claiming they’re in the majority again and arguing they should be allowed to set the date for the special elections for the three empty seats.

In an underhanded attempt to further their agenda, Republicans in the state House submitted paperwork this week seeking to wait until the May primary to hold special elections in two vacant, Democratic-leaning districts, a move that could allow the GOP to hold onto their majority for several months.

Republican Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County sent Allegheny County and the Department of State “writs of election” for Pittsburgh-area seats that became empty last week when the Democrats who won reelection resigned after also being elected to Congress and as lieutenant governor.

Cutler had previously also put in a writ of election to hold a Feb. 7 vote for the House’s third open seat in another Allegheny County district. It became vacant because the incumbent, Rep. Tony DeLuca, died of cancer a month before voters returned him to the Legislature in November.

Cutler’s counterpart, Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton of Philadelphia, last week moved to schedule all three special elections for Feb. 7.

After more than a decade in the minority, House Democrats flipped a net of 12 seats in November, giving them a 102-101 majority. But Cutler argues the three vacancies mean McClinton lacks legal authority to claim the mantle of the House’s presiding officer and schedule special elections.

Cutler argues his party currently holds the majority since it is expected to have 101 Republican members to the Democrats’ 99 when they are sworn in and elect a new speaker on Jan. 3.

House Democratic spokesperson Nicole Reigelman said holding special elections in May would mean residents of the suburban Pittsburgh districts would be without representation in Harrisburg. She said in a statement that Cutler was aiming to “empower the House Republican Caucus to play politics and ram through extremist policies.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


  • 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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