In politically riven Pennsylvania, primary voters will pick candidates in presidential contest year

In politically riven Pennsylvania, primary voters will pick candidates in presidential contest year


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The two parties in Pennsylvania’s state House and its congressional delegation are nearly evenly divided, and that won’t change once results are in from next week’s primary election.

But come November, the candidates the parties will select April 23 for hundreds of legislative seats could alter what has been years of policy paralysis in Harrisburg and the similar partisan deadlock in Congress.

The state’s voters will also cast primary ballots for this year’s marquee contests for president and U.S. Senate. Democratic incumbents Joe Biden and Bob Casey and Republican challengers Donald Trump and Dave McCormick are shoo-ins to appear on the fall ballot.

Both parties will pick candidates for state attorney general, which was in Republican hands before Democrats went on a winning streak starting in 2012.

In the two other statewide “row office” contests, Republicans Stacy Garrity, the treasurer, and Tim DeFoor, the auditor general, will find out which Democrats will try to unseat them in the fall.


It took months and several special elections before Democrats were able to nail down their return to majority control of the state House last year, elevating one of their own to speaker in a chamber where the partisan breakdown is now 102-100. One seat, in a Poconos district where a Republican resigned in February, is vacant and will be filled by special election on primary day.

With the entire chamber on the ballot this year, Republicans would love to flip it back, denying Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro legislative leverage in policy and budget battles.

In the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 28-22 majority, Democrats would need to flip at least three seats in order for Democratic Lt. Gov. Austin Davis’ tie-breaking vote to give them control.

Among the 25 Senate seats up this year, nearly half the total, or 12 incumbent senators, face no opponents this year.

There are contested Senate primaries in both parties for notable vacancies in a Republican-held seat in the Harrisburg area and a Democratic-held seat in Pittsburgh. The third vacancy is a Republican majority district in northern York County.


Democratic Rep. Nick Pisciottano, of Allegheny County, is leaving the House to run, along with two other Democrats and two Republicans, for a state Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny.

Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York, is departing the lower chamber in a run to succeed retiring Sen. Mike Regan, R-York. Another House departure is Rep. Patty Kim, of Dauphin County, facing off against another Democrat for the nomination in the third Senate district involving a retirement, that of Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin. Two Republicans also are vying to succeed DiSanto.

DiSanto’s seat is widely seen as the Senate Democrats’ best chance for a pickup. Their longshot bid for the majority also likely would require beating Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, and Sen. Devlin Robinson, a first-term Republican whose district surrounds the western side of Pittsburgh.

Sen. Dave Argall, of Schuylkill County, who heads the GOP’s Senate campaign effort, said a razor-close win for Brewster four years ago makes that a battleground, but their efforts to stay in the majority are wider.

“There are going to be battles all across the state, but it’s still pretty early to predict which ones are going to rise to the top of the list,” Argall said.

Lawmakers in nearly half of the 203 House seats, and slightly more Democrats than Republicans, have no primary or General Election opponents this year and can plan on serving another term starting in January.

There aren’t many House vacancies this cycle: just nine seats held by Republicans and four by Democrats. Retiring members include Berks County Rep. Mark Rozzi, who spent a brief but notable time as House speaker early last year before fellow Democrats could muster the votes to elect their first choice to lead the chamber, Speaker Joanna McClinton of Philadelphia.

Reps. Ryan Mackenzie, of Lehigh County, and Rob Mercuri, of Allegheny, are relinquishing House seats to run in Republican primaries for Democratic-held congressional seats. Hedging their bets are Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, of Erie, and Rep. Jared Solomon, of Philadelphia, seeking reelection in the state House and running in Democratic primaries for state treasurer and state attorney general, respectively.


All 17 of Pennsylvania’s incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives are running for another term, each with at least one opponent in the primary or fall elections. Court-ordered redistricting after the 2020 Census produced a 9-8 Democratic edge, and when the incumbents ran for reelection two years ago, all 17 were reelected.

In Allegheny County, freshman U.S. Rep. Summer Lee has a Democratic primary opponent, Bhavini Patel, as well as a Republican positioned to take on the Democratic winner in November.

In a district Democrats hope to flip, a race north of Philadelphia could signal how much power the abortion issue has in the suburbs. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a centrist Republican, has a primary opponent whose anti-abortion position would not permit exceptions for rape or incest.

There is a three-way GOP primary for the nomination to take on Lehigh Valley Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild in the fall. Wild’s previous two wins were by single-digit margins. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from the Scranton area who also has been repeatedly targeted in recent years, has no primary opponent, but a Republican looks to challenge him in November.

Six Democrats are on the primary ballot in a district held by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, a York County Republican who was deeply involved in efforts by then-President Donald Trump to overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat. Perry’s prominent role in the ultra-right Freedom Caucus in Congress and some close reelection contests over the past six years also are making him a target for Democrats this year.


After Shapiro’s election as governor two years ago created a vacancy in his former job as state attorney general, he nominated his protege, Michelle Henry, to serve through the end of this year. She is not seeking to stay in the job.

Five Democrats are running for the nomination: Philadelphia attorney Keir Bradford-Grey, former auditor general and state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, of Allegheny County, former prosecutor and Bucks County solicitor Joe Khan, Philadelphia state Rep. Jared Solomon and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer.

Two Republicans are running: York County District Attorney Dave Sunday and state Rep. Craig Williams, of Delaware County. Sunday received his party’s endorsement, while Williams has been helping lead House Republicans’ efforts to remove from office progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a Democrat.

For auditor general, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, of Philadelphia, and Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley are the Democrats seeking to run against DeFoor in November. Kenyatta finished third in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in 2022 won by John Fetterman.

Garrity, the state treasurer, has no opposition in the GOP primary. Democratic voters will choose between Bizzarro and Erin McClelland, an addiction recovery and human services professional from Allegheny County.


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