Tagpennsylvania

Stories about Pennsylvania

Major party candidates selected in Pennsylvania House special election

Party executive committees for the Democratic Party and Republican Party in Lackawanna County have nominated candidates in the special election for District 113 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Republicans nominated Dominick Manetti in an executive committee meeting on July 29. Thom Welby was nominated by the Democratic executive committee on July 1. The official filing deadline is September 13, and the special election is being held on Nov. 2. The winner of the special election will serve until November 2022.

The seat became vacant after Martin Flynn (D) won a special election for state Senate District 22 on May 18. Flynn had represented District 113 since 2012. He won re-election in 2020 with 68% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 113-88 majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with two vacancies. Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of July, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Pennsylvania held 44 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Margo Davidson resigns from Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Margo Davidson (D) resigned from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on July 23 after state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) filed criminal charges against Davidson on July 22. The charges included theft, solicitation to hinder apprehension, and election code violations. 

According to Politics PA, Shapiro’s office said Davidson allegedly “‘requested overnight expenses for nights she did not spend in Harrisburg and received personal reimbursements’ from the state ‘for expenses that had been paid for by her campaign,’ and that she’s also been charged for ‘failure to report campaign finance information, as well as soliciting a witness to lie during the course of the investigation.'”

In her resignation letter, Davidson said, “Today, I sadly announce my resignation and take legal responsibility for improper record keeping and reimbursement of expenses…I further take responsibility for and regret not fully participating with the investigation.” Her arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Davidson initially was elected to the state House in November 2010, defeating Maureen Carey (R), 54% to 46%. She was most recently re-elected in 2020 unopposed. 

If there is a vacancy in the Pennsylvania House, a special election must be held to fill the vacant district. As of July 26, there have been 67 state legislative vacancies across the United States this year. Of those 67, 37 are filled through special elections. 

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Redistricting review: Michigan Supreme Court declines to extend redistricting deadlines

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Michigan: On July 9, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s request to extend the constitutional deadlines for adopting new redistricting plans. The constitutional deadlines – presentation to the public by Sept. 17 and adoption by Nov. 1 – remain in effect.

In light of the delayed delivery of detailed redistricting data by the U.S. Census Bureau, the commission argued that it would “not be able to comply with the constitutionally imposed timeline.” Instead, the commission asked the state supreme court to direct the commission to propose plans within 72 days of the receipt of redistricting data and to approve plans within 45 days thereafter.

The state supreme court asked the Office of the Attorney General to assemble two separate teams to make arguments, one team in support of the commission’s request and another opposed. The court heard oral arguments on June 21. Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman, speaking in support of the proposed deadline extensions, said “The very maps themselves could be challenged if they are drawn after the November 1 deadline.” Assistant Attorney General Kyla Barranco, speaking in opposition, said, “There isn’t harm in telling the commission at this point, ‘Try your best with the data that you might be able to use and come September 17, maybe we’ll have a different case.'”

In its unsigned July 9 order, the court said that it was “not persuaded that it should grant the requested relief.” Justice Elizabeth Welch wrote a concurrence, in which she said, “The Court’s decision is not a reflection on the merits of the questions briefed or how this Court might resolve a future case raising similar issues. It is indicative only that a majority of this Court believes that the anticipatory relief sought is unwarranted.”

In response to the court’s order, Edward Woods III, the commission’s communications and outreach director, said that the commission would follow its draft timeline, under which the public input period opens on Aug. 30 and closes on Sept. 30 – past the Sept. 17 constitutional deadline. This suggests that further litigation on the matter might occur.

New York: On July 12, the New York Independent Redistricting Commission (NYIRC) announced that public hearings will begin on July 20. A full list of hearing dates can be accessed here. NYIRC also said it would release its first redistricting proposal on Sept. 15.

Pennsylvania: On July 12, redistricting authorities in Pennsylvania launched a redistricting website and announced a schedule for public hearings on congressional redistricting, the first of which will take place on July 22. A full list of hearing dates can be accessed here.

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Redistricting in Michigan after the 2020 census

Redistricting in New York after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Pennsylvania after the 2020 census



Pennsylvania, Oregon end statewide face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 25 and July 1.

Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam lifted the statewide mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on June 28. In accordance with CDC guidelines, vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports).

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) ended the statewide mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on June 30. Masks are still required on public transportation, at public transportation hubs, and at medical facilities.

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 8 states had statewide mask orders. All 8 states have Democratic governors. Seven of the eight states exempted fully vaccinated people from most requirements.

Of the 31 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 16 have Republican governors, and 15 have Democratic governors. Twenty-eight states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



Republicans outraise Democrats by 13% in Pennsylvania state legislative races

New campaign finance filings for Pennsylvania state legislative special elections show Republicans outpaced Democrats in fundraising. Between January 1, 2021, and May 17, 2021, Republican general election candidates outraised Democratic candidates by 13 percent.

Republicans have a 28-21 majority in the Pennsylvania State Senate and a 113-89 majority in the Pennsylvania State House. State legislative special elections were held on May 18, 2021, in four districts.

In the election cycle in those districts, six Republican candidates raised $1.13 million compared to $1 million taken in by four Democrats.

The candidates who raised the most money in that period are Martin Flynn (D) in Senate District 22 ($948,983), Chris Chermak (R) in Senate District 22 ($821,136), and Chris Gebhard (R) in Senate District 48 ($146,581).

Campaign finance requirements govern how much money candidates may receive from individuals and organizations, how much and how often they must report those contributions, and how much individuals, organizations, and political parties may contribute to campaigns. All campaign financial transactions must be made through the candidate’s committee. Campaign committees are required to file regular campaign finance disclosure reports with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

This article was published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.



Pennsylvania statewide election passed

The statewide primary for Pennsylvania was held on May 18. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for Nov. 2. Four state legislative special general elections were also on the ballot.

Candidates ran in elections for the following offices: 

  • Four state legislative special elections
    • State Senate Districts 22 and 48 and state House Districts 59 and 60. One Democratic candidate won election in Senate District 22. The other three seats were won by Republican candidates. No seats were flipped.
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court (one seat)
    • Democrat Maria McLaughlin was unopposed and advanced to the general election. She faces Republican Kevin Brobson, who defeated two challengers in the primary. Justice Thomas Saylor (R) was not able to file for retention due to Pennsylvania’s mandatory retirement age.
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court (one seat)
    • Democrat Timika Lane advanced after defeating two challengers in the primary. Republican Megan Sullivan advanced unopposed.
  • Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (two seats)
    • Democrat Lori A. Dumas was one of two projected winners in the Democratic primary. Democratic candidates Amanda Green-Hawkins and David Spurgeon were too close to call for the second seat as of May 20. Republicans Andrew Crompton and Stacy Wallace advanced to the general election without opposition.

Ballotpedia also covered local elections in the following areas: 

  • Harrisburg
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Allegheny County
  • Pittsburgh Public Schools

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Measures to ban solitary confinement, no-knock warrants approved in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit solitary confinement in the county jail. The ballot initiative received 70% of the vote. In Pittsburgh, which is also located in Allegheny County, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit the police from executing warrants without knocking or announcing themselves. It received 81% of the vote.

Ballotpedia has tracked five local ballot measures in 2021 concerning

  1. police oversight;
  2. the powers and structure of oversight commissions;
  3. police and incarceration practices;
  4. law enforcement department structure and administration;
  5. reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets;
  6. law enforcement training requirements; or
  7. body and dashboard camera footage.

Ballotpedia identified 20 local police-related ballot measures on the ballot for the election on November 3, 2020, that qualified following the death of George Floyd.

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Pennsylvania voters pass constitutional amendments to limit governor’s emergency orders without legislative support

On May 18, Pennsylvania voters approved two constitution amendments on the governor’s emergency powers, which were a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the coronavirus pandemic. According to unofficial results on May 19, both Question 1 and Question 2 received 54% of the statewide vote.

Voters also approved the other two statewide measures on the ballot by votes of 71%-29% and 72%-28%, respectively.

Question 1 allows the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which would not require the governor’s signature, to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration. Question 2 limits the governor’s declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order. 

The Legislature passed a concurrent resolution to end the governor’s coronavirus emergency declaration in June 2020. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution. A two-thirds vote in the legislature would have been required to overturn the veto.

Pennsylvania will join four other states—Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota—that require a legislative vote to extend or terminate a governor’s emergency declaration after a specific number of days. In Kansas, the requirement is 15 days after the order is first issued. In Michigan, the requirement is 28 days. In Alaska and Minnesota, the requirement is 30 days.

Ballotpedia did not identify ballot measure committees that supported or opposed the constitutional amendments. Americans For Prosperity and The Commonwealth Foundation—both 501(c) organizations—spent about $150,000 through independent expenditures to support Question 1 and Question 2.

The Pennsylvania amendments were the first in the country to address the governor’s emergency powers since the pandemic began. In 2021 or 2022, at least six other states will vote on at least seven other ballot measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions. In November, Texans will vote on a constitutional amendment to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from limiting religious services or organizations. 

The approval of Pennsylvania Question 1 and Question 2, as well as Question 3, continues the trend of successful constitutional amendments in the state since 1989. Between 1989 and 2020, 15 constitutional amendments were approved. Pennsylvanians could see more constitutional amendments on the ballot in November. Potential measures that have passed in one chamber of the legislature include amendments to have gubernatorial candidates select their lieutenant gubernatorial running mates and to reorganize the election of state judges and justices into districts. 

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Edward Gainey wins the Democratic primary for mayor of Pittsburgh, advances to November general election

State Rep. Edward Gainey (D) defeated incumbent Bill Peduto, Tony Moreno, and Michael Thompson in the May 18, 2021, Democratic primary for mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gainey received 46.18% with 98% of precincts reporting as of May 19. Peduto received 39.29% of the vote, while Moreno and Thompson received 13.12% and 1.2% respectively. 

No Republicans filed to run in the race. Unless a write-in candidate enters, Gainey will run unopposed in the general election on November 2, 2021.

Gainey was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to represent District 24 in 2012. He was re-elected in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020. His campaign focused on what he called demilitarizing the police, building affordable housing, and pushing to revoke the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) nonprofit status to collect more in taxes. Gainey would be the first Black mayor of Pittsburgh. 

Peduto was first elected mayor in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. Peduto’s campaign focused on policies he enacted as mayor, including mandatory de-escalation practices and implicit bias training for police officers and COVID-19 paid sick leave for Pittsburgh workers. Before becoming mayor, Peduto served on the Pittsburgh City Council, representing District 8 from 2002-2013.

Moreno, a military veteran and retired Pittsburgh police officer, campaigned on his experience in law enforcement, while Thompson, a math tutor and driver for Lyft and Uber, focused on affordable housing. 

To learn more about the mayoral election in Pittsburgh, click here.

Mayoral election in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2021)