It’s official: Pennsylvania is a swing state. Tuesday’s election expanded the political realignment that’s moving eastern PA toward the Democrats and western PA toward the GOP.
Here are the key results:
The blue wave hits Southeast PA. Democrats flipped Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties – an unprecedented development. Nowhere is the sea change starker than Delco, long a poster child of GOP machine politics. On the day Donald Trump was elected, the party held all five County Council seats. Now the number will be zero.
Delco DA Kat Copeland lost, too. If any countywide GOP candidate should have an advantage, it would be a woman who’s an incumbent in a law and order role.
The GOP’s suburban toolkit for 2020 campaigns – painting Dems as radicals in line with AOC and Bernie Sanders -- fell short this time around.
Bottom line: It’s still too soon to know if the Philly burbs have moved permanently left, or if will revert to purple after the Trump presidency. Right now southeast PA Republicans sound a lot like western PA Dems a few years back when they claimed their losses were an Obama-era aberration.
Dems won in the Lehigh Valley, too. The party flipped control in Lehigh County for the first time in 40 years by going 4-for-4 in County Council seats.
Incumbent GOP Councilman Marty Nothstein, the 2018 congressional candidate, lost re-election. The Dems also flipped Monroe County.
The party kept Northampton County.
Republicans cleaned up in western PA and flipped a county in NEPA.The party flipped governments in Armstrong, Cameron, Greene, Luzerne, Washington and Westmoreland counties, ending years of lingering ancestral Democratic control (Westmoreland flipped red in 2011 and blue in 2015).
The party also ousted incumbent Districts Attorney in Cambria, Indiana and Somerset counties.
The party lost the Sheriff’srace in Westmoreland County, but that’s a whole other issue that you have to read to believe.
The GOP ousted an incumbent in a County Council seat in Erie, the bellwether blue collar-type district that both parties will battle over in 2020.
Bottom line: Blue collar diner territory continues to trend red.
The GOP held the midstate. In the Trump Era, and with a competitive congressional election on the horizon, south central PA is shaping up as a battleground. But even as the region has inched leftward on statewide and federal races, it’s still Republican territory at the local level, including Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties. Dauphin County went for Clinton in 2016, Wolf/Casey in 2018, and the GOP swept countywide elections in 2019.
The parties split the only statewide judicial races. The ‘Mc’s have it: Dem Dan McCaffery and Republican Megan McCarthy King hold a lead for the two open Superior Court seats. The GOP candidates ran some ads, but overall this was a low-key race. Unlike the Supreme and Commonwealth courts, Superior Court doesn’t have a role related to laws or policy and so it doesn’t attract a lot of attention or spending.
Dems move left in Philly and Pittsburgh. The Philly at-large council race, where a Working Families Party candidate fought the Democratic committee to oust a Republican, is another win for progressives vs. the machine.
Likewise in Allegheny County, Dems replaced a moderate with a progressive on County Council (and ousted a Republican to boot). Pittsburgh City Council swapped a conservative incumbent for a pro-Mayor Peduto progressive. In the highly-touted DA race, incumbent Stephen Zappala won comfortably. But counterintuitively, his margin in a general election among Dems, Republicans and independents was narrower (14 points) than his margin against his Dem primary challenger this spring (18 points).
Noteworthy Odds and Ends
Former VP Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at a Pittsburgh union hall Tuesday night, joining Allegheny County Exec Rich Fitzgerald at his victory party (Fitzgerald cruised to a third term).
Scranton elected its first female Mayor. Paige Cognetti, a former Scranton School Director who also served in the Treasury Department in the Obama administration, won the seven-candidate race to succeed Bill Courtright.
Reading, which is Pennsylvania’s fifth-largest city and has a population that is majority Latino, elected Eddie Moran as its first Latino Mayor. He is the Vice President of the Reading School Board. (He ousted the incumbent Mayor in the primary).Mayor Emily Marburger: Power Broker. My town of Bellevue, population 8,000 and across the city line from Pittsburgh, ousted two borough council incumbents. This was the result of a campaign by Mayor Emily Marburger, who ran in 2017 as a millennial fed up with Trump and conservative Democrats. She baked challenger Jodi Cerminara against incumbent Dem Linda Woshner in Ward 1. Woshner lost the Dem primary, but won the GOP nomination via write-in. Cerminara beat her Tuesday. Likewise, Dem nominee Jeff Stuncard beat incumbent Council President Tom Hrynda. Since 2017, council has seen a complete turnover of all of its members. It went from 5-4 Dem, to 8-1 Dem, with Marburger’s allies holding the majority.
Keegan Gibson is a Special Projects Manager of Ceisler Media's Pittsburgh office.