Democratic congressional candidate Mary Gay Scanlon during a campaign rally in Philadelphia, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania elected a state record four women to the U.S. House on Tuesday as Democrats smashed the state’s all-male congressional delegation, picked up three seats in the chamber and ousted a three-term Republican.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will return for a second term, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey won a third term and Democrats chipped away at the huge Republican majorities in the state Legislature.
In the U.S. House, Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, Susan Wild and Chrissy Houlahan stand to become the first women from Pennsylvania to serve full terms in Congress since 2014, while U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb beat three-term Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus in a suburban Pittsburgh race pitting two incumbent representatives against each other.
Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation will be a 9-9 tie, giving Democrats in the state their most seats in eight years.
The Democrats’ victories came amid a favorable election climate and the state’s highest midterm turnout in nearly 25 years. The party was aided by a backlash against President Donald Trump, the most U.S. House open seats in decades and new court-ordered congressional district boundaries that made seats more competitive.
Pennsylvania has never sent more than two women to Congress at any one time, according to information from Chatham University.
Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor who won a special election in March to an open seat in southwestern Pennsylvania, scored another victory Tuesday in a district that had backed Trump in 2016.
Both Lamb and Rothfus live in a newly drawn district, a quirk of the state Supreme Court’s overhaul of Pennsylvania’s congressional boundaries after it ruled the districts had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered by Republicans in 2011.
Those boundaries had helped the GOP win 13 of 18 seats in three straight general elections, even as Democrats dominated races for statewide offices.
Elsewhere, nine incumbents won re-election, while Republicans filled three open seats that had heavily favored their party. Three Republican incumbents — three-term Scott Perry, four-term Mike Kelly and freshman Brian Fitzpatrick — survived close races.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., gestures after being introduced before a general election campaign event with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Friday, July 13, 2018, in Philadelphia. Harris is headlining a pair of fundraisers for Casey. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Casey, the 58-year-old son of the late governor, beat Republican Congressman Lou Barletta, a staunch Trump backer who had been endorsed in a state the president won just two years ago. Casey’s victory gives him a third six-year term in office and ensures that Trump will have another swing-state opponent in the Senate.
The race was a far cry from Pennsylvania’s record-breaking $170 million Senate contest in 2016, likely coming in at under $40 million. Barletta, a prominent anti-illegal immigration hawk, campaigned on Trump’s record, but never gained traction against Casey.
Casey handily outspent Barletta and, while Trump campaigned for Barletta twice in Pennsylvania, Barletta still received virtually no outside help from GOP groups to overcome Casey’s heavy fundraising advantage and built-in recognition as a household name in Pennsylvania politics.
Wolf beat brash Republican challenger Scott Wagner, who also closely identified himself with Trump. Backed by a unified Democratic Party and labor unions, Wolf had a huge fundraising advantage over Wagner, who fought an unexpectedly bruising and expensive three-way primary, and struggled to find a weakness in his opponent.
Wagner, who had pledged to cut taxes and rein in an out-of-control state government, spent considerable time explaining away his often eyebrow-raising off-the-cuff comments. Those included comments critical of public schools and teachers, and Wagner’s advising Wolf last month in a video streamed online to put on a catcher’s mask because “I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes.”
Wolf will return for another four years to share power with a GOP-controlled Legislature, whose big majorities will be somewhat diminished after Tuesday’s election after at least a dozen seats in the southeast flipped to Democrats.
In partial results, Democrats won at least 12 Republican House seats, and the GOP took two House seats that had previously been held by Democrats.
In the state Senate, Republicans lost at least four seats, all in suburban Philadelphia. Republicans went into the election with a 121-82 majority in the House and a 34-16 advantage in the Senate.