Democrats retake razor-thin majority in Pennsylvania state House

Democrat Lindsay Powell, a nonprofit worker and former staffer for the city of Pittsburgh, won a special election Tuesday and gave her party control of the state House of Representatives, The Associated Press projected.

Powell triumphed in a Democratic-leaning district in Allegheny County vacated by former state Rep. Sara Innamorato. Innamorato left office to run for Allegheny County executive and will be the Democratic nominee for that office in the November general election.

Powell’s victory was expected due to the blue hue of the open district, but it's still important because it tips the balance of power in the statehouse’s lower chamber back to Democrats, who will hold 102 seats after she is seated, compared to Republicans’ 101 seats.

Democrats won the state House majority in 2022 for the first time since 2010, running on maps that were drawn by a state court. But they soon lost full control over the chamber due to vacancies in three seats. In February, after three special elections in Allegheny County, Democrats took back the majority.

Tuesday's special election win puts the party in control of one chamber of the statehouse and the governorship in a key 2024 battleground state, where Democrats flipped a U.S. Senate seat last year.

And, with two major elections coming down the pike — not only next year’s presidential race but also Democratic Sen. Bob Casey’s re-election bid — the Keystone State is sure to play a big role in coming political fights.

Powell will join the state House while Democrats are at odds with Republicans in the state Senate over certain provisions in a $45 million state budget package, including on whether to publicly fund some students’ access to private schools.

Powell’s opponent, Republican Erin Connolly Autenreith, a local party chair, campaigned on her support for vouchers that would help send some public school students to private schools.

The state House is expected to reconvene at the end of September and will likely address the budget package.

The implications of a Democratic-led state House and a Democratic governor have already been evident in the state. This year, the state House has passed bills to raise the minimum wage, enshrine the right to collective bargaining in the state Constitution, and allocate funding for mental health aid.

And as recently as Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that the state will now automatically register people to vote when they get a driver's license or state ID.

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