Democrats retain majority in the Pennsylvania House with a 102-100 partisan divide

This Jan. 2024 combination photo shows nominees for a Bucks County special election to fill a vacant Pennsylvania state House seat, Republican Candace Cabanas, left, and Democrat Jim Prokopiak in Fairless Hills, Pa., (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Democrats retained their slim majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday after voters elected a former school board member to represent them in a Philadelphia suburb that has been trending more to the left.

Jim Prokopiak’s election to the Bucks County seat will give Democrats a 102-100 majority in the House, which they have sought to defend in four special elections in the past year. A Republican lawmaker’s resignation last week shifted the power back to Democrats, and Prokopiak’s win kept it in place.

He defeated Republican challenger Candace Cabanas and will replace former state Rep. John Galloway, who resigned to serve as a magisterial judge. Cabanas has said previously she plans to run again during the general election.

“What I heard from voters is that Bucks County residents need help supporting their families, want control over their own bodies, and ensure they have the ability to chart their own paths in life,” Prokopiak said in a statement. “I’m committed to taking my conversations with voters to Harrisburg and making their dreams a reality.”

While campaigning, Prokopiak, 49, said his goals as a lawmaker aligned with the party’s larger ambitions since they retook the chamber — more money for K-12 education, preserving access to abortions and a higher minimum wage.

“No one can afford to live on the federal minimum wage in this area,” he said. “If we’re going to be talking about good-paying jobs and creating life-sustaining jobs, the first thing we have to do is raise the minimum wage because it’s clear that is not sustaining anybody.”

Democrats have kept all six seats that have gone up for special elections in the past year, in mostly reliably Democratic districts. Prokopiak will represent a seat that has favorably elected Democrats in past election cycles.

Galloway’s seat has trended Democratic, and Republicans have slowly been losing their grip on the county as a whole.

The race drew national attention from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which spent $50,000 to protect the party’s majority in the chamber.

It was a first step for the committee, which has said it is planning to spend at least $60 million on statehouse races nationally this cycle, the group’s largest-ever budget. It will feature special emphasis on erasing GOP majorities in Arizona and New Hampshire and in the Pennsylvania Senate while holding small Democratic majorities claimed in 2022 in Minnesota and Michigan.

“This victory is a promising sign for Democrats up and down the ballot this year – it’s clear that momentum is on our side,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Heather Williams said in a statement, adding that their focus will be on defending the House majority and flipping the state Senate.

Democrats in Pennsylvania have used their newfound power this year to advance a number of the caucus’ priorities, and they have a philosophical ally in the governor’s office with Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro. The Legislature remains politically divided with a firm Republican majority in the Senate.

“Over the last year I think, since the Democrats have been in the majority, they’ve pushed legislation that has helped the middle class,” Prokopiak said previously. “I want to do that.”