While the politicos of this country were focused on the chaos of the United States House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was going through its own chaos. This chaos was more understandable, however. Democrats only won a one seat majority in the House in November, which under any circumstance causes chaos. It’s only heightened by the fact that Democrats are already down three members.
A Slew of Vacancies
Due to an (arguably out of date) rule in Pennsylvania, candidates can run for two offices at the same time. This saw Austin Davis and Summer Lee, both Representatives from Allegheny County, run for higher office while running for re-election in November. Davis was the LG nominee for Josh Shapiro, who won easily, and Lee, while underperforming the partisan baseline greatly, won the newly-drawn 12th Congressional District.
The third vacancy is sadder for Democrats. Long-time Representative Anthony DeLuca unexpectedly died only a week and a half before Election Day. DeLuca was re-elected posthumously in November in his safely Democratic seat, leaving the district with no representative as well.
Behind this show as well was a growing power battle between Republicans and Democrats. While both parties agreed on a February 7th date for the special election to replace DeLuca, a battle was set over the date to replace both Lee and Davis. Republican Leader Bryan Cutler wanted to hold the elections in May. Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, on the other hand, wanted to hold the elections on the same day as the DeLuca special. This led to both Cutler and McClinton claiming they led the chamber in December. The people in charge of elections agreed that McClinton was in charge, and thus set the February 7th dates for the other two open seats. Republicans have since sued to stop those elections. That has not been resolved yet.
However, with the recent development it became even more chaotic. After failing to retire for the day, Republican Tim Gregory nominated Democrat Mark Rozzi from Berks County to be Speaker. Surprising even more people, GOP whip Tim O’Neil seconded the Rozzi nomination, thus creating a vote. In the end, Democrats agreed to the nomination, joining 16 Republicans to make Rozzi the speaker.
Rozzi then proceeded to announce that he would no longer caucus with Democrats as Speaker. Instead, he would serve as an independent. This means that Democrats are now down to 98 members currently. And even though Rozzi says he plans on keeping the special election dates at the Democrats favored date, he made no comment on whether he’d change back to a Democrat after. If/when Democrats win the three specials, it could lead to a 101-101-1 House. That means tied committees and a tied House in one of the largest bodies in the nation. In a video, Joanna McClinton walked away from the press after being asked about a long term Rossi speakership. This is a developing situation, and certainly a chaotic one as both parties deal with a new normal for the next two years.