House Democrats, Republicans clash over special election dates

GOP Speaker Mike Turzai scheduled the elections to be held less than a month before the primary. Democratic leaders think that’s needlessly confusing.

Pennsylvania State Capitol building

Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Democrats and Republicans in the state House are arguing over the date set for three special elections.

The Republican House Speaker, Mike Turzai, scheduled the elections for March 17, but Democrats say that a later date would be less confusing and save taxpayers money.

The elections are for the House’s 8th, 18th, and 58th districts, which cover parts of Bucks, Mercer, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties.

All were held by Republicans who resigned after being elected to county positions.

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Since Republicans hold a House majority, they schedule special elections. Representative Frank Dermody, who chairs the chamber’s Democratic caucus, said a better date is April 28, when Pennsylvania holds its primary election.

In a statement, Dermody wrote the elections will cost taxpayers “over a million dollars” and create “unnecessary confusion in four counties that are working to implement new voting procedures at the same time.”

Neal Lesher, a spokesman for Turzai, said the caucus has been consistent — noting that when two vacancies opened in January 2019, those special elections were also scheduled for mid-March.

There is also a February 25 special election to fill a vacancy in Philadelphia’s 190th House District.

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