Retirements and other departures are poised to hit Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature particularly hard this year, as most of those who have already announced they are leaving belong to the GOP.
The party that has wielded broad power in the General Assembly in recent years, thanks to strong majorities in both chambers, looks to also have far more open seats to defend in 2018.
At least eight state House Republicans are running for Congress or state Senate, and the party is also losing several veteran committee chairs to retirement. In all, 15 of the 16 representatives who have said for certain they are not seeking re-election this year are Republicans.
In the state Senate, all four who are definitely leaving are Republicans.
Some may return to the House or Senate if they lose or drop out of races for other elective positions. But it’s entirely possible that more than 30 newcomers will take legislative seats early next year.
Republicans currently control the Senate 34-16, and the House 120-81 with two vacancies, one from each party.
Pending court challenges to the state’s congressional map could have a domino effect, as candidates who want to run for Congress might change their minds, depending on what map is in eventually in place for the May 15 primary.
Openings at the top
The state House’s two highest ranking members, Speaker Mike Turzai, of Allegheny County, and Majority Leader Dave Reed, of Indiana County, both Republicans, are running for other offices. Turzai is a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and he’s said that if he wins the primary he won’t also try to retain his House seat. Reed, seeking the nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, has ruled out returning to the state House.
Changes in the Senate
Among Turzai’s primary opponents in the governor’s race this year is York County Republican Sen. Scott Wagner, who is giving up his seat in the Senate. Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, is not seeking re-election as he pursues the nomination for Shuster’s congressional seat. Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, is not running for a fourth term. Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, has said he may run for Congress in the Philadelphia suburbs but has not decided — his Senate seat is not up until 2020. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is retiring.
Ambitious House members
Rep. Judy Ward, R-Blair, wants Eichelberger’s spot in the Senate. Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, is running to succeed Wagner. Both have said they don’t plan to run for House and Senate at the same time. Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh, has said he is not seeking re-election as he pursues the nomination for the congressional seat opening with the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, is part of a crowded field running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Dean is simultaneously running to keep her House seat. Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, is running in the March 13 special election for a vacant congressional seat, held most recently by Republican Tim Murphy. Saccone is not seeking another state House term. Rep. Steve Bloom, R-Cumberland, wants the seat that Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is giving up as he runs for U.S. Senate. Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, is battling with Barletta for the Senate nomination and is not simultaneously running for another state House term. Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, has announced plans to run against Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks, while seeking re-election to the House at the same time.
This year’s retirements include 18-term state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery; Rep. Harry Lewis, R-Chester; Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Westmoreland; Rep. John McGinnis, R-Blair; Rep. Ron Marsico; R-Dauphin, Rep. Will Tallman, R-York; Rep. C. Adam Harris, R-Juniata; and Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks. Another notable retirement is 17-term Rep. John Taylor, one of only two remaining Republicans in the Philadelphia delegation and chairman of the Transportation Committee. Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Allegheny, is seriously considering retiring and plans to announce a decision in the coming days.
A state representative under fire for missing many session days and votes told the Scranton Times-Tribune this week he is not seeking another term. Rep. Kevin Haggerty, a Democrat, had explained his poor attendance record by saying he needed to be with his children as he and his wife were divorcing.
Mark Scolforo covers state government for The Associated Press in Harrisburg. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter: @houseofbuddy.