WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, the highest-ranking Republican lawmaker in the chamber, announced he would not run for reelection on Wednesday. His retirement, coupled with the departure of House Speaker Mike Turzai, leaves a conspicuous power vacuum in the top ranks of the Pennsylvania GOP, jeopardizing fundraising and casting a cloud over the party’s hopes of holding on to its fragile majorities.
“If I were a Pennsylvania Republican, I would be wary of facing voters too,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “Democrats across the state are fired up to flip the House and Senate red to blue this year. The GOP’s record is indefensible, and all these incumbents know that, which is why they’re bowing out early rather than face life in the minority.”
More than a dozen incumbent Republican lawmakers have announced their retirements ahead of next Tuesday’s filing deadline, more than double the number of Democrats who have announced similar plans. The spate of retirements has created an easier path for Democrats to flip the General Assembly from red to blue this year, leaving open many of the suburban districts that have rapidly trended away from the GOP in the Trump era.
After flipping five seats in the Senate in 2018, Democrats need to flip just four more to win control for the first time in nearly three decades, given Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s tie-breaking power. Only half of the 50 seats in the Senate are up for election in a given cycle, so this November is the first opportunity Democrats have to contest these seats in the Trump era.
Both chambers of the General Assembly are on the DLCC’s list of top targets in its $50 million Flip Everything campaign to win legislative majorities across the country. Since 2016, the DLCC and state Democrats have flipped more than 430 seats and 10 legislative chambers from red to blue.
“Democrats are focused on state legislative races more than ever during this crucial, pre-redistricting election cycle,” added Post. “Republican incumbents across Pennsylvania and indeed the country are reading the tea leaves and sprinting for the exits rather than fight an uphill battle to save their precarious majorities in November.”