OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Democrat Lindsay Powell is expected to win a special election for Pennsylvania’s 21st state House District.
Powell, the director of workforce strategies at the nonprofit InnovatePGH, defeated Republican Erin Connolly Autenreith, a real estate agent and the chair of the Shaler Township Republican Committee, to win the Allegheny County seat, The Hill reported.
Powell’s victory boosted Democrats ahead of Tuesday’s state House special election, which determined which party would control the lower chamber. After former state Rep. Sara Innamorato (D) resigned to run for Allegheny County executive, the state House was split 101-101.
Though the seat was expected to go to Democrats – the county voted for President Biden by 20 points in 2020, and Innamorato won the district with roughly 64 percent of the vote last November – the victory was critical for Democrats given that the party controls only the state House, while Republicans control the state Senate.
Powell’s victory restores Democratic control of the state House to a 102-101 margin.
Democrats celebrated Powell’s victory.
“Freedom is on the line in statehouses across the country. Once again, voters rejected Pennsylvania Republicans’ radical policies, and for the fifth time this year, Democrats have won a crucial special election to hold the majority in the Pennsylvania House,” said Heather Williams, the interim president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), in a statement.
Lindsay Powell wins Pennsylvania district, keeping Democrats’ control in state House https://t.co/9RheA49WhL
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) September 20, 2023
In May, a once-Republican district situated in the suburbs of Philadelphia remained in Democratic hands following a special election, allowing the party to maintain a slim majority in the state House of Representatives.
“Democrats maintained their narrow Pennsylvania House majority Tuesday by winning a special election and along with it continued control over how the chamber will handle abortion, gun rights, and election law legislation,” the Associated Press reported.
“Heather Boyd won a seat in the Philadelphia suburbs, beating Republican Katie Ford for a vacancy created by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Mike Zabel. Zabel quit the Legislature in March, shortly after a lobbyist accused him of sexually harassing her,” the report continued.
Boyd, a former congressional and state legislative aide, represents a district that was previously held by Republicans but has recently shown strong support for Democratic candidates, the AP continued.
With her victory, Democrats now hold 102 seats, the minimum required to wield control over the agenda in the 203-member House. However, the state Senate still maintains a Republican majority.
The Democrats’ victory in the Delaware County district carries significant implications for first-term Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro.
With at least one chamber now supporting his agenda, Shapiro gains an advantage heading into the crucial final month of budget negotiations. Moreover, the outcome could impact a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to restrict abortion rights. Legislative Republicans are currently just one House floor vote away from putting the amendment to voters as a referendum.
The AP noted further:
Shapiro cut an ad focusing on the abortion issue for Boyd, who reported raising more than $1.3 million, including more than $1 million in in-kind advertising from the House Democrats’ campaign arm and the Democratic Party. Ford reported raising about $146,000, more than half of which came from the House Republicans’ campaign arm.
Boyd emphasized protection of abortion rights, drawing a contrast with Ford, who is personally against abortion but says she did not want to change existing state law. Republicans had hoped to regain the majority, in part, to advance the proposed constitutional amendment that says the Pennsylvania Constitution does not guarantee any rights relating to abortion or public funding of abortions.
Ford was critical of Boyd, who’s been a leading Democratic Party official in Delaware County, for allegedly failing to lodge a stronger reaction after learning about the allegations against Zabel. Boyd responded by saying she was respecting a request from the lobbyist for confidentiality regarding her claim that Zabel rubbed her leg while the two of them discussed a bill outside the Capitol in Harrisburg in 2018 and didn’t stop when she moved away, the AP noted.