Special Elections Set for Vacant PA House and Senate Seats

The new year will begin with several special elections to fill vacancies in the state House and state Senate.

Three vacancies currently exist in the state House due to former state Reps. Summer Lee (D-Allegheny) winning a seat in Congress; Austin Davis (D-Allegheny) being elected Lt. Gov; and Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) passing away. All three seats are in Allegheny County and are heavily Democratic.

Allegheny County recently announced that it will hold special elections to fill the three vacant state House seats on February 7, 2023 – the date set by state House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia). However, state House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) subsequently challenged McClinton’s authority to call special elections, filing suit in Commonwealth Court arguing that, because Republicans hold a 101-99 majority, he has the power to call special elections. In November, Cutler scheduled the special election for Deluca’s seat for February 7, which he continues to argue should be upheld by the courts. On Thursday, Cutler issued his own writs for the remaining two seats to occur on May 16, 2023, the date of the primary election.

As the Democratic and Republican state House leaders have filed competing writs setting the two special elections on separate days, it is likely that the Commonwealth Court will issue a ruling, which could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

On the other side of the Capitol, a special election to fill former state Sen. John Gordner’s (R-Columbia) seat will be held on January 31, 2023. Gordner, whose 27th Senatorial District comprised multiple counties in east central PA, resigned last month to take a job as Counsel to Interim state Sen. Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland).

Republicans in the 27th Senatorial District recently nominated state Rep. Lynda Culver (R-Northumberland) during a conferee process in which she received 80 out of 87 votes. Prior to her election to the state House in 2010, Culver served as a staff leader in the district office of former state Rep. Merle Phillips.

Culver will face off against Democrat Patricia Lawton, a speech pathologist from Columbia County who is also an adjunct instructor at Penn State Harrisburg.

The district is heavily Republican, as the party holds a 2:1 voter registration advantage. Gordner won re-election in 2020 by 51,000 votes. The winner of next month’s special election will serve out the remainder of the term, which expires in 2024.


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