Control of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives will again be determined by the results of a special election, this time a race being held Tuesday to fill the seat of a Pittsburgh lawmaker whose resignation put the chamber at a 101-101 partisan tie.
If voters in the heavily-Democratic district cast their ballots for former congressional staffer Lindsay Powell, Democrats will keep the slight majority they previously had. The party has defended its majority in a series of special elections since November.
A win for Erin Connolly Autenreith, a real estate agent and local Republican chairperson, would tilt the partisan divide back to the Republicans, who lost their majority for the first time in 12 years last year.
With either outcome, Pennsylvania’s government will remain divided with Democrat Josh Shapiro in the governor’s office and Republicans holding a Senate majority.
Powell, 32, highlighted recent legislation that Democrats advanced with their newfound power in the chamber, like home repair subsidies and expanded protections for LGBTQ+ people. She sees her election to the seat as a way to continue that work.
Democrats are confident they’ll hold the seat, which has broken favorably for the party in recent elections. Republicans have acknowledged it will be a difficult race to win.
Autenreith, 65, said education is a priority for her, citing school vouchers. Her win, she said, “would boost the Republican party, of course, but that’s not the reason I’m running.”
With control over the calendar, Democrats have advanced a number of their priorities on a one-vote margin.
Senate Republicans have sought to advance their own priorities, like school vouchers, and constitutional amendments implementing voter ID and limiting the governor’s power. If Republicans gain control of the House, they can take some of these questions to voters through proposed constitutional amendments without Shapiro’s approval.
That partisan tension is acute as the state continues to be mired in a budget stalemate more than two months into the fiscal year. Though the governor signed the main $45 billion spending plan, legislation that allows some money to be spent is snarled in a partisan dispute.