National Democrats are vowing to advance party control throughout the U.S. in 2024 by targeting what they say are “vulnerable GOP chambers” in state legislatures around the country. On their list:
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said in a recent statement that it plans to “harness [the] momentum” of the party’s 2022 victories and “mount competitive challenges in vulnerable GOP chambers that we have an opportunity to take back.”
The DLCC vowed in its statement to both protect its recently won majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and flip control of the Pennsylvania Senate from the GOP.
Trevor Southerland, the executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee, admitted the Democratic Party’s 2022 results in the state House “surprised some people.” In that election, Democrats gained control of the lower chamber for the first time in 12 years.
“I think everybody thought we would pick up seats,” Southerland said. “I’m not sure too many people thought we would win the majority.”
“There’s a big play on making sure we protect and potentially expand the majority by taking a few more seats,” he continued, adding the campaign committee helps train candidates on messaging and provides them with staffers to help with mailing campaigns and television spots.
Republicans have maintained strong majorities in the Pennsylvania legislature over the past few decades. Since 1992 the GOP has only lost control of the Senate for one year. Democrats have controlled the House for just eight of those years. The GOP has enjoyed a trifecta—control of the House, Senate, and governor’s office—in 12 of those years.
The Democratic Party has controlled the governor’s office in the state since 2015, the longest stretch of party control for the past 30 years.
Whether or not that signals a possible shift in state politics is uncertain. Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications and a GOP candidate for governor in 2022, said that “given the mood of the electorate,” Democrats “have a very steep hill to climb.”
“Joe Biden is unpopular even among Democrats in Pennsylvania,” Gerow said. “The Republicans will have at the top of the ticket some strong candidates as opposed to the weak ones in 2022.”
“The economy here is not working for most people,” he went on. “It’s always the economy. I think Democrats probably hit their high water mark last year and will see the tide recede a little bit in 2024.
“Joe Biden is unpopular even among Democrats in Pennsylvania,” he continued. “The Republicans will have at the top of the ticket some strong candidates as opposed to the weak ones in 2022.”
Pennsylvania statute dictates all seats in the state House are up for re-election every two years, while senators face staggered four-year terms. Most seats in both chambers break easily for one party or another. In 2022, Ballotpedia identified just 16 percent of House districts as “battleground” races. The election tracker designated just 18 percent of state Senate races last year as contested.
One Republican strategist who spoke on background pointed to the upcoming race in Pennsylvania’s 163rd House District as a potentially close contest, though he speculated Democrats would ultimately prevail. That seat was vacated by Democratic Rep. Mike Zabel last month amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
The strategist said that though Democrats will likely hold onto the seat, Republicans have put up a strong candidate—Army veteran Katie Ford—and that they may have a fighting chance at flipping it. “If they do, it’s a harbinger of things to come,” he said.
And it’s not just the state legislature. On Monday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its list of targeted GOP seats to flip, and on the list is Bucks County’s U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. It’s not the first time for the swing-district Republican.
Asked about their effort, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Gustafson said, “House Democrats are grasping for seats as they continue to support extreme policies that are completely out of touch. Brian Fitzpatrick has consistently delivered results for Pennsylvania families and they are excited to re-elect him next fall.”
Southerland believes Democrats can turn the entire state government blue. “There’s definitely room for us to grow a little bit,” he said.
“In the last 10 years, state legislative politics have really taken off, and Democrats have been a little behind Republicans as far as getting national groups on board,” he said. “We’re glad to be catching up.”
Gerow offered a counterpoint. With American politics so volatile, there’s “a chance” Democrats could lose control of the state House just two years after they secured it.
“You’re going to see some interesting races along the way,” he said.
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