With continuing gridlock in Washington and increased state legislative action on guns, election laws, abortion, and many other issues, state legislatures are more and more important.
Republicans have had an advantage in state governments for a long time but this advantage grew significantly in 2010, when Democratic timidity in the face of the Obamacare backlash led to a drubbing in national and state races. This defeat was especially poorly timed since the GOP used their control of purple states like Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to gerrymander essentially permanent control of the congressional delegations and state legislatures. As an example, in Pennsylvania, Democrats won 55% of the total votes cast statewide for State House candidates in 2018, but won only 46% of the seats.
Currently, Pennsylvania Republicans control 28 of 50 state senate seats and 113 of 203 state House seats. (Before the 2018 elections, the count was 34-16 and 121-82.)
Pennsylvania has had divided government since 2015; before then, Pennsylvania suffered through GOP trifecta (control of both houses of the legislature and the governor) 12 of the previous 20 years. Ballotpedia also uses the term “triplex” to describe states where one party controls the key statewide offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. As of August 2022, Pennsylvania was one of 18 Democratic triplexes (22 Republican and 10 divided) and one of 13 states where neither party held a trifecta (23 Republican and 14 democratic).
It is vital to maintain that triplex and to get back control of the legislature. We know the playbook when the GOP seizes total control of a state: successive rounds of legislation to make gun ownership easier, voting harder, and abortions impossible. Right to work laws. Voter suppression. Gender laws, cutbacks on education, voucher programs, and stricter controls on what teachers can do. And we also know their plan to emasculate Democratic governors: pass constitutional amendments to remove powers. We’ve already seen this in Pennsylvania and more is coming.
Pennsylvania is a closely divided state but it is only one bad election from joining Ohio, Florida, and Texas in the race to the bottom. Get out and volunteer! And vote!
Leon Reed, freelance reporter, is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a seven year resident of Gettysburg, where he writes military history and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, chaired the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee and is on the board of SCCAP and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 3 cats, and 5 grandchildren.