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How did Democrats win control of the Pa. House? They owe it to the GOP, lawmaker says

Rep. Mike Schlossberg watches as Rep. Joanna McClinton projects Democrats will hold their first majority in the Pennsylvania House since 2010. She is expected to be named the next House speaker.
Alejandro A. Alvarez
Philadelphia Inquirer
Rep. Mike Schlossberg (right) watches Nov. 9, 2022, as Rep. Joanna McClinton projects Democrats will hold their first majority in the Pennsylvania House since 2010. McClinton is expected to be named the next House speaker.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Pennsylvania Democrats may have given thanks to a Republican over the holiday for delivering them their first House majority in over a decade.

Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh and a member of the new House majority leadership team, credited the unpopular policies of conservative lawmakers for Democrats' gains.

  • Democrats in 2023 will hold their first House majority in over a decade
  • They'll hold a single-seat majority, 102-101
  • Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a member of the Democratic leadership, said GOP governor candidate Doug Mastriano pushed voters toward Democrats

Chief among them, he said, was state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the failed GOP candidate for governor. Mastriano's call to ban all abortions and efforts to overturn the 2020 election results spurred turnout in critical swing districts, Schlossberg said.

“I don’t think we have a majority if not for Doug Mastriano, especially in some of these closer seats. He was such a poisonous candidate that his orbit of toxicity was simply inescapable,” Schlossberg said.

Schlossberg was optimistic about his party's chances entering Election Day, but even the Allentown-area representative didn't expect Democrats to flip the House. The new district map approved earlier this year gave either party a chance to seize the majority, but he thought Democrats faced too many headwinds.

MORE: Hundreds of Pa. lawmakers, judges and executive branch officials to get inflation-inspired pay raises

Midterm elections tend to work against the party in control of the White House. The weakening economy spelled trouble for Democrats, too. Besides, Democrats hadn't controlled the House since 2010.

“To get there? It speaks volumes of what the voters thought of us versus the Republican Party at this point,” Schlossberg said.

Democrats' margin for error in the House, however, is extremely narrow. Once the new session begins, Democrats will hold a majority of 102 to 101 — at least on paper. Two Democrats will need to resign after winning higher office, and a third died before Election Day. All three won in heavily Democratic districts, leaving party officials confident they'll have a majority after special elections in early 2023.

“I think people elected us to be the adults in the room."
State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh

With the parties so evenly divided, Democratic leadership will need to find some common ground with their Republican colleagues to get anything done, said Schlossberg, who will become the House majority caucus administrator. Plus, Republicans retained their majority in the Senate, allowing them to act as a potential check on any legislation.

He was optimistic legislators could agree on amending state law so counties can tally election results faster. Strong funding for public schools at the state level would also allow school districts to avoid steep property tax hikes at the local level.

“I think people elected us to be the adults in the room," he said.

A boost for the Valley?

As caucus administrator, Schlossberg controls some of the perks lawmakers have in Harrisburg. His leadership responsibilities involve assigning parking spots, office space, furniture and seating arrangements on the chamber floor. He also helps representatives with their constituent services.

More importantly to the Lehigh Valley, he'll be part of leadership discussions involving policies, priorities and spending.

“Being on the leadership team of the majority will unquestionably be helpful to the region as a whole, and I plan on using my position to make sure that the Lehigh Valley and my district is getting its share of state dollars," said Schlossberg, whose newly redrawn district covers South Whitehall and parts of Allentown and Upper Macungie Township.

Schlossberg's leadership position could ease the loss in funding local organizations might see with the looming departure of state Sen. Pat Browne.

As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Browne holds tremendous sway over what projects and causes across the state received funding. Senator-elect Jarrett Coleman defeated Browne in the Republican primary for the 16th Senate District, which represents portions of Bucks and Lehigh counties.

While new committee assignments haven't been made yet, it's unlikely Schlossberg will hold direct control over government pursestrings in the new year.

"Losing Sen. Browne is a massive hole, and while I’ll do everything I can to fill that gap, that’s going to be a challenge, to put it politely," he said.