Speed Reads

Death and Victories

Democrats appear to have flipped the Pennsylvania House, may be short votes to pick a speaker

Pennsylvania Democrats almost certainly gained narrow control of the state House of Representatives, unexpectedly winning at least 102 of the chamber's 203 seats and erasing the Republicans' 23-seat advantage. There are still two seats in suburban Philadelphia that have not been called, but Democrats lead in one — and they only need one to have a one-seat majority in the House, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Democratic leaders of the House claimed victory on Wednesday afternoon. 

If Democrats win one or both seats, House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (pictured) should be on track to become Pennsylvania's first-ever female House speaker. But it's a little complicated. 

First, one of the Democrats who was re-elected to the House, state Rep. Tony DeLuca, died in October after the ballots were finalized. Two other Democrats, state Rep. Summer Lee and state Rep. Austin Davis were elected to higher office as well, Lee to the U.S. House and Davis as lieutenant governor. "If Democrats win 102 seats, they would have only 99 sitting members once Lee and Davis resign — fewer than Republicans' 101 members," the Inquirer reports, "setting up a potentially messy few months in Harrisburg as the parties wrangle over power."

Pennsylvania Democrats retained the governorship and flipped a U.S. Senate seat this election, while Republicans lost only one state Senate seat and will keep control with 27 of the chamber's 50 seats. But losing the House, at least nominally, "represents a stunning setback for Republicans," who were confident "the national political and economic environment" would allow them to "maintain their grip on the legislature they've controlled for much of the last three decades," the Inquirer reports.

Instead, Democrats outperformed in state races across much of the country. In Pennsylvania's House, they unseated four GOP incumbents in the Philadelphia suburbs, won four open seats previously held by Republicans, and claimed three newly drawn districts.