Republicans maintain control of both chambers of Legislature
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Republicans are expected to retain control of both chambers of the state Legislature for the upcoming session, but for the first time in decades, the Senate GOP will return in January with three fewer members.
Allegheny County will boast a new Democratic state senator, as will the greater Erie area. A third district in the Harrisburg area, also previously represented by a retiring Republican senator, was called for the Democrat late Tuesday night.
Those gains will narrow the Senate's political margin to 27-23 from the current 10-member split.
"We made history tonight," said Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, who heads his caucus' political efforts. "We've completely changed the dynamic of the Senate."
Despite also holding on to a significant majority in the state House of Representatives, it was a more mellow evening for Republicans than two years ago.
The 2010 elections brought a wave of freshman Republicans that hoisted the majority to its current split of 109-91. Three seats were vacant in the 203-member chamber going into Tuesday's balloting, including two held by Republicans.
The election cycle began with a bizarre twist, when the state Supreme Court in January invalidated the new legislative district boundaries drawn to reflect population shifts in the 2010 census.
The court ruling meant that the lines crafted in 2001 would remain in effect, forcing politicos to rejigger their recruiting efforts in some areas.
Reverting to the old lines put both Republican D. Raja and Democrat Matt Smith -- both of Mt. Lebanon -- back into contention to succeed former state Sen. John Pippy of Moon.
Mr. Pippy, who retired in June and now heads the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, represented the 37th District, which stretches from the Pittsburgh International Airport into Allegheny County's South Hills.
Mr. Smith had represented a portion of the Senate district in the state House of Representatives since 2006, while Mr. Raja had gained name recognition from his bid last year for Allegheny County executive.
Mr. Leach described Mr. Raja as a "formidable" candidate due in part to his personal resources, and said Mr. Smith's work on the trail helped lead to his victory.
Democrats also were celebrating the likely victory of Democrat Sean Wiley in Erie, who will fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Jane Earll. Mr. Wiley handily defeated Republican Janet Anderson.
A contest in the Harrisburg area between Republican John McNally and Democrat Rob Teplitz -- vying for a district represented by retiring GOP Sen. Jeffrey Piccola -- ultimately went for Mr. Teplitz, bringing the Democratic gain to three seats.
In the state House, Republican Rep. Rick Saccone of Elizabeth was again in a tight race with Democrat David Levdansky. Mr. Saccone unseated Mr. Levdansky in a 2010 contest, and their rematch was too close to call late Tuesday.
Still, Republicans said they expected to start next session with a majority of 111 members to the Democrats' 92.
"We're pretty excited about it, especially given the tide," said Rep. David Reed, R-Indiana.
One of the changing faces will include a new lawmaker representing Greene County for the first time since 1976. Democratic Pam Snyder, a former primary opponent of state Rep. Bill DeWeese, will succeed the ex-lawmaker who was imprisoned earlier this year after being convicted of improper campaign work.
PA. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
First Published November 7, 2012 2:04 am