GOP tightens hold on Pa. legislature

110916_dantruitt_1200
State Rep. Dan Truitt, from West Chester.

HARRISBURG - Republicans strengthened their already commanding majorities in the Pennsylvania legislature Tuesday, buoyed by a deep yet unexpected wave of support for the candidate at the top of the ticket, Donald Trump.

Republicans in the 50-member Senate achieved supermajority status, picking up three seats, which will give the chamber the ability to override a gubernatorial veto without any support from Democrats.

In all, there will be 34 Republican senators, the largest complement in 66 years, according to legislative officials.

The 203-member House will begin the new two-year session in January with the largest Republican majority since the 1957-58 session, according to GOP legislative leaders.

The party picked up a net three seats statewide, bringing its total to 122. But unlike their Senate counterparts, House Republicans did not reach the coveted supermajority status - meaning legislative Republicans cannot rely on being able to block any veto by Gov. Wolf.

Wolf, a Democrat nearly midway through his first four-year term, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

His spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said in a statement that the governor had been able to work with Republicans to achieve major policy initiatives, including more money for public schools and legalization of medical marijuana.

"In just under two years, it is clear that Gov. Wolf has worked across the aisle to secure significant victories and is moving Pennsylvania forward," Sheridan wrote.

But Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said that with 34 members, the chamber will be in a position to push ahead on its agenda, which includes reforming the pension systems for state and public school workers.

"We'll continue to take on the big issues," he said. "We keep electing people from the private sector that are coming to do a job, not have a job."

Democrats who had hoped to pick up seats in the House and stem GOP gains in the Senate saw their hopes dashed Tuesday, particularly in the Philadelphia suburbs.

There, Republicans retained control of open seats in both Delaware and Montgomery Counties and managed to stave off stiff Democratic competition in a handful of races in Philadelphia and Chester County.

In Delaware County, Republican Sen. Tom Killion fended off a tough challenge from Democrat Marty Molloy.

Also in Delaware County, Republican Alex Charlton, who is chief of staff to a state senator, beat Democrat Elaine Schaefer, a Radnor Township commissioner, in the race for Republican State Rep. Bill Adolph's seat.

In Montgomery County, Republican Michael Corr, a lawyer and certified public accountant, beat Democrat Linda Weaver, an educator, for the seat being vacated by Rep. Mike Vereb, a Republican who was not running for reelection.

And in Chester County, State Rep. Dan Truitt, a Republican, survived a tough contest with Democrat Carolyn Comitta, the mayor of West Chester. According to unofficial results, he won the seat by fewer than 100 votes.

acouloumbis@phillynews.com

717-787-5934

@AngelasInk

Karen Langley of the Harrisburg bureau contributed to this article.