GOP appears poised to defend Pa. legislative edge

Tom McGarrigle, with wife Michele, thanks supporters at the Springfield Country Club in Delaware County, Tuesday, November 4, 2014. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )

Republicans on Tuesday fended off a bid by Democrats to chip away at their control of the state legislature, setting the stage for partisan battles over policy and priorities with the newly elected governor, Tom Wolf.

In the Senate, where Republicans hold 27 of the 50 seats, there were four marquee races - including a hotly contested one in Delaware County - that helped cement the GOP's advantage.

By late evening, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said Republicans had picked up more seats to expand their majority to 30 - "a significant win," he said, especially in an election that saw the top of the GOP ticket, Gov. Corbett, lose in historic fashion.

The Delaware County race featured a bitter and costly matchup eventually won by Republican Tom McGarrigle over Democrat John Kane for the seat being vacated by Edwin "Ted" Erickson.

Just before 11 p.m., McGarrigle, a County Council member, took the stage at the Springfield Country Club and said he had won "the most expensive Senate race" in state history.

"It wasn't pretty all the time," he said. "They threw everything they had at us."

In other Senate races, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney (R., Bucks) appeared to easily fend off a challenge from Democrat Steve Cickay, and Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) had a sizable lead over Democrat Ruth S. Damsker.

All 203 seats in the House were up for grabs, although the Republicans had a firmer grip on that chamber, with 111 seats. Still, they found themselves defending incumbent seats and fighting to maintain open seats once held by their party.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said late Tuesday that it appeared Republicans would expand their majority to 119 seats. He called it "a historic majority."

In one of the more closely watched races, Republican Jamie Santora appeared to top Democrat Vince Rongione for the Delaware County seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Nick Micozzie.

In the race for former Sen. LeAnna Washington's seat representing parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, Democrat Art Haywood was poised for an easy win over Republican Robin Gilchrist and Ines Reyes, an independent.

Washington, a Democrat, lost in the primary after her arrest this year on corruption charges. She resigned last week after pleading guilty to a single count.

Tuesday's election was the first general election to be held since legislative districts were redrawn after the 2010 census. (The delay in implementing the maps was due to legal challenges.) Republicans controlled the commission that drew the new districts.

Another contest drawing attention across the state was a bid by Rep. Mike Fleck of Huntingdon County, the first openly gay Republican state legislator. Fleck lost in the primary, and ended up running in the general election as a Democrat. He had said he would serve as a Republican if he won on Tuesday.

The late returns suggested he would not.



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