In an early election analysis in PA, Democrats had a resurgence but fell short in taking a majority in the state House and Senate.
It was a good night for statewide Democratic incumbents as Governor Tom Wolf and U.S. Senator Bob Casey both won by double-digit margins. It was also a good night for Democrats on the congressional races where they picked up three seats in the southeast and one seat in western Pa. This brings the overall congressional delegation count to 9 Republicans and 9 Democrats. The good news is that friends of transportation Reps. Perry, Thompson, Marino, Kelly and Smucker (all GOP members) as did Democrat Rep. Dwight Evans, all won re-election.
At the state level, the Democrats were successful in flipping several House and Senate Districts but were not able to claim the majority in either chamber. Democrats made significant gains in several suburban Philadelphia districts which now appears to be a stronghold for Democrats. At this point, it is estimated that the Republicans will maintain the majority in the House by 5 seats and in the Senate by only 2 seats. One thing does appear certain. The Republican Party has solidified its base in rural central and western parts of the state while the Democrats have strengthened in the southeastern suburbs. This will undoubtedly set up an interesting dynamic for governing with a split government in control.
So…what does all this mean for the highway construction industry?
A predominant school of thought is that a narrower majority will force the parties to compromise more on many of the issues affecting the industry. Resolving issues such as State Police funding from the Motor License Fund, resolving a looming funding hole as a result of Act 44 and the PA Turnpike debt, and finding an equitable fair share alternative vehicle user fee are all more possible in an environment where the parties are working together. Governor Wolf has indicated in conversations with APC officials that he intends to look for solutions to the State Police and PA Turnpike/public transit funding issues.
Both parties will now elect their leadership teams and appoint committee chairs in the upcoming weeks. The House and Senate Transportation Committees will see new chairpersons in 2019. It is believed that Rep. Tim Hennessey (who was a bright spot for the House GOP and won re-election) will take over the reins in the House. It is unclear who will take the Senate Committee at this point in time.
The night was not without some political casualties as long-time industry friends such as Representatives Kate Harper and Becky Corbin as well as Senators John Rafferty (current Senate Transportation Chairman) and Tom McGarrigle all lost their re-election efforts. On the positive side, Senate candidate Jeremy Shaffer (who ran against Act 89) lost his race to Lindsey Williams in Allegheny County Senate District 48. The TCI-PAC supported Williams in this race.
It will be paramount for the industry work to forge new relationships and connections with over 40 new faces coming to the General Assembly next session. APC has already begun developing these relationships and organized “candidate briefings” via the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition. Five meetings throughout the state were held with candidate ahead of yesterday’s election and will allow us to hit the ground running when many of these candidates are sworn into office in January.