Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pa. election 2024: The state House races to watch as Democrats try to keep the majority

Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg on July 26, 2023.
Amanda Berg
Spotlight PA
Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg on July 26, 2023.

HARRISBURG — When voters go to the polls this November, control of the Pennsylvania House could rest on the outcome of a single race.

Currently, Democrats control the 203-member chamber by two votes, with one safely Republican seat vacant. All state representatives must run for reelection every two years.

Political insiders and campaign operatives say there are more than a dozen districts across the commonwealth — including in suburban Philadelphia, Johnstown, and the Lehigh Valley — that could be won by either major party.

Republicans controlled the chamber by a wide margin throughout the 2010s. That grip was loosened by the decennial redrawing of district lines. Those new boundaries gave each party, particularly Democrats, more safe seats while creating a cadre of hypercompetitive swing districts. Under this new map, Democrats flipped 16 seats in 2022, enough for a one-vote majority.

During their first year back in power, Democrats passed dozens of bills to achieve long-stalled priorities such as stricter gun rules, a minimum wage hike, and LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Many of these proposals have stalled in the state Senate, which is controlled by the GOP.

Still, the party’s majority gives it additional leverage in yearly budget talks; Democratic priorities including an expanded child care tax credit and dental care for low-income public health care recipients made it into last year’s final budget deal.

If Democrats hold onto the state House and flip the state Senate, the party will control the governor's mansion and the legislature in 2025, a so-called “trifecta” that would pave the way for lawmakers to pass a far-reaching agenda over Republican objections.

Other states with such an arrangement have guaranteed workers access to paid leave, repealed laws restricting abortion or labor rights, and provided free tuition at public universities for eligible families. Pennsylvania currently has the only full-time split legislature in the country.

If Republicans win back the state House and hold the Senate, the party will once again be able to unilaterally send proposed constitutional amendments to Pennsylvania voters. GOP lawmakers used this strategy under former Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to curtail executive power.

Should the GOP regain full control of the legislature, Republican leaders may choose to advance proposed amendments on priorities including expanded voter ID.

Bob Bozzuto, executive director of the Pennsylvania House Republican Campaign Committee, said Democrats have pushed a “radical agenda” in the lower chamber and have not been interested in bipartisanship.

Bozzuto declined to discuss any specific districts the GOP is targeting. Overall, he said Republicans have recruited solid candidates who will focus on local issues: “Great candidates and great campaigns attract investment.”

Madeline Zann, the executive director of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee, pointed to the party’s recent successes in statewide races. In 2022, Josh Shapiro won the governorship and John Fetterman won a U.S. Senate seat, while Daniel McCaffery won a state Supreme Court position the following year.

“A lot of Democratic values have support across the board,” Zann said.

Here are the districts that have the potential to determine control of the state House:


In 2018, Republicans held many seats in areas of suburban Philadelphia where voters backed Democrats at the top of the ticket.

Those fortunes have changed significantly over the past three election cycles, as Democrats have flipped 19 seats in the collar counties.

Only a handful of seats in this area remain in Republican hands, and Democrats plan to target them.

That includes two neighboring districts in Bucks County, HD-18 and HD-142, which have been perennial Democratic targets and will be again this year, according to Zann. The former is made up almost entirely of Bensalem, while the latter includes Langhorne, Middletown, and Southampton.

The 18th has been represented by Republicans since the 1970s; state Rep. K.C. Tomlinson, a funeral home operator and scion of a local political family, won reelection by 5 points in 2022.

The 142nd is represented by state Rep. Joe Hogan, a former congressional staffer and first-term lawmaker who won by 76 votes in 2022.

Both Hogan and Tomlinson have voted in favor of Democratic priorities, including increasing the state’s minimum wage and expanding background checks for gun purchases.

Democrats believe the party could flip one other district in suburban Philadelphia: HD-160, which straddles Chester and Delaware Counties and includes Chadds Ford, Chester Heights, and Westtown. The district is represented by state Rep. Craig Williams, a former prosecutor and veteran who’s pursuing reelection while also seeking the GOP nod for attorney general.

All three districts’ voters have backed Democrats at the top of the ballot by slight margins. If the 2020 presidential election had been held under the current state House map, President Joe Biden would have won HD-18 by 5 percentage points, HD-142 by 2 percentage points, and HD-160 by almost 7.

One Democratic candidate is running in each of the districts: Anand Patel in the 18th; Middletown Township Supervisor Anna Payne in the 142nd; and business owner Elizabeth Moro in the 160th.

Zann said Democratic incumbents in the Philly burbs are mostly safe, but there’s at least one swing district she expects Republicans to target: HD-144 in Bucks County, held by first-term state Rep. Brian Munroe. Made up of Warrington and Warminster, the district had been represented by Republicans since its the 1960s until Munroe beat a GOP incumbent in 2022 under the new lines.

Dan McPhillips, the Bucks County recorder of deeds, is the sole Republican who has filed to challenge Munroe. If the 2020 election had been held under the new district lines, Biden would have won by a little more than 3 percentage points.


As Democrats eye Philadelphia's suburbs, Republicans have their sights on Western Pennsylvania.

The region’s coal fields and old mill towns were the backbone of Democrats’ last state House majority, from 2007 to 2010. But voters have shifted toward Republicans over the past decade. The GOP has flipped 14 rural seats west of State College since 2014.

Only a handful of Democrats remain in similar seats. Zann mentioned two: HD-72 and HD-16.

The former, held by state Rep. Frank Burns, is a rural district set entirely within Cambria County, an old Democratic stronghold that has rapidly pivoted right in recent years.

The district, which includes Ebensburg and Johnstown, became slightly more favorable to Democratic candidates after redistricting, but voters still heavily back the GOP at the top of the ticket.

Voters who lived within the district’s boundaries in 2020 favored former President Donald Trump by almost 30 percentage points.

Despite the rightward turn, Burns has held on, winning reelection by 9 percentage points in 2022. This session, he’s been a consistent dissenter on many Democratic priorities, voting against LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections and bills that would strengthen state gun restrictions.

Amy Bradley, president of the Cambria Regional Chamber, is the sole Republican who has filed to run against Burns in November.

The other seat, HD-16, is held by state Rep. Rob Matzie. The Beaver County seat includes many communities that hug the Ohio River, including Ambridge, Aliquippa, Monaca, and Rochester.

Both top-of-the-ticket Democrats and Republicans have found success in the district; in 2020, voters there backed both Trump and Shapiro, who was running for reelection as attorney general.

Matzie, meanwhile, won reelection by 13 percentage points under both the old lines in 2020 and the new lines in 2022.

One Republican, Mike Perich, has filed to run in the 16th.

Other Democratic-held seats could be vulnerable to Republicans, including HD-33. The district follows the curves of the Allegheny River northeast of Pittsburgh and is represented by first-term state Rep. Mandy Steele.

If the 2020 election were held using the current district lines, Biden would have won by 4 percentage points. The district includes a mix of upscale suburbs trending Democrat, such as Fox Chapel, and old river towns like Springdale and Tarentum that have trended Republican.

One Republican, construction executive Gary Lotz, has filed to run against Steele.

Democrats have a potential flip in HD-44, held by Republican state Rep. Valerie Gaydos. First elected in 2018, Gaydos represents Pittsburgh’s western suburbs, including Findlay, Moon, and Sewickley. If the 2020 election had been held using the current district lines, Trump would have won by about 3 percentage points. Since 2020, the district’s voters have increasingly picked Democratic candidates in statewide races.

Hadley Haas, a health care advocate, is the sole Democrat running against Gaydos.


The Lehigh Valley, Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre present targets for both parties, including two potentially competitive open seats.

Democrats will have to defend HD-118, held by state Rep. Jim Haddock. The district includes Old Forge, Pittston, and Moosic. If the 2020 election had been held under the current district lines, Trump would have won by about 3 percentage points.

One Republican, McKayla Kathio, has filed to run against Haddock in November.

Democratic state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski is currently running unopposed in HD-121, despite the district offering an opportunity for Republicans to flip a seat.

The seat is located within Luzerne County, a historically Democratic county where voters have increasingly gone for Republicans. If the two most recent presidential elections had been held under the current district lines, Trump would have won in 2016, and Biden would have won in 2020.

A candidate needs to win only 300 write-in votes during the spring primary to make it onto the November ballot. Zann said Democrats are monitoring the race.

Redistricting created a new Democratic flip opportunity in HD-137, which is held by Republican state Rep. Joe Emrick. The new lines cut out rural portions of northern Northampton County in favor of suburban Bethlehem. Trump won the old district by nearly 10 percentage points in 2020; Biden would have won the new district by half a percentage point.

One Democrat, Anna Thomas, has filed to run against Emrick. She also faced Emrick in 2022, losing by about 700 votes.

Two open seats in the region also present interesting opportunities for Democrats. Outside of Wilkes-Barre, HD-120, which includes Dallas, Exeter, and Kingston is open due to the retirement of moderate Republican state Rep. Aaron Kaufer. Five candidates — three Republicans and two Democrats — have filed to run for the Luzerne County district, which has backed candidates from both parties at the top of the ticket in past statewide elections.

In the Lehigh Valley, one last seat, HD-187, could be competitive, as incumbent Republican state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie retires to run for Congress. The district contains a swathe of Allentown suburbs, including Heidelberg, Lower and Upper Macungie, and New Tripoli.

If the 2020 election had been held under the new lines, Trump would have won the district by about 8 points, but Democrats point to Shapiro and McCaffery’s improved performance here.

Former GOP state Rep. Gary Day, who lost his seat in a 2022 primary to Mackenzie, is the only Republican there who has filed to appear on the primary ballot. Stefanie Rafes, a health care professional, is the sole Democrat seeking the seat.