Governor, Senate, open House seats lead Pennsylvania ballots
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania voters will be in the middle of the national political picture when they cast ballots Tuesday, but many will undoubtedly also have issues closer to home on their mind as they consider contests for governor and state legislative seats.
At the top of the ballot, voters will decide whether Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf merits a second four-year term in office or if he should be replaced by Republican Scott Wagner, a former state senator who made millions in waste hauling.
Wolf, whose first run for office was his successful 2014 campaign, and Wagner, who has closely associated himself with President Donald Trump, both hail from York County.
“If anyone were to tell you that this election on Tuesday was not the most important election in your life, they’d be lying to you, because it is,” Wolf told a crowd of more than 500 on Sunday evening at Harrisburg’s Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex.
Wolf has closed his campaign by warning that he is the last line of defense against an opponent, Wagner, who is hostile to Pennsylvania’s Medicaid expansion, funding for public schools and labor unions. His campaign has framed the brash Wagner as being unfit for office, highlighting Wagner’s comments in a video streamed online last month advising Wolf to put on a catcher’s mask because “I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes.”
Should he win, Wagner, a Republican, would likely have Republican majorities to work with in the state Legislature.
Wagner, meanwhile, has closed his campaign echoing Trump’s hard-edged message on illegal immigration, accusing Wolf of being soft on illegal immigrants and sanctuary cities and opposing sending troops to the border for the migrant caravan making its way north in Mexico. Wagner warns that Wolf will raise taxes while he is pledging to cut taxes, eliminate property taxes and rein in an out-of-control state government.
Wolf has maintained a comfortable lead in the polls, as has U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a second-term Democrat from Scranton being challenged by another Republican candidate closely identified with Trump, four-term U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta.
Casey, in his seventh statewide race, is the son of Pennsylvania’s late former two-term governor, Bob Casey Sr. He is endorsed by labor unions and environmental advocacy groups, and has been a staunch critic of Trump.
Barletta, the former Hazleton mayor, is one of Trump’s strongest allies in Congress. Barletta is backed by business trade associations and anti-abortion groups, and is one of Congress’ most prominent voices against illegal immigration.
The significance of Pennsylvania’s swing voters is magnified this year, after the state Supreme Court redrew a Republican-crafted map of congressional districts that had produced durable 13-5 GOP majorities in the state’s U.S. House delegation.
Along with the court’s more competitive map of districts, the most open U.S. House seats in Pennsylvania in decades — seven — are fueling a big pool of competitive races as Democrats nationally seek to wipe out the 23-seat Republican majority.
A Democratic House would be a major blow to Trump’s agenda, which has so far been aided by GOP control in both chambers. Democrats are also expected to send as many as four women to the U.S. House, breaking up the state’s all-male delegation since 2014.
Republicans are widely expected to lose two open seats in the Philadelphia suburbs and a third in Allentown. Three House Republicans find themselves in particularly difficult re-election contests: Brian Fitzpatrick in suburban Philadelphia, Scott Perry in the Harrisburg-York area and Keith Rothfus in suburban Pittsburgh.
In the Legislature, all 203 House seats are up, along with half the 50 Senate districts. Republicans have been on a winning streak in legislative races going back several cycles, leaving them with commanding majorities in both chambers, 121-82 in the House and 34-16 in the Senate.
For Republicans, that means they have more territory to defend. Democrats have positioned themselves to capitalize if the much-discussed “blue wave” of Democratic votes materializes on Tuesday.
Polls in Pennsylvania are open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. The state currently has about 4.1 million registered Democrats, 3.3 million Republicans and 1.2 million who are independent or with some other party.
Slightly more than a quarter of registered voters are 34 and younger, the same proportion as in the 2010 mid-term election. More than 42 percent of voters are 55 or older, the biggest proportion in at least a decade.