by Arthur Christopher Schaper
Republicans did remarkably well in 2014. They took back the U.S. Senate, by wider than expected margins. They also expanded their majority in the House. They also won a net three governors’ races: Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts.
I said a net of three of course, because Republicans lost one governor’s seat: Pennsylvania.
Former Governor Tom Corbett
In a prior post, I outlined all the failures of Governor Tom Corbett, including his pandering to unions, his inaction on right-to-work, his openness to raising taxes, and his incapacity to work with commanding majorities in the state legislature.
While Pennsylvania voters rejected Corbett, they did not reject Republican policies. The federal Congressional delegation still retains thirteen seats to five Democrats, as well.
What about the Harrisburg state legislature?
Samuel Smith, Speaker of the PA House
On November 3rd, Republicans held the state house 111-91, with one vacancy: a decent majority. After the election, even though Democrat Tom Wolf defeated Corbett, Republicans gained eight seats, 119-84. Wolf does not have a mandate to govern like a liberal. Pennsylvanians signaled a drive for reforms, not more of the same.
Joseph Scarnati, President Pro Tem
Dominic Pileggi, Senate Floor Leader
In the state senate, Republicans held the majority before election day 27-22, with one vacancy. After voting, Republicans expanded their majority 30-20, including the vacancy.
So, Republican operatives should learn from Corbett’s mistake: stay true to your party’s platform, enact the reforms which you and your party have pledged to enforce, and work with your partisan peers to accomplish as much as possible.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey
These election results portend better outcomes for incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, who may not face a primary challenge, but will find a strong Democratic push in 2016 for them get back a seat which they had lost in 2010. Early polling suggests that Toomey can do well against any potential Democratic challenger, but national currents make as much a difference as anything else.
Of course, a strong statewide Pennsylvania Republican offensive which can get things done in Harrisburg, even with a liberal Democratic governor, will help seal Toomey’s win (or determine his loss).
What do Pennsylvanians have in store with the next legislature?
But winning may have been the easy part. Ahead of the York County Democrat is the task of pushing an ambitious platform through a Republican-controlled legislature, while inheriting a major deficit and ballooning public pension system costs.
Like Corbett, the challenges facing Wolf are significant: He will face a newly strengthened Republican majorities in both the House and Senate that don’t share many aspects of his agenda.
Severe financial problems have not been resolved, and a wider Republican legislature will push back against tax increases. Marijuana legalization may find some support, and a shale tax may be up for discussion. A fractured legislative session may hurt Toomey’s chances, or help. Governor-elect Wolf’s political accomplishments in conservative York County may lean him toward right-leaning compromise, as well.
So, even though Republicans lost one governor seat in 2014, their policies were not rejected, and the reform-minded agenda of Tea Party conservatives remains a strong feature of Pennsylvania politics.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.