Top Races to Watch on November 8th – Part 2
Part 2 of 3: PA State Senate
By: Carl A. Marrara
October 24, 2022
6 (Bucks) – Frank Farry (R) v. Ann Marie Mitchell (D)
Registration % – R-44/D-41.5/I-14.5; 2020 Presidential % – Trump 49.6; New territory – 28%
Retiring State Senator Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson leaves a hotly contested seat for GOP State Representative Frank Farry and attorney Ann Marie Mitchell. Mitchell ran for State House against Representative Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) in 2020 and lost by 11 points. As of the last mandatory reporting cycle, Farry’s political action committee (PAC) had $535K on hand compared to $82K in Mitchell’s. However, politicos in Harrisburg expect this to be one of the, if not the, most expensive State Senate races in the cycle.
14 (Lehigh) – Dean Browning (R) v. Nick Miller (D)
Registration % – R-33.5/D-49/I-17.5; 2020 Presidential % – Biden 53.1; New territory – 100%
As a part of redistricting population realignment, the former Sen. Yudichak (I-Luzerne) district slides down I-476 and into the Lehigh Valley as the newly formed 14th will include Allentown city up to the northern most parts of Lehigh County. Both Browning and Miller faced three-way primaries. Browning won his by 20+ points while Miller won his by 42 votes total. Browning ran against Lisa Scheller in 2020 for the 7th Congressional District primary and has lingering name ID throughout the district. Miller currently serves on the Allentown School Board where he is one of the youngest (27) board members to ever hold the position.
16 (Lehigh) – Jarrett Coleman (R) v. Mark Pinsley (D)
Registration % – R-46.5/D-36.5/I-17; 2020 Presidential % – Trump 52.8; New territory – 41%
If you thought 42 votes was a close margin in the neighboring 14th District primary, Jarrett Coleman unseated longtime incumbent Sen. Patrick Browne by a mere 19 votes in the May primary. The geography of this district changed significantly, removing all of Allentown-proper and extending into the northern portion of Bucks County (Quakertown, Perkasie, Bedminster). Coleman, a commercial airline pilot and Parkland School Board member benefits from a favorable district redraw against Pinsley, a veteran and current Lehigh County Controller. The registration numbers flipped, as in 2020 it was: R-36, D-46.5, I-17.5 with 50.5% of the vote going to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
18 (Lehigh, Northampton) – John Merhottein (R) v. Lisa Boscola (D)*
Registration % – R-34.5/D-47/I-18.5; 2020 Presidential % – Biden 53.2; New territory – 29%
In case you haven’t noticed, Lehigh County will be on center stage come election night. Though the population-base of this seat was Lehigh County in the 2020 maps, after the redraw, incumbent Boscola will need to introduce herself to 29 percent of the district, mainly in Northampton. Bethlehem is still the base, but less so, with the boundaries snaking up the Delaware River, just south of East Stroudsburg. This district has a large number of registered Independents, and more of these votes broke for Republicans in the last several cycles, than to Democrats. Biden did still win this district by more than four points just two years ago. Boscola has not seen a general election opponent in over a decade (2010) and will face John Merhottein, a veteran and Bethlehem Township Commissioner.
24 (Montgomery, Berks) – Tracy Pennycuick (R) v. Jill Dennin (D)
Registration % – R-44.5/D-39/I-16.5; 2020 Presidential % – Biden 49.4; New territory – 30%
Though 30 percent of retiring Bob Mensch’s (R-Montgomery) district is new, the voter registration statistics stayed virtually the same. However, democrats have been performing better in this area over the past several cycles. State House Representative and decorated veteran Tracy Pennycuick faces another veteran and former school board member Jill Dennin. Pennycuick held a 3-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Dennin in the mandatory June PAC reporting period, but this could be up there as one of the most expensive races in the State Senate this cycle. Keep an eye on updated reporting numbers in late October, but that won’t account for the many outside organizations that will be making this district a top priority.
38 (Allegheny) – Lori Mizgorski (R) v. Lindsey Williams (D)*
Registration % – R-36/D-50.5/I-13.5; 2020 Presidential % – Biden 54.2; New territory – 7%
Republican’s look to take back a seat that has flip-flopped for the last twelve years: Jim Ferlo (D) – 2010; Randy Vulakovich (R) – 2014; Lindsey Williams (D) – 2018. The latest redraw gave Williams a bump as Democratic registration went from 48 to 50.5. But challenger, State Representative Lori Mizgorski’s past election performance can’t be ignored. In a State House district where Biden won 52.3 percent of the vote, she was successfully elected with 54.8 percent. This will be the key race to watch in the Western part of PA on election night. PA-Congressional 17th district and number of competitive overlapping PA House districts makes this a hot-spot for both parties.
40 (Monroe, Lackawanna, Wayne) – Rosemary Brown (R) v. Jennifer Shukaitis (D)
Registration % – R-38/D-45.5/I-16.5; 2020 Presidential % – Trump 49.7; New territory – 46%
Retiring Senator Mario Scavello’s (R) seat shifts north with East Stroudsburg on the southern end up to the PA/NY border with Carbondale on the northern end. Brown was first elected to the PA State House in 2010 and won each election by double digits since 2012. Brown will face Jennifer Shukaitis, Vice Chairwoman of the Stroud Township Board of Supervisors. Though the GOP faces a disadvantage in registration, voter performance has favored Republicans in recent years with energy production being a major policy focus and economic driver.
44 (Berks, Chester, Montgomery) – Jessica Florio (R) v. Katie Muth (D)*
Registration % – R-41.5/D-41.5/I-17.5; 2020 Presidential % – Biden 55.6; New territory – 24%
In 2018, Katie Muth beat longtime incumbent John Rafferty by 4 points. In 2022, the GOP looks to take this tri-county seat back and will run Honey Brook Borough Council Chair and special education teacher Jessica Florio. After redistricting, Muth’s seat gained Democratic Party support, going from 38.5 percent registered democrats to 41 percent. The population base of this district now encompasses all of Phoenixville and the areas north of Coatesville and Downingtown. Democratic Party performance increased even more as shown in 2016 when 48 percent of the district voted for Clinton, but in 2022, 55.6 percent voted for Biden. As of the June mandatory PAC reporting period, Muth had $187,000 cash on hand compared to Florio’s $25,000, but this will likely be an expensive race down the stretch.
28-R, 21-D, 1-I
Predicted post-general makeup:
Others to watch – 10, 26