November 30, 2022
Now that the dust has settled from the 2022 election, I wanted to take a few moments to take a realistic look at what it all means.
The Good News
First, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your support as I handily won my race in the 102nd State House district with 70.21 percent of the vote, my largest victory margin to date. I take that as a sign that the people of my district, even those within the added new territory I haven't represented before, have come to trust me to be their voice in Harrisburg.
The Bad News
The Democrats scored enough victories elsewhere to win a technical 102-101 majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It's only a technical majority because Democrat Tony Deluca was re-elected after passing away in October. This means that on swearing-in day on January 3rd, the House will be tied at 101-101. That tie will prove interesting when it comes time to elect a Speaker of the House, which is also scheduled for swearing-in day.
Further, Democrat Summer Lee was also elected to Congress, which gets sworn in on January 3rd, and Democrat Austin Davis will be sworn in as Lieutenant Governor on January 17th. Neither can simultaneously hold a seat in the PA House. This will leave the Democrats on the short end a functional minority – 101-99 – for at least few months until special elections can be held to fill those three seats.
Those special elections must be scheduled by the Speaker of the House, and cannot be held any sooner than 60 days after they are scheduled. This all makes swearing-in day and the election of a new Speaker of the House an even more fascinating proposition on January 3rd.
So how did Democrats do so well in Pennsylvania despite the horrific performance of a Democrat President and Congress in Washington DC? I believe there are 3 main contributing factors.
Factor 1: Redistricting
Democrats had the advantage in the decennial redistricting process, with the deciding factor being a Democrat-controlled PA Supreme Court which appointed the Chairman of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. House Democrat leader Joanna McClinton knew this, and even smugly admitted it was their best hope of gaining a majority in the House of Representatives before the maps were drawn.
If 2022 were any other mid-term election it might not have worked out so nicely for them, but two other factors played key roles in the Democrats' narrow victory.
Factor 2: Mastriano
Mastriano was the wrong candidate to be our Republican nominee for governor, for many reasons, but mostly because Pennsylvania doesn't elect staunch conservative Governors. Like it or not, Pennsylvania is not a red state – it is a purple state. Republicans who have won the governorship have mostly run as moderates. I tried to convey this before the primary election, but much of the "base" considered me a heretic for doing so.
In fact, conveying that message was the primary reason for my entry into the Lieutenant Governor primary race. I wanted to travel the state and speak directly with those in position to shape the statewide primary race. Unfortunately, despite many GOP movers and shakers with experience in statewide races wholeheartedly agreeing with me privately on Mastriano, few were willing to join me in expressing it publicly, which helped clear the way for his Primary Election victory.
Performance-wise, Mastriano did worse than even I thought he might in the General Election. Here in blood-red Lebanon County he garnered 6500 fewer votes than down-ticket Republicans. Similar results were seen in most other red counties across the state. That's not the way it's supposed to work. The top of the ticket should generally outperform, not underperform, the bottom of the ticket.
In less-than-red southeastern and suburban counties, Mastriano's poor performance likely cost votes for down-ticket Republican candidates running for the PA House. Several of those races were decided by razor-thin margins.
Factor 3: The Dobbs Decision
The US Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade as the de-facto "law of the land" at the national level, played well for Democrats, who resorted to their usual fear-mongering by claiming Republicans were out to obliterate women's rights. Even some Republican women fell for it.
But all the Dobbs decision did was put the authority over abortion law back into the hands of individual states, a constitutionally correct decision. And Pennsylvania state law mostly mirrors Roe v. Wade, with a cutoff for legality at the third trimester mark.
Although I am 100 percent pro-life, I also understand that Pennsylvania is a purple state, not a red state. Practically speaking, getting further restrictions on abortion into law in Pennsylvania is a heavy lift even with comfortable Republican majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. With government now further divided in Harrisburg, changes in any direction on abortion law will be nearly impossible.
Democrats didn't highlight this practical reality. Instead, they fear-mongered the issue much like they fear-mongered Covid-19. Unfortunately for Republicans, Mastriano didn't do much to counter that fear-mongering with a practical discussion of Pennsylvania's political reality.
What Lies Ahead
I'll reiterate that a lot will ride on what happens on January 3rd when House members are sworn in and are slated to elect a new Speaker. That vote will determine the direction of the House during the first six months of the 2023-24 legislative session, which always sets the tone for the rest of the two-year session.
If Democrats have control of the House at budget time next year, wasteful overspending is a real danger. With $5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and a Democrat Governor working in tandem with House Democrats, the Republican-controlled Senate will serve as our only functional protection against the expansion of government spending.
We'll also see Democrats try to push a slew of other leftist ideas through the House and over to the Senate. If you want an idea of what sort of policies I mean here, just explore the General Assembly website to see the scope of bills Democrat members have introduced during the 2021-22 session.
One of my major concerns is your medical freedom in the post-Covid world. My constitutional amendment to establish medical freedom as an individual right – HB2013 – was advanced by the Health Committee but regrettably did not make it to the House floor for a vote during the 2021-22 session.
If Democrats control the House, the likely Chairman of the Health Committee is a decided opponent of medical freedom. In addition, the Pennsylvania Medical Society recently adopted a resolution committing that organization to lobbying the General Assembly to remove religious and philosophical exemptions to the school vaccination schedule.
One More Thing
As Republican legislators, we have our work cut out for us in Harrisburg. And as a political party, Republicans need to pick better statewide candidates.
But at the same time, Republican and conservative activists need to embrace mail-in voting, as it isn't going away any time soon. Our goal isn't to convince regular voters to vote by mail, but to figure out how to cultivate mail-in votes from those registered Republicans who vote infrequently or don't vote at all.
We simply cannot allow the Democrats to continue to bank hundreds of thousands of votes before Election Day arrives. Voting by mail is legal, it will be legal for the foreseeable future, and if we reject it we do so at our own peril. I tried to deliver this message before the 2022 primary as well, but some activists looked at me as if I had a third eye. I hope they change their minds about this topic before it's too late. You can't govern if you don't win elections.
I will continue to fight for individual liberty, limited government, and common sense public policy in Harrisburg. I appreciate your continued support.