HARRISBURG - The election may or may not mean a transformed landscape for the Agricultural Community depending on who chairs the relevant committees. At least in the Senate, we are assured of some continuity with the re-elections of Senators Elder Vogel and Judy Schwank as Majority and Minority Chairs of the Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee.
DEMOCRATS TAKE TOP OFFICES
In addition to winning the state for Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Democrats carried the day in the other top races. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. won with 53.6% over Tom Smith (44.7%). Casey is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Kathleen Kane triumphed over David Freed 56.1% to 41.6% in the race for Attorney General. A Democrat has never held the office of Attorney General. State Treasurer Rob McCord won re-election 52.5% to 44% over Diana Irey Vaughan. The closest race pitted two incumbent House members against each other but ultimately Democrat Eugene DePasquale from York overpowered Republican John Maher (Allegheny/Washington) 49.7% to 46.5%. In this race, the Libertarian candidate Betsy Elizabeth Summers drew 3.8% of the vote, potentially enough to swing the decision.
REPUBLICAN CONSOLATION PRIZE: The PA Congressional Delegation
In one of the hottest races nationally, Republican Keith Rothfus took incumbent Mark Critz' western and southwestern PA congressional seat with 51.5% of the vote. This changes the congressional ratio to 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats in Pennsylvania's delegation. It was 12R and 7D previously. PA lost one congressional seat through the redistricting process. The US House Democratic delegation from PA does have a more liberal tilt thanks to the 2012 primary defeat of central PA's centrist Democrat Tim Holden by Democratic candidate Matthew Cartwright who garnered 60.5% of the vote in the general election. Holden was on the House Agriculture Committee. Fellow Ag Committee member Glenn Thompson was re-elected.
Incumbent Republican Mike Kelly from northwest PA defeated Missa Eaton 54.7% to 41.1% in a hotly contested race. An open seat in south central PA vacated by retiring Republican Todd Platts was retained by the GOP with Scott Perry winning 59.7% over Harry Perkinson (34.5%).
GOP KEEPS LEGISLATIVE CONTROL: SENATE…
Senate Republicans lost three open seats to Democrats: Sean Wiley (Erie) over Republican Janet Anderson 60.5% to 39.5%; Matt Smith (Allegheny) over Republican D. Raja 52.7% to 47.3%; and Democrat Rob Teplitz (Dauphin) over John McNally in south central PA 51.6% to 48.4%. Incumbent Senators of both parties won by 55% or better but incumbent Democrat John Wozniak (Cambria) survived a scare by eking out a 51.2% to 48.8% margin over Republican Timothy Houser. Two races thought by some to be close ended up with a strong 57.1% victory by Agriculture Chair Republican Elder Vogel (Beaver) and incumbent Republican Dave Argall (Schuylkill) with 56.1%. The open GOP seat in Venango County was filled by Republican Scott Hutchinson who was unopposed. The new ratio will be 27 Republicans and 23 Democrats.
Eight Senate incumbents had no opposition from the other party and were unopposed. They were four Democrats Vincent Hughes (Phila.), Jay Costa (Allegheny), James Brewster (Westmoreland/Allegheny), and Shirley Kitchen (Phila.)… and four Republicans: Don White (Indiana), Joe Scarnati (Jefferson), John Gordner (Columbia), and Pat Vance (Cumberland)
• Democrats did not lose a single incumbent.
• Steven Santarsiero, who won in 2010 by fewer than 300 votes won this time 57.7% over Republican Anne Chapman, a Tea Party favorite who won a bruising Republican primary.
• Targeted Westmoreland County incumbent Democrat Joe Markosek won with 54.8%.
• Democrats retained the seat held by Erie Rep. Hornaman with a victory by Ryan Bizzaro by 53.8% and Joe Brennan's (Lehigh/Northampton) seat with a race won by Daniel McNeill (64.6%).
• Republican incumbent Tom Quigley (Montgomery) lost to Mark Painter (50.4%).
• Sue Helms (Dauphin) won over Democrat Christopher Dietz 54.5% to 45.5%. Because of a tough primary, Helm had been regarded as vulnerable.
• The GOP retained the Erie seat of John Evans via a win by Greg Lucas (55.1%) and the Chester County seat of Curt Schroder via a victory by Becky Corbin (53.6%).
• Republican John Taylor survived a Philadelphia Democratic surge by winning 57.4% of the vote.
• The seat held by retiring Democrat Bud George (Clearfield) was picked up by Republicans with a victory by Thomas Sankey (60.9%).
• Incumbent Warren Kampf (Montgomery) beat former Rep. Paul Drucker again with 51.7%.
Several of the closest races were not called until days after the election:
• Incumbent Republican Rep. Justin Simmons (R - Lehigh) beat Democrat Kevin Deeley (D -Lehigh) 13,014 votes to12,998.
• Incumbent Republican Nick Micozzie (R - Delaware) edged out Shaeamus Bonner 14,003 votes to 13,649.
• Former Rep. Dave Levdansky (D - Westmoreland) lost again to incumbent Rick Saccone (R - Westmoreland) by 114 votes.
Ninety-five House races took place where a candidate was unopposed (43 Republicans and 43 Democrats). In nine races, the candidate had secured the nominations from both parties from the following counties: Mercer, Butler, Beaver, Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Lackawanna, Columbia, and Delaware. The political ratio before the election was 109 Republicans, 91 Democrats and three vacancies. Even with democratic pickups, the GOP will still control the House.
There will be two vacancies at the start of the 2013-14 session of the General Assembly. Democratic seats held by Matt Smith (Allegheny), elected to Senator, and Eugene DePasquale (York), elected to Auditor General, will need to have special elections.
Current House Agriculture & Rural Affairs Chair John Maher (R-Allegheny/Washington) returns to the House after his unsuccessful attempt to be Auditor general. Until committee assignments are made, the makeup and chairmanship of the committee will not be definitely known.