2020 Pennsylvania Election Recap

Nov 30, 2020

The 2020 election will be remembered for three things: the coronavirus pandemic, the delay in counting caused by millions of mail-in ballots, and the failure once again of pollsters to accurately gauge the leanings of the electorate. This year was the first presidential election where Pennsylvanians could vote by mail (beyond absentee ballots), and nearly 3 million mail-in ballots were cast in the commonwealth.

A staggering 6.7 million of Pennsylvania’s more than 9 million registered voters (about 74%) cast a ballot this year. Nationwide, more than 147 million Americans, an estimated 65% of registered voters, went to the ballot box to elect our president.

The much discussed “blue wave” never materialized either in Pennsylvania or nationwide. While now President-Elect Joe Biden won the national popular vote and Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes on his way to winning the White House, down-ballot Republicans did much better than anticipated.

All 18 members of Pennsylvania’s delegation to Congress will be returning to Washington, D.C., in January, including CPA Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), who defeated Democratic challenger Christina Finello. The breakdown continues to be nine Democrats and nine Republicans from Pennsylvania.

Republicans in the Pennsylvania House and Senate had a good election night. Most of the state House and Senate seats held by Republicans in the southeast of the state, long thought to be vulnerable, were reelected. GOP leaders in the General Assembly will be returning for the 2021-2022 session in January with a slightly larger majority in the House and possibly in Senate too.

CPA-PAC, the political arm of the PICPA, is pleased to report that five current or former CPAs – Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Pike), Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster), Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), and Rep. Ben Sanchez (D-Montgomery) – will be returning to Harrisburg next year. In addition, CPA Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny) will be joining the group in January. Congratulations to all six members of the “Pa. CPA Caucus.” Sen. Pat Browne, CPA (R-Lehigh), was not on the ballot this year.

Before the election, House Republicans held a 109-93 majority (with one vacancy). Republicans gained as many as three additional seats. House Democrats anticipated picking up a handful of seats from Republicans in the southeast, but those wins did not materialize. In fact, Republicans will be returning all their incumbents and perhaps adding a seat from the region. The western part of the state proved just as challenging to Democrats.

Republicans defeated incumbents Democratic Leader Rep. Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny), Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D-Westmoreland), and Rep. Wendy Ullman (D-Bucks). Republicans also took the open seat in Schuylkill County held by retiring Rep. Neal Goodman (D). In that race, Republican Tim Twardzik soundly defeated Democrat Peter Symons Jr.

Republicans did lose one House seat. In the open seat for Pennsylvania’s 152nd District in Montgomery County, Democrat Nancy Guenst defeated Republican Karen Houck. The seat was held by Rep. Tom Murt (R), who is retiring. Republicans will hold a 113-90 majority in the House at the start of the 2021-2022 legislative session.

In the 50-member state Senate, Republicans currently hold a 29-21 (with one independent who caucuses with the GOP) majority. Heading into Nov. 3, Republicans had more seats to protect. The most vulnerable GOP incumbent – Sen. Tom Killion (R-Chester and Delaware) – will not be returning. Out west, incumbent Sen. Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny) was defeated by Republican Devlin Robinson. As this issue went to press, incumbent Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) was fending off challenger Nicole Ziccarelli. The race still had not been called.

In other much-watched state Senate races, Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) defeated Democratic challenger Janet Diaz, Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) defeated Julie Slomski, and Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) defeated Democratic challenger George Scott.

In the election for Pennsylvania’s row offices, Republicans flipped two seats. Democrat Josh Shapiro was reelected for another term as attorney general, defeating Republican Heather Heidelbaugh. Republican Tim DeFoor defeated Democrat Nina Ahmad for the open auditor general office, and, in an upset, newcomer Stacy Garrity, the Republican candidate, defeated Democrat incumbent state Treasurer Joe Torsella (D). Garrity, a military veteran, has never held public office.

The 2021-2022 Pennsylvania General Assembly (its 204th) convenes on Jan. 4, 2021. Lawmakers will not have much of a honeymoon phase, which is typical at the start of the new session. With the state’s economy still sputtering from the coronavirus pandemic and a projected $5 billion deficit, work on finding a consensus on viable solutions will be paramount for lawmakers.

In response to Pennsylvania’s growing financial challenges, the PICPA Fiscal Responsibility Task Force (FRTF) convened in late 2020. PICPA Council established the FRTF in October 2010 with the mission of providing state policy makers and the public with objective, nonpartisan expertise and strategic leadership to address the state’s growing financial challenges.


Peter N. Calcara, CAE, is PICPA vice president of government relations. He can be reached at pcalcara@picpa.org.

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