Democratic State Rep. Tina Davis has announced a bid for Bucks County’s 6th state Senate District. Held for decades by GOP state Sen. Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson, the seat is widely regarded as one of the most competitive for Democrats in the entire state.
In a press release Wednesday, Davis described herself as a proud “hockey mom” who has served her lower Bucks County House district since 2011 by promoting familiar Democratic causes – increased educational funding, reproductive rights for women and a higher minimum wage.
“Our President and Congress are constantly trying to force a vision of America on us that we do not share,” Davis wrote in a prepared statement. “The best backstop to their out-of-touch and oftentimes disastrous policies is what we do in Harrisburg. In the Senate, we will have a larger platform and a louder voice to do what we have always done”
Davis’ statement said she had been urged by “business leaders and labor organizers, activists and government officials, and men and women of every political stripe” to run. She has been involved in legislation aimed at combating an opioid addiction crisis that has ravaged lower Bucks.
David Marshall, executive director for the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, has echoed sentiments of national Democrats like U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer who have vowed to make up for lost working-class voters by attracting suburban voters alienated by President Donald Trump.
“Pennsylvania in 2018 is going to be a fight for the suburbs,” he said.
Tomlinson’s seat, running through a middle-class slice of Bucks County, is at the top of the Democratic list of vulnerable state Senate seats. That region has notably seen a wave of legislative retirements by Republicans antsy about tough reelection battles – State Rep. Kathy Watson, state Rep. Scott Petri, state Rep. Bob Godshall, state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney and state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf have all announced they would not seek another term in recent weeks and months.
GOP strategist Christopher Nicholas acknowledged that many on the right would be closely watching a nearby special election as a bellwether for what Democrats hope will ultimately be a “wave year” of legislative wins.
“The early warning system for this will be the Petri special election on primary day,” he said, referring to the GOP House member, who recently left to run the Philadelphia Parking Authority. “If you’re the Dems, that's the kind of upper-middle-class slice of the world that you'd want to go after.”
Campaign consultants in suburban Republican districts are banking on longstanding relationships between long-serving incumbents, like Tomlinson, and their constituents to carry the day. Nicholas said he was betting on Tomlinson to triumph over Davis, but acknowledged that the district would likely fall to a Democrat were he to ever retire.
Tomlinson has held office since 1991, taking his current Senate seat in 1995. In Harrisburg, he chairs the Senate Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. He also operates his family’s funeral home in Bensalem – and was dinged in 2016 for pushing a bill that would have benefited his own business.
Tomlinson did not immediately return a call for comment on his reelection plans.