Capitol Beat

National Democratic group spotlights its “must-win” PA races in 2024

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee unveiled 19 candidates from across the state that the organization says will be key to building power in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. Wikimedia Commons

A national organization focused on electing Democratic candidates to state legislatures across the country has identified 19 “spotlight candidates” in Pennsylvania who are running in what party leaders referred to as “must-win” districts in this year’s election cycle.

In a virtual press conference with reporters on Thursday, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Heather Williams, who was joined by Democratic leaders from the General Assembly, made clear that Democrats hope to build on their legislative wins in 2022 – when the party flipped control of the state House into their favor.

“Our spotlight program highlights state legislative candidates running in competitive, must-win races across the country,” Williams said. “The 15 House and four Senate candidates we’re unveiling today represent the best opportunities to hold the House and build power in the Senate.” 

Williams said the 2024 state legislative elections represent “the most important year in state legislative campaign history,” adding that “Donald Trump’s MAGA agenda is being decided and implemented in the states – reproductive freedoms, LGBTQ rights, gun safety and democracy itself are all on the line in the states, and Pennsylvania Republicans are poised to launch an assault on the freedoms we hold dear.”

The DLCC’s spotlight candidates are located in districts across the state. In the House, those candidates include incumbent Reps. Mandy Steele in House District 33; Jim Haddock in House District 118; Brian Munroe in House District 144; Paul Takac in House District 82; Rob Matzie in House District 16 and Eddie Day Pashinski in House District 121.

The committee also named several Democratic challengers as spotlight candidates running in state House races. They include: Anna Thomas in House District 137; Anna Payne in House District 142; Sara Agerton in House District 88; Hadley Haas in House District 44; Cristian Luna in House District 13; Bill Petulla in House District 28; Anand Patel in House District 18; Elizabeth Moro in House District 160; and John Inglis in House District 38.

The group also identified four candidates for state Senate. Democratic state Reps. Nick Pisciottano and Patty Kim, both incumbent state representatives who are running in Senate Districts 45 and 15, respectively, were named spotlight candidates. The DLCC also added Democratic challengers Nicole Ruscitto (running in Senate District 37) and Jim Wertz (running in Senate District 49) to that list. 

House Majority Leader Matt Bradford said during the call that he sees an opportunity for Democrats to expand their House majority by winning in suburban districts this year.

“We recognize it is now our obligation, it is our responsibility, in this very important year to grow that majority, to expand seats – and we believe we can,” Bradford said. “We have suburban battleground seats in every corner of Pennsylvania – Allegheny Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg, the suburbs of Lancaster and Philadelphia – where House Democrats will fight to expand this majority.” 

Democratic state Sen. Jay Costa, the minority leader of the state Senate, pointed out that if Senate Democrats are ultimately able to replicate the House’s success in flipping control of the chamber, it would give the party more power over setting the agenda in Harrisburg, and allow the Senate to advance Democratic priorities approved by House Democrats.

“What it means to have a Senate Democratic Caucus in a majority would mean that we will control the agenda – working together with the lieutenant governor, we would establish the majority and then be able to advance these measures onto the governor's desk as we go forward,” Costa said. 

Two of the spotlight candidates – Munroe and Thomas – also spoke about the significance of their respective races. Thomas pointed out that with a razor-thin margin separating control of the state House, even adding one more lawmaker to the Democratic majority could significantly impact which bills advance and which fail in Harrisburg. 

“The stakes in this race and in defending this one-seat majority are so crucial, because – I don’t even have to point that far back – two weeks ago, the bump stock ban bill failed by exactly one vote,” Thomas said.

Earlier this year, the Republican State Leadership Committee identified Pennsylvania as one of three states where it is seeking to regain a legislative majority in 2024. 

The RSLC has also partnered with other GOP-affiliated groups to grow the number of Republican voters who vote by mail in this year’s contests.