By John Denny, DCS Principal
It might not have been an earthquake, but the political sands did shift in Pennsylvania on Election Day 2018. While Republicans maintained their majorities in both the State Senate and House, the margins tightened considerably, with Democrats picking up five seats in the Senate and 10 seats in the House.
What’s more, the Commonwealth’s Congressional delegation now features an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, at 9-9. And the sands shifted back from 2014 in the Governor’s race, where Pennsylvania returned to its tradition of reelecting the incumbent (and, if we’re talking Pennsylvania gubernatorial traditions, would mean a Republican Governor in 2022).
But the party number shift, while interesting, isn’t what stands out to me the most. In fact, the shift with the most lasting impact might well be that both parties have continued the trend of ridding themselves of moderates and moving more to each extreme. Regardless of your own political affiliation, I think we can agree that that’s not a good place to be for a functional government.
All is not lost, however. The shift that actually gives me a great deal of hope for returning to a more productive state legislature – one that is focused on passing important legislation that requires COMPROMISE – is the unprecedented number of women who won in 2018. Women had a net gain of 12 new seats in our General Assembly: in the Senate, the number of women almost doubled to 11 out of 50 (22%); in the House, women now hold 52 out of 203 seats (26%).
O.K., I get it – and agree with those of you who are saying, “Really, that’s all we have in 2018?” I too wish we were more like Colorado and Nevada, which for the first time elected a majority of women to their state legislative chambers. But it is a start, and one that we need to build on. Why? Because statistically speaking…
- Who cares more about our environment? WOMEN
- Who’s more active in making health care decisions? WOMEN
- Who’s more likely to actively manage a family’s finances? WOMEN
- Who better understands the impact of inequality in the workplace? WOMEN
Just because we have more women serving in the General Assembly doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more agreement on issues among the women who have been elected. Republicans will be Republicans and Democrats will be Democrats. But if the women serving in our state legislature, now at an historic high, can find a way to put party politics aside, and leverage their new combined power, critical issues like those mentioned above have a better shot at becoming priority issues in our General Assembly – something that, in my opinion, is long overdue.
Oh and by the way, here’s one more important benefit of having more women in the legislature: they’re more productive. A study conducted by Quorum a few years ago found that women legislators introduce more legislation than their male counterparts, and get more co-sponsors on their bills as well. And their bills had a higher rate of advancing out of committee! The data suggests that women legislators are more bipartisan and willing to reach across the aisle to get things done.
And regardless of what other sands may be shifting, a shift towards bipartisanship is something I think we can all get behind.