HARRISBURG, Pa. — A special election will be held to replace a Pennsylvania state lawmaker who died several weeks before voters elected him to another term, marking the first of several special elections to come in a nearly evenly split state House of Representatives.
The only question may be who orders it.
House Speaker Bryan Cutler on Wednesday scheduled the special election for Feb. 7 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Rep. Tony DeLuca, (D-Allegheny). The earliest possible date to legally order the election is Jan. 31, according to Cutler’s office.
DeLuca, 85, died in October, after ballots were printed and after the legal deadline to substitute a candidate.
While the Democrats appear to have a razor-thin majority at 102-101, DeLuca’s death leaves the chamber tied at 101-101 between the parties.
Cutler (R-Lancaster) issued the order on the last day of the two-year legislative session, but Democrats may also order a special election for the seat.
Top-ranking Democrat Rep. Joanna McClinton — who, with her party potentially at the helm, could become the House’s next speaker — said she plans to issue her own writ of election on Thursday.
McClinton said the special election should be set for the earliest possible date but contended that Cutler and House Republicans lack the authority to order one for the next legislative session, when they will be in the minority.
Two other Allegheny County Democrats, Reps. Austin Davis, and Summer Lee, each won another term but were also elected to higher office, Davis as lieutenant governor and Lee as a member of Congress.
The Senate will also have a vacancy to fill, with Wednesday’s retirement of Republican Sen. John Gordner of Columbia County, with two years left in his four-year term.