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Pennsylvania lawmakers see terms ended by primary defeats

A visitor walks through the Cranberry Township Municipal Center where signs point to some of the rooms that will be used for voting in Tuesday's Pennsylvania Primary Election, Monday, May 16, 2022, in Cranberry Township, Butler County, Pa.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

A visitor walks through the Cranberry Township Municipal Center where signs point to some of the rooms that will be used for voting in Tuesday's Pennsylvania Primary Election, Monday, May 16, 2022, in Cranberry Township, Butler County, Pa.

(Harrisburg) — One of the Pennsylvania Legislature’s most powerful Republicans lost a primary race and another was in real danger Wednesday of going down to defeat, both targeted by challengers from the right.

As vote counting continued, state Sen. Pat Browne of Lehigh County was a few dozen votes behind school board member and pilot Jarrett Coleman. State Rep. Stan Saylor of York County lost to Wendy Jo Fink, who promised to eliminate school property taxes.

Both incumbents were attacked for being Harrisburg insiders. Saylor was elected in 1992 and Browne in 2005 after a decade in the state House. They chair the Appropriations Committee in their respective chambers. The Appropriations committees are the conduit for the state budget legislation and play a prominent role in much of the Legislature’s business.

Another longtime House Republican from York County also was looking at a possible defeat — Rep. Keith Gillespie was trailing badly to Joe D’Orsie, the communications director at an Apostolic Church. Gillespie was first elected 20 years ago.

On the Democratic side, 12-year incumbent Rep. Pam DeLissio lost to nurse Tarik Khan in a Philadelphia district.

In northeast Philadelphia, school district grant compliance monitor Jimmy Dillon, a Democrat, won a special election for state Senate. The seat was vacated after Democratic Sen. John Sabatina was elected judge.

In other notable races, state Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, won reelection to the Legislature while her congressional primary was too early to call. Lee was neck-and-neck with attorney Steve Irwin for an open congressional seat in the Pittsburgh area.

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, beat fellow incumbent Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, after redistricting put them into the same race.

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie overcame Rep. Gary Day in a Republican incumbent-on-incumbent primary, and there is no Democrat on the fall ballot. In the other incumbent battle, between GOP Reps. Perry Stambaugh and Rep. Johnathan Hershey northwest of Harrisburg, Stambaugh held a healthy lead with results too early to call.

In Allegheny County, newly sworn-in state Rep. Martell Covington, who won a special election in April after Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey left the Legislature, lost reelection to La’Tasha Mayes, who runs New Voices for Reproductive Justice.

In a suburban Harrisburg district that was reliably Republican before redistricting, Justin Fleming beat fellow Democrat Eric Epstein. In a sign of how the district has changed, no Republican is on the fall ballot. And in Philadelphia, former legislative aide Ben Waxman won the Democratic primary for a seat vacated by Rep. Brian Sims, who lost a run for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Voters in both parties chose Pennsylvania state representatives to be their nominees for lieutenant governor this fall. Republicans elected state Rep. Carrie Lewis DelRosso to run with their choice for governor, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, while Democrats gave their nominee for governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, his choice for second-in-command, Rep. Austin Davis, over Sims.

DelRosso, who is in her first term in the General Assembly, prevailed in a nine-candidate race, while Davis easily beat state Rep. Brian Sims, whose energetic campaign could not overcome Shapiro’s endorsement of Davis. Both DelRosso and Davis are from Allegheny County.

Davis, a resident of McKeesport, has been a state representative since 2018 and is a former executive assistant to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a prominent elected Democrat. DelRosso is a former borough council member who runs a public affairs and marketing company.

In Pennsylvania, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are not paired on the primary ballot, but do run as a ticket in the fall.

The lieutenant governor is the chair of the Pardons Board and is the presiding officer during state Senate sessions.

Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday also cast ballots in primary contests for 17 congressional seats. The state’s delegation to the U.S. House had been 18 — nine Democrats and nine Republicans — before one delegate was lost because of 2020 Census numbers.

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