HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s Republican House Leader Bryan Cutler filed for special elections to be held on May 16 for two vacant House seats amid a power struggle in Harrisburg over who controls the State House.
Cutler and House Republicans say they hold a 101-99 majority in the Pennsylvania House after Democrat representatives Summer Lee and Austin Davis resigned following election victories for Congress and Lieutenant Governor, respectively.
A seat also remains vacant with the death of Rep. Tony DeLuca, who won re-election despite his passing earlier in the fall.
Cutler issued writs of election for the 34th and 35th House Districts for special elections to be held on May 16, 2023, however, Democrats issued similar orders for earlier elections on February 7.
A special election for DeLuca’s seat was scheduled by Cutler for February 7.
“With the authority of a clear and undeniable majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and backed up by prior House precedent, Pennsylvania statute and the prior decisions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, I am issuing these lawful writs of election to finally provide electoral certainty for the people of Allegheny County who are currently lacking representation in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives,” Cutler said.
House Democrats responded by saying Cutler is continuing “his campaign to disenfranchise nearly 200,000 voters” so Republicans can pass “extremist policies.”
“Pennsylvanians delivered a clear message on Election Day, electing a majority of Democratic districts, and rejecting the GOP’s broken politics and extremism,” said Nicole Reigelman, Press Secretary for Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton.
Cutler filed a lawsuit last week asking the Commonwealth Court to issue an injunction, naming the Department of State, acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman and the Allegheny County Elections Board as defendants.
Cutler’s lawsuit argues that DeLuca’s death before the new session began Dec. 1 means Democrats “cannot claim to have ever had a majority of 102 living members or more members than the Republican Caucus.”
Cutler’s lawsuit challenges McClinton’s authority under the state’s laws and constitution to issue the three “writs of election.”
Cutler served as speaker until the last session ended Nov. 30 and has said he does not intend to stand for reelection to the job. No other Republican candidate has emerged publicly. McClinton has said she expects to become the chamber’s first woman speaker.
On Jan. 3, Chief Clerk Brooke Wheeler will preside over the House until members elect a speaker for the 2023-24 session.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.