In an election cycle that produced several surprises both statewide and statewide, one of them was the ousting of 15-term Republican Tim Hennessy from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The second time was the charm for Democratic challenger Paul Friel, who said he believes several factors contributed to his victory. These include things like redistricting, which moved the 26th District to areas with more Democratic voters; statewide gubernatorial and senatorial races and their impact on the vote; Also a Supreme Court decision that turned the abortion issue over to state legislatures.
All of those issues have fueled turnout, especially among younger voters, Friel said Wednesday. “I saw a lot of young people at the elections yesterday, more than I’m used to.”
Those voters, according to Fraley, were driven by concerns that fed into a broader election theme: the potential loss of abortion rights and the potential for voting restrictions — both of which were major issues in the governor’s race between Josh Shapiro and Doug. Mastriano, which Shapiro won easily.
“I think the reversal of Roe v. Wade and how extreme the positions on social issues that the other side has taken has swayed some voters,” Friel said.
Friel, on the other hand, said he believes the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion “may have peaked over the summer, and as some of the inflation-related issues Republicans have emphasized, as we’ve seen some statewide races tighten, it’s made me more concerned about my race.” “
Attempts to reach Hennessy for comment Wednesday through his election office were unsuccessful.
While the age figures for the 26th District’s voters were not immediately available, figures showing the geographic impact of the 26th District’s redistricting were available.
In 2020, the 26th District would include a small slice of Pottstown and otherwise straddle the county line in western Chester County from the Schuylkill River through Coatesville. After redistricting, the 26th District lost some of its southern districts and became more connected to the river, and now includes the Phoenixville School District, as well as the Owen J. Roberts School District.
In 2020, Freel lost to Hennessy by 4,105 votes. Unofficial results showed Friel winning by more than 3,300 votes in 2022, and the precincts where his totals were highest were in Phoenixville, East Pikeland and East Vincent.
Hennessy, on the other hand, won many settlements in the west that were part of the previous district map – West and East Nunmill, Warwick, Elverson and East and South Coventry.
“There’s no doubt that redistricting has made this seat more winnable for Democrats,” Friel said. “The district used to be packed, making it hard for a Republican incumbent to lose.”
There were other surprises on election night. As in previous elections, Friel expected more time to be counted. “I went to bed and then I got a call at 10:30 somebody congratulated me and I was like, really? already?'”
Also surprising are the early results of many experts doing this Democrats are expected to win enough seats in the Pennsylvania House to hold a majority there for the first time since 2006..
“Pennsylvania (Democrats) generally exceeded expectations,” Friel said. “I mean, I had a good feeling when I was knocking on doors and I thought we were going to get some seats, but I didn’t think we were going to turn the house.”
Despite moving from the mindset of serving as a member of the House minority to the majority, Friel said his priorities remain the same — fairer funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools and “Main Street vs. Wall Street. I think there’s room for a bipartisan push in both places. “
On the ever-present issue of abortion, Senate Bill 106 to amend the state constitution to deny abortion rights passed this year’s primary. But procedurally, it also needs to be approved on a re-election vote in 2023 to become law, and if Democrats take over the House, it’s unlikely to be on the ballot next year.
“If it’s a party-line vote, my guess is we won’t see this issue on the ballot in 2023,” said Friel, who is also the Owen J. Roberts School Board President, a position he may not hold for long. .
“I recognize that Harrisburg,” he said, “will be a very different experience than being on the school board.” It is true that recently party politics has entered school councils on social issues. It started (with critical race theory) and then moved into trans and gender issues. We’ve heard it on the cable news at school board meetings, but they have no basis because OJR hasn’t changed its policy on these issues in 10 or 15 years.
But for the most part, he said, “I’ve served on two school boards now, and I’ve been fortunate to work with people who care about their children and education first, and most of our votes have been 9-0, and when they’re not, it’s usually not a partisan divide. OJR is a very purple neighborhood. “
As he contemplates what lies ahead, Friel said he also plans to retire from Owen J. Roberts as president of the school board. “I’m going to talk to the rest of the board and the administration about the best time,” he said. His term expires in 2023, so his replacement is likely to be appointed in the final year of his term.
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