HARRISBURG, Pa. — The leading Republican in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives asked a court Friday night to block voters from filling three vacant seats in February, which will determine majority control of the chamber.
Representative Bryan Cutler of Lancaster, who served as president until November 30, asked the Commonwealth Court to issue an injunction, naming the State Department, Acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman and the Electoral Council of Allegheny County as defendants.
Cutler’s filing came days after his Democratic counterpart as leader, Representative Joanna McClinton of Philadelphia, claimed the role of House speaker and sent state orders setting the election for 7 february.
Aided by redrawn district maps and strength at the top of the ticket in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, Democrats won a net 12 seats in the November election, barely enough to regain control of the Chamber, 102-101, after more than a decade. in the minority.
But a successful Democratic incumbent, Rep. Tony DeLuca of Allegheny County, died at age 85 of cancer weeks before voters returned him for another term. Two other Allegheny County Democrats who won reelection, Representatives Austin Davis and Summer Lee, resigned this week ahead of being sworn in next month as lieutenant governor and to Congress.
Cutler’s lawsuit argues that DeLuca’s death before the start of the new session on Dec. 1 means Democrats “cannot claim to have ever had a majority of 102 living members or more than the Republican caucus.”
Cutler’s lawsuit challenges McClinton’s authority under state statutes and constitution to issue the three “election writs.”
Democrats have 99 members and Republicans 101 who are expected to attend swearing-in day on Jan. 3, with hands-on control of the chamber up in the air.
Normally, elections are scheduled by the Speaker of the House, and on November 30, the last day of the 2021-22 term, Cutler scheduled DeLuca’s special election for February 7. This week, Chapman – appointed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf – rejected Cutler’s election planning documents and accepted McClinton’s.
The chamber will not have a speaker until January 3. Chief Clerk Brooke Wheeler will preside over the House that day until Representatives choose a speaker to lead their chamber during the 2023-24 session.
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