Four Democrats and two Republicans won primary elections last week. The majority come from the southeast: in Philadelphia, Democrat Kenyatta Johnson and Republican Denny O’Brien are running for City Council, and Democrat Jewell Williams is campaigning for sheriff. In the suburbs, Democrat Josh Shapiro is vying to become Montgomery County commissioner. In Lehigh County, Republican Doug Reichley is running for a judicial seat. And in Allegheny County, Democrat Chelsa Wagner is hoping to become her family’s second fiscal watchdog, by running for county controller.
Does Harrisburg gridlock play a role in the lawmakers’ decisions to seek new employment? Reichley downplayed the suggestion. “I think these things come and go in cycles. I think there were just two members in the ‘09 elections that ran,” he said. “So I think it was more just a coincidence this year with the number of members who are looking at other elective offices.” The Republican former prosecutor did concede, however, that his family life influenced the judicial run. “You know, I have two kids who are 13 and 11. And the amount of time away from home that is required by the job, both to be in Harrisburg and to be doing events in the district, really does take a toll on your family life,” he said.
Shapiro said he “loves” his job as a state representative, but, “5he opportunity to run for Montgomery County Commissioner, in a county of 800,000 people, with a budget of nearly a half billion dollars, and extraordinary responsibility over infrastructure, social services and education, was just too much to pass up.”
Four of the lawmakers running for local office are Democrats, who went from House majority to minority this year. Shapiro said that wasn’t a factor in his decision to run for commissioner. “Look, everybody has their reasons for wanting to make the move. For me, it was about helping people in a more direct way,” he said. “About having the opportunity to affect more lives than I do now in a more positive way. And to being in more of an executive role.”
Any seats vacated by November wins would be filled by special elections early next year. Those contests, coming about a year into Governor Corbett’s tenure, will likely be viewed as litmus tests for whether the Republican’s agenda still has the support of Pennsylvania voters.