Dems win special elections in Pa., N.H.

The party maintained control in one legislature and narrowed the GOP’s majority in the other.
New Hampshire’s state capitol building in Concord. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

Democrats maintained control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and narrowed the already-thin Republican margin in New Hampshire’s lower chamber in a pair of special elections Tuesday.

In New Hampshire, computer programmer Hal Rafter (D) defeated Jim Guzofski (R) in a special election in two Rockingham County towns. Rafter will replace former Rep. Brian Bartlett (R), who resigned earlier this year for health reasons.

Final election results show Rafter won 56% of the vote, out of about 2,800 votes cast, in a district that voted for former President Donald Trump by less than 1 percentage point in 2020.

Rafter will become the 197th Democrat in New Hampshire’s 400-member House of Representatives. Republicans hold 198 seats, two seats are held by independents, and three more — two likely Democratic seats and one likely Republican seat — are vacant.

The pending elections to fill those vacancies mean Democrats are likely to tie the House at 199 apiece. That could throw the decision over party control to the chamber’s two independent members, Reps. Dan Hynes and Shaun Filiault.

Filiault represents part of Keene, a city in which the other four representatives are Democrats; Hynes represents a multi-member district in Bedford, where Republicans hold four seats and Democrats hold two.

But party affiliation is not always the guarantee of loyalty in New Hampshire as it is in other states: At least five Democrats voted for Speaker Sherman Packard (R) in December, when Packard beat Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D) in the race for the gavel.

In Pennsylvania, former congressional aide Lindsay Powell (D) won 65% of the vote to hold on to a heavily Democratic seat in the Pittsburgh area. Powell will replace former Rep. Sara Innamorato (D), who quit her seat to run for county executive.

Powell’s victory cements Pennsylvania Democrats’ narrow hold on the House, giving her party 102 of 203 seats. Pennsylvania is one of just two states in the union, along with Virginia, where legislative control is divided between the two parties: Pennsylvania Republicans hold 28 of 50 seats in the state Senate.