All week long, while PA election workers fastidiously counted ballots, all we heard was how “apocalyptic” 2021 was for Democrats.
Comparing 2021 to 2020, Virginia swung 12 points towards the Republicans as Democrats lost the Governor’s mansion. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy barely won re-election after a 13-point Republican swing.
Historically, the party that wins the White House does poorly one year afterwards in the first state elections.
And tensions have been high, as we faced a massive influx of Republican dark money, and the dangerous unrest and turmoil caused by Trump extremists looking to infiltrate local government and school boards across the state.
Comparing 2021’s statewide judicial races to 2020, PA swung just 2.5% towards the Republicans last week, a much smaller swing than other states in an extremely polarized environment.
The big story was record Republican turnout. But in 46 of PA’s 67 counties, Democrats outperformed our 2017 turnout.
And, we still managed to pull off some pretty incredible victories, despite the odds against us. We brought diversity to many elected offices across PA, and ran a hugely successful vote by mail program that helped put many candidates over the top.
Assuming the current counts hold, Dems will have beaten a GOP incumbent and flipped a statewide seat on the PA Commonwealth Court, the statewide court that oversees our elections and handed the Trump campaign some of its only legal wins.
In doing so, we added the first black female judge to that GOP leaning court. Despite Dem losses in the other three statewide judicial races, Dems didn’t lose any judicial seats in 2021, and the GOP didn’t gain any.
We held on to county control in Lehigh and Northampton Counties. And despite the heartbreaking loss, we had an amazing candidate in Tyler Titus for Erie County Executive.
We avoided a suburban slide in Southeast PA’s Delaware and Chester Counties, holding on to our row offices and adding seats to the bench.
School Board Races
Despite the disturbing influx of dark GOP money into local elections, we saw Democratic candidates overperform in School Boards and municipal races across the Commonwealth.
Democrats fought off many right-wing School Board takeover attempts in school districts like Delaware County’s Radnor Township, Rose-Tree Media, and Haverford districts, as well as Bucks County’s Pennsbury, New Hope-Solebury and parts of Central Bucks. We won seats in unexpected places like Central York, and we have many races that are still too close to call.
2022 Starts Now
That being said, there were problems. Big problems. Huge problems. Problems that keep us awake at night … (enough…you get it).
Some of the results were truly devastating, like Bucks, Luzerne and Erie, and in some cases, like Philly, eye-opening. We need to look closely — and LISTEN to our communities — in order to figure out what happened, why and most importantly, how we can work together to fix it. And there is no time to waste.
2022 starts now, and it will be an uphill battle. We should expect and prepare for more Republican turnout, more money, and even more dog whistles.
Let’s continue to focus on what we do know: Organizing makes all the difference. Local elections matter. Accessible voting increases turnout. Good candidates win elections. Winning requires work all year round.
Thank you to the thousands of Turn PA Blue volunteers and donors who helped support our efforts, sending millions of texts, spending hours on the phone, and knocking on thousands of doors to get out the vote. It is very clear that every single voter contact made a difference!
More details to follow on specific races once everything is official! Stay tuned for some special guests to help us unpack all this new information!
Thanks for staying in the fight.
— Turn PA Blue
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