While Republicans will continue to control the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2019, the House will also welcome three new members endorsed by the far-left Democratic Socialists of America: Democrats Sara Innamorato (Lawrenceville), Summer Lee (Swissvale), and Elizabeth Fiedler (South Philadelphia).
Innamorato, Lee and Fielder all won their May primaries by double-digit margins, toppling candidates favored by the Democratic establishment. Those wins set them up for uncontested elections in November.
The three representatives-elect, however, will face stiffer resistance once they’re sworn into office. Republicans maintained safe majorities in the November, dimming the prospects of advancing the Democratic Socialists’ left-leaning agenda in Harrisburg.
As an organization, the Democratic Socialists of America gained traction with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) rise to prominence during the 2016 presidential campaign. The DSA tends to favor leftist policies such as single-payer healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and stricter environmental regulation.
Innamorato acknowledged that the Democratic minority is unlikely to pass many bills in the GOP-held legislature. But, she said it could still be worthwhile to introduce progressive legislation, simply to generate discussion about the ideas they propose.
“In that process,” she said, “we can elevate a conversation, we can inform our constituency, and we can start to organize and inform other legislators in the General Assembly on how it could be good for their district and their constituents that they serve.”
Republican and Democratic districts, she added, struggle with many of the same issues, including economic distress and rising health care costs.
“That’s a lot of the same narrative and a lot of wanting to help solve those problems that I think that there is opportunity, at least at this point, for dialogue,” Innamorato said.
Pennsylvania lawmakers will be sworn into office January 1. Innamorato and Lee will be among six women from Allegheny County to serve simultaneously in the state House.