Pa. House leader Dermody trails GOP opponent amid weak downballot Dem showing

By: - November 5, 2020 8:47 pm

Pennsylvania Democrats are holding their breath as a top leader appears likely to lose his reelection, capping a poor showing in legislative elections this year.

Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso).

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, who was first elected in 1990, appears headed to defeat, according to a source with knowledge of Allegheny County Democratic politics.

The source, who requested anonymity to speak about the race, pointed to the Democrats’ internal vote tracking data.

Dermody, who represents a district northeast of Pittsburgh, is currently down by about 1,200 votes, 52 percent to 48 percent, to Republican Carrie DelRosso, according unofficial and incomplete tallies.  But the source said Democrats’ internal data show that there may not be enough pending mail-in ballots to swing the election to Dermody.

Dermody has been the House Democrats’ floor leader since 2011, when his predecessor, former Rep. Todd Eachus, of Luzerne County, lost reelection in the 2010 Republican wave.

His district, which includes, among other places, Oakmont, Springdale, and Tarentum in Allegheny County as well as New Kensington in Westmoreland County, went for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Both House Republicans and Democrats have closely watched the race, as Republicans hoped to flip a long-sought seat and Democrats knew it would kick off a leadership race.

Dermody has escaped from a number of close races in the past elections. In 2014, for example, Dermody won reelection by about 1,000 votes. 

In a close race, provisional ballots also could be a factor, but the source cautioned that even provisionals and mail-ins together might not provide Dermody a clear path to victory.

Dennis Roddy, a spokesperson for the DelRosso campaign, told the Capital-Star that the campaign is “impressed with the vote totals and we are waiting for every valid ballot to be counted before coming to any conclusions.”

Many Democrats, meanwhile, continued to hold off on diving into the lackluster legislative results until Dermody’s fate is officially known.

Earlier this week, Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-Delaware, who chairs the House Democrats’  campaign arm, pushed for patience in the count.

“These races were always going to be close,” Krueger said at the time. “Mail-in ballots will be the margin of victory in many of them.

But even as Vice President Joe Biden’s margins increased on Thursday, many Democratic challengers in key districts are still losing.

One Republican strategist, Mark Harris, with Pittsburgh-based Republican consulting firm ColdSpark, said on social media that he was “not sure it’s possible to overstate how catastrophically bad (vs expectations) this year was for down ballot Dems.”

Some recriminations among Democrats over the results have already made their way onto social media.

The campaign manager for one suburban Pittsburgh challenger said on social media that Democrats were “marching and protesting ourselves into permanent legislative minorities across the country. All we’re going to have is protesting and the Republicans in power won’t give a s**t.”

The Allegheny County source instead blamed the seemingly Trump-driven surge in turnout for the results.

Either way, “it was a bloodbath,” they concluded.

If Dermody loses, candidates to lead the House Democratic caucus would Rep. Matt Bradford, of Montgomery County, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee,  and Minority Whip Jordan Harris, of Philadelphia.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.