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Jim Prokopiak, the Democratic candidate running in the Feb. 13, 2024 special election for the 140th state House District. Photo courtesy of the Prokopiak campaign

Democrats will hold a two-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House after Jim Prokopiak defeated Republican Candace Cabanas in the special election Tuesday that some leaders are calling an important bellwether for Democratic victories in November’s general election.

Prokopiak, a 49-year-old attorney from Levittown, received 67.7% of the ballots cast, while Cabanas, a 45-year-old restaurant server, landed 32.3%, according to unofficial results from the Pennsylvania Department of State. The seat opened after Democratic Rep. John Galloway resigned to take a judgeship he won in November 2023.

The Democrat’s victory follows a race that largely centered around abortion rights in Pennsylvania. Since taking control of the state House in 2022, Democratic lawmakers have worked to protect and expand access to abortion following the fall of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a constitutional right to abortion nationwide. Prior to losing control of the House, Republican legislators had attempted to curb access to abortion by amending the state Constitution.

“I ran for this seat because I want to make peoples’ lives easier in Bucks County,” Prokopiak, a member of the Pennsbury School District board and a former Falls Township supervisor, said in a press release issued Tuesday night. “What I heard from voters is that Bucks County residents need help supporting their families, want control over their own bodies, and ensure they have the ability to chart their own paths in life.”

Once Prokopiak is sworn into office, Democrats will hold a 102-100 margin in the state House. The special election was expected to determine party control of the House until Republican state Rep. Joe Adams resigned from his seat on Friday, once again giving Democrats control of the state House prior to Tuesday’s election. Democrats won a narrow 101-100 House majority in 2022 after having been the chamber’s minority party since 2011, and proceeded to hold on to that slim margin through six special elections in 2023.

A special election for Adams’ seat will take place on April 23.

Following Tuesday’s election, Democratic leaders lauded Prokopiak for winning a race that garnered national attention.

“I’ll see you in Harrisburg as we work to cut costs, invest in our future, and defend our fundamental freedoms,” Shapiro tweeted in a congratulatory message to Prokopiak on Tuesday night. “Let’s go get stuff done.”

Other Democratic leaders said the win means House Democrats will be able to advance progressive legislation. Upon assuming the majority last year, House Democrats passed bills to raise the minimum wage, expand access to abortion care, curb gun violence, boost hospital staffing levels, and fight employment discrimination. The Republican-led Senate has not acted on those bills.

Heather Williams, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said Tuesday’s special election is an indicator of Democratic victories to come in the November election. The DLCC poured $50,000 into the Prokopiak campaign.

“This victory is a promising sign for Democrats up and down the ballot this year — it’s clear that momentum is on our side,” Williams said in a prepared statement. “Now, our focus turns to defending the Pennsylvania House and making gains in the Pennsylvania Senate in November.”

Prokopiak’s victory was one of two Democratic wins in special elections held Tuesday. In New York, former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi defeated his Republican opponent Mazi Pilip to flip the U.S. House district once represented by former Rep. George Santos. That victory further narrows the GOP’s margin in the U.S. House of Representatives, leaving Republicans with 219 seats and Democrats with 213.

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