What to expect next year from Allegheny County’s representatives in Harrisburg

Power among Pa. Democrats is shifting from west to east, but the county has its own delegation to fight for its priorities.

Rep. Dan Miller (center) is flanked by lawmakers, from left: Sara Innamorato, Austin Davis, Corey O'Connor, and Bruce Kraus

Rep. Dan Miller (center) is flanked by lawmakers, from left: Sara Innamorato, Austin Davis, Corey O'Connor, and Bruce Kraus

Courtesy Rep. Dan Miller Facebook page
Sarah Anne Hughes

Power among Pennsylvania Democrats is shifting from west to east, as the Philadelphia suburbs increasingly flip from red to blue. That’s reflected in the election of the city’s Jordan Harris and Joanna McClinton to leadership positions in the state House.

Still, two Allegheny County lawmakers will hold the party’s top spots in the General Assembly next year. Rep. Frank Dermody retained the top leadership position in the House, while Sen. Jay Costa was again elected minority leader.

Allegheny County Democrats also have their own delegation to fight for their priorities. Rep. Dan Miller, a Mt. Lebanon-based politician who’s served in the House since 2013, was recently elected chair. Reps. Anita Kulik and Austin Davis will serve as vice chair and secretary, respectively.

Miller described his new position as a “coordinating effort, as well as a liaison role between members and county officials, county agencies, business leaders and interests.” He’s tasked with ensuring the delegation reflects the needs of the county and adequately communicates with constituents.

At the moment, Kulik is the only woman in the delegation. She’ll be joined next year by freshmen Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee, who defeated Dom and Paul Costa in the primary. Brandon Markosek, the 25-year-old son of retiring representative Joe Markosek, will be the other newcomer.

Miller told The Incline he’s excited to see the diversity of the county’s elected officials and people reflected in leadership.

“That being said, there clearly are core issues that unite us,” he said — issues like education, addiction, and growing jobs that actually pay.

While Allegheny County still sends more Democrats than Republicans to the General Assembly, the party is the minority in both the House and Senate. New House Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County told LNP he doesn’t think GOP lawmakers will get behind Gov. Tom Wolf priorities like a minimum wage increase or severance tax.

Miller congratulated Cutler on his elevation to leader, adding that he’s worked and compromised with the Republican on several issues. But, he said, the delegation isn’t writing off issues like the minimum wage, especially since Wolf easily won reelection.

There are places where Democrats and Republicans should be able to find common ground, he said, like reducing the burden of higher education costs on middle-class families.

“No matter how many of us are in the House or who controls the gavel, I would expect even greater efforts by our delegation in delivering assistance to working people,” he said.

Responding to Tree of Life

Allegheny County was struck by two high-profile tragedies in the past year.

In June, an East Pittsburgh police officer killed an unarmed teenager, Antwon Rose II, leading to days of protests and a homicide charge. And in October, a gunman massacred 11 Jews inside the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

Both incidents have lawmakers looking at more oversight for police, an updated hate crimes statute, and more gun reform.

Miller said he expects a “large consensus” among the delegation on those issues.

Traditionally, Allegheny County’s Democrats have been split between progressives from Pittsburgh and more conservative lawmakers from the far-reaching suburbs. Some members in the past voted against stricter gun laws.

“I would not expect a unanimous sweep on every aspect that every member may bring up,” Miller said. “Clearly though, every member of our delegation has felt the impact of these tragedies.”