In a stunning reversal of fortunes, Shannon Royer, the Republican candidate for Chester County's 156th House seat, lost the 19-vote lead he's been clinging to since Election Day.
Chester County officials today declared Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith the winner by 23 votes. Those 23 voters will have a dramatic impact on Pennsylvania's future.
Not only is Shannon Royer not going to Harrisburg as a state representative, but his loss caused a seismic political shift felt across Pennsylvania.
For the first time in 12 years, Democrats take control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a 102-101 margin. Before the voters went to the polls on Nov. 7, Republicans enjoyed a comfortable 109-seat majority in the 203-member House, but the GOP lost eight seats.
The most devastating loss was in the 156th District, a seat held by Republican Elinor Z. Taylor for the past 30 years. Royer was hand-picked by the Republican bigwigs in Harrisburg to hold the seat for the GOP. Not only did he fail, but he cost his boss, John Perzel, another two year-term as Speaker of the House.
Prince John Perzel was nowhere to be found Tuesday as other politicians (mostly of the Democratic persuasion) were popping champagne corks. What's that Shakespeare said about Prince John? Something along the lines of "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."
Perzel will be lucky to keep his head when the new Legislature convenes in January. Since the July 2005 pay raise fiasco, Perzel has led the Republican Caucus from one minefield into another. Prince John Perzel and his sidekick, Sam Smith, are responsible for the GOP debacle throughout the 2006 election cycle. Dozens of Republican legislators were led over a cliff by Perzel and Smith.
As much as I don't mind seeing Perzel and Smith lose leadership of the House, I can't help but think that a Democratic speaker, Bill DeWeese, will be just as bad for Pennsylvania. (And let's not forget that DeWeese was one of the architects of the July 2005 pay raise).
At least we won't have to put up with the charade of Republicans helping to push through Rendell's agenda anymore. Rendell got his wish, a Democratic House, and he'll get all the lemmings in the Democratic Caucus to back his proposals for higher taxes, expanded gambling and more corporate welfare.
The only hope for Pennsylvania residents is the state Senate, where Republicans hold a 29-21 majority. It's the last line of defense against Rendell's tax-and-spend brand of liberalism that will lead Pennsylvania to financial ruin.
This is a perfect time for the Republican Party to purge people like Perzel and Smith and begin the rebuilding process with an eye toward 2008.
(In the second close Chester County race, Republican Duane Milne beat Democrat Anne Crowley by 144 votes to win the 167th District seat, according to Tuesday's count. Milne had been ahead since Election Day, but this was another Republican district that should never have been this close. The final numbers show Milne with 13,556 votes and Crowley with 13,412 votes.)
Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org