The 177th Pa. House District will change parties after 34 years as a Republican stronghold in Dem country.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Democrat Joe Hohenstein holds a commanding lead over his Republican rival Patty-Pat Kozlowski following a contentious race for a district that stretches from the River Wards to lower Northeast Philly. Hohenstein took nearly 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election returns.
The 177th District — which includes Bridesburg, Port Richmond, Tacony, Holmesburg and parts of Frankford and Mayfair — holds a 2-to-1 Democratic voter registration edge. That’s much closer than the balance in the rest of the city where Dems outnumber Republicans seven to one.
Even with those odds, the 177th has long been a split-ticket district when it comes to Republican State Rep. John Taylor.
Hohenstein, an immigration lawyer who hails from the city’s Northwood neighborhood, ran unsuccessfully for Taylor’s seat in 2016. In that race, he took 45 percent of the vote against veteran lawmaker, who has held the reins of the 177th District for more than three decades and is frequently cited as one of the last moderate Republicans in Harrisburg. Taylor announced last year that he would not seek another term.
In May, Hohenstein faced four Democratic challengers in a competitive primary. He eventually clinched the nomination with 37 percent of the vote — and vocal support from party leaders, many of whom had stayed behind the curtains during Hohenstein’s previous bid against Taylor. Hohenstein has earned endorsements from dozens of labor unions and local party leaders.
The opioid crisis dominated the 2018 campaign in this district. Kozlowski pitched herself as a tough-as-nails warrior against medically supervised safe injection sites and criticized Hohenstein for being soft on issues surrounding the drug trade. Hohenstein does not support safe injection facilities either, and has vowed to pursue a “comprehensive solution” to the district’s homelessness and drug use.