The departure of Sen. Rob Wonderling (R., Bucks) won't jeopardize Republican control of the Senate, but it gives Democrats a chance to stake claim to yet another slice of turf in the Philly suburbs.

"This is a seat ripe for the Democrats to pick up, given the strides they have made in Bucks and Montgomery," said political analyst Terry Madonna. "This will be the first real test for the Republicans since [Andy] Dinniman's shocking victory." When Dinniman won the 19th district seat in 2006 he was the first Democratic Senator to represent the Chester County district in 82 years.

Wonderling, who represents northern Bucks and Montgomery counties (and parts of Lehigh and Berks counties) that make up the 24th Senatorial district, announced yesterday he would resign his seat this summer after two terms to become president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

With Democratic registration running higher in Bucks and Montgomery counties but Madonna notes that Wonderling's 24th district represents the most Republican part of Bucks County and that there is still a strong percentage of Republicans in outer reaches of Montgomery county.

Madonna predicts an expensive contest for the seat ahead.

"I expect a major battle, probably the most expensive senate election in state history--with all the stops pulled out," said Madonna in an email. "Control of the Senate is not on the line, but the Republicans need to contain their losses in the suburbs or in a few years run the risk of being in the minority. Most analysts believe the long term battle for control of the Senate hinges on open seats in the suburbs. This is a major test of which party will hold onto the Senate held by the Republicans with the exception of one 14-month period since 1980."

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