HARRISBURG - Philadelphia will have a voice - albeit somewhat less powerful - in the General Assembly's senior leadership ranks next year after all.
In Senate elections Wednesday, Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia was named Democratic Appropriations chairman, reclaiming a swatch of influence the city lost a day earlier with the ouster of Rep. Dwight Evans as House Appropriations chairman.
Hughes, 54, who has represented West Philadelphia for 16 years, is now the only lawmaker from the city in a senior leadership position in the General Assembly.
"Philadelphia will be represented at the table," said Hughes, adding that he sees his job as looking out for the best interests of citizens throughout the commonwealth.
Hughes and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre), along with other leaders and the new administration, will be grappling with a budget deficit upward of $4 billion and a 9 percent unemployment rate.
"The crisis we have in the commonwealth is bigger than Philadelphia," said Hughes.
Sen. Jay Costa of Pittsburgh, the outgoing minority Appropriations chairman, was elected Democratic floor leader. He replaces Sen. Robert J. Mellow of Lackawanna County, who is retiring after 40 years in the General Assembly. Mellow is being investigated by federal authorities on allegations that he used public money to pay for office rent in a building his former wife owned.
As the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Hughes will play a leading role in crafting the state budget, a position dominated for 23 years by then-State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo until his conviction on federal corruption charges in 2007.
In the 20-member caucus, Hughes prevailed over Sen. Michael O'Pake of Berks County in a closed-door voting session. Ballots were cast in secret. O'Pake was reelected whip, the No. 2 position in the Democratic caucus.
Also Wednesday, Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione of Philadelphia was reelected caucus secretary, to serve a fifth term. Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams of Philadelphia was named caucus chairman.
In a separate election, Senate Republicans reelected their current leadership team: Sen. Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County as president pro tempore, Sen. Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County as majority leader, and Corman as Appropriations chairman.
Sen. Pat Browne of Lehigh County was named majority whip. He replaces Sen. Jane Orie of Allegheny County, who had to give up her leadership position after she was charged with using public money for political purposes.