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Democrat Helen Tai wins special state House election in Bucks, gains a seat for her party

Democrat Helen Tai won a special election in Bucks County's 178th state House district, which had been held by the GOP for 34 years.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg.Read moreMatt Rourke

Democrats flipped a Pennsylvania House seat in Bucks County on Tuesday as Helen Tai won the 178th District special election by 96 votes over Republican Wendi Thomas, according to complete but unofficial returns.

Tai, 53, will fill the last six months of the term of former State Rep. Scott Petri (R., Bucks), who left in January to become executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. During that time, the new representative and Thomas will continue to campaign against each other to try to win a full two-year term on Nov. 6.

Republicans have held the central Bucks district for 34 years.

A Solebury Township supervisor, Tai will be the 42nd woman in the state House, the highest number of female members the chamber has had at any one time, according to Bill Patton, spokesman for the Democratic caucus. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez acknowledged Tai's accomplishment in a statement late Tuesday, saying "the wind is at our backs" in Pennsylvania.

EMILY's List, a national political committee that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, also hailed Tai.

Thomas, 57, of Northampton, is a health-care executive who resigned from her position on the Council Rock school board to run for the legislative seat.

A Republican candidate won another special election in western Pennsylvania, so the House's partisan makeup will have no net change.