By Jim Ellis
Sept. 7, 2017 — White House personnel this week announced that President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment was expected to happen much earlier in the year, but a serious illness in the congressman’s family forced him to ask the administration for a postponement.
Should Rep. Marino move quickly through the confirmation process we would likely see another congressional special election called, similar to the situation involving Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) appointment as NASA administrator, in order to fill the remainder of the current term.
There is a good bet, however, that Senate Democrats will want to delay Marino’s confirmation as long as possible. With a live redistricting lawsuit making its way through the Pennsylvania court system, the Dems hope a potential re-draw will significantly change the statewide map, and specifically this district, in time for the 2018 regular election.
The 10th District, which contains 10 complete Pennsylania counties and parts of five others, occupies the entire northeastern corner of the Keystone State that borders New York and New Jersey, encompasses the territory around the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and then shoots southwest past the Harrisburg-Carlisle area as far as the Tuscarora State Forest. Since 1952 inclusive, the district has voted Democratic only three times in congressional elections. During much of the succeeding six decades, veteran Rep. Joe McDade (R-Scranton) represented the region. He was in office for 36 years from the early 60s to the late 90s.
Democrats have a potential candidate waiting in the wings in the person of former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Dimock Township), who held the seat for two terms after defeating scandal-plagued Republican Congressman Don Sherwood (R-Tunkhannock) in 2006. But, the district is in a much different configuration than when Carney last won, and a Democrat will have a difficult time prevailing under the current boundaries. Hence, it is in the party leaderships’ interest to avoid a special election, if possible, in case they are successful in obtaining a more favorable Democratic map.
West Virginia Senate
A late August poll was just recently released testing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) against his top Republican competition. The Repass & Research America, Inc. organization conducted a survey of the West Virginia electorate (Aug. 11-20; 400 likely West Virginia voters drawn from all 55 West Virginia counties) and found the senator holding double-digit leads over both major Republican candidates, one of whom he will undoubtedly face in next year’s general election.
According to the results, Sen. Manchin would hold a 52-38 percent advantage over Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. When paired with Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), the spread is tighter. Here, the Manchin margin is 50-40 percent.
The West Virginia race is expected to be close next year. The Mountain State has swung decidedly to the right since the 2000 election, and seemingly grows more Republican with each election. Voters did elect a Democratic governor last November, but new chief executive Jim Justice has already switched to the Republican Party.
The senator’s personal favorability index, however, is the best of any tested statewide official. He scores a 51:34 percent positive to negative rating. This contrasts with a 48:39 percent for President Trump, 40:38 percent for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), and an upside-down 34:44 percent mark for Gov. Justice.
The West Virginia primary will be a hard fought affair between two veteran Republican political candidates. Both Morrisey and Jenkins will duel until the May 10, 2018 West Virginia primary, with the general election campaign beginning immediately thereafter.