Pennsylvania Files – Part I

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

March 26, 2018 — After the three-judge federal panel and the US Supreme Court both rejected Republican legal appeals to overturn the new state Supreme Court-imposed congressional map, candidates submitted their official filing documents to run in the new districts.

We now have an idea as to where the key Pennsylvania political battles will occur, and who some of the key players will be. Today we take a look at the first nine districts. Tomorrow, we’ll review CDs 10-18. The party primaries are scheduled for May 15.

District 1 – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown)

Freshman Rep. Fitzpatrick faces attorney Dean Malik in the Republican primary. Three Democrats filed, including Scott Wallace, grandson of WWII era Vice President Henry Wallace (D). Attorney Rachel Reddick and non-profit organization executive Steven Bacher round out the Democratic field. The new 1st is highly competitive, and this race could well evolve in to a toss-up campaign.

District 2 – Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia)

Originally designed as an open seat, or the place where retiring Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) may have run, the new 2nd will now go to two-term Rep. Brendan Boyle who formerly represented a district anchored in Montgomery County. The new 2nd contains the eastern part of Philadelphia and is a safely Democratic seat. Radio talk show host Michele Lawrence is challenging Boyle in the Democratic primary, and Republican David Torres will be his general election opposition. Rep. Boyle will have little trouble in securing this new district.

District 3 – Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia)

This is a heavily African American Democratic seat that freshman Rep. Dwight Evans will have little trouble holding. He has only minor opposition in both the Democratic primary and the general election.

District 4 – Open Seat (Safe Democratic)

The new 4th District is similar to the former 13th District that Rep. Brendan Boyle represented. This seat is now open and features a major Democratic primary. Former Rep. Joe Hoeffel returns to attempt to claim the seat that he represented for three terms in the late 90s and early 2000s. But, he has strong opposition from two state representatives, Madeleine Dean and Mary Daley. Additionally, gun control activist Shira Goodman is also in the race. The eventual Democratic nominee faces investment company executive Daniel David, but the general election should only be a formality. The real race is in the Democratic primary, but this is already a tough campaign to call.

District 5 – Open Seat (Safe Democratic)

The new 5th is largely the Delaware County seat that retiring Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) represented. The changed configuration becomes a safely Democratic district, however, instead of the lean Republican characterization of the former 7th District. Fourteen Democrats have filed in the primary election, including state Reps. Greg Vitali and Margo Davidson, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, and ex-Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer, who all appear to be the most prominent individuals among the more than dozen Democrats in the race. Republican Paul Addis, who was originally self-funding a US Senate campaign, reversed course and entered this campaign upon the new districts being drawn. He faces one GOP opponent, ex-Senior Deputy Attorney General Pearl Kim. The eventual Democratic nominee will capture this seat.

District 6 – Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester)

Uniting all of Chester County in the new 6th District makes this seat more Democratic, but only slightly so. Either party can win here. Rep. Costello will face a Democratic first-time candidate. Non-profit executive and retired Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan is the lone Democrat who filed.

District 7 – Open Seat (Toss-Up)

If retiring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) were seeking re-election, this new Lehigh Valley seat, comprised of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, along with a about one-third of Monroe County, would yield a tight campaign in any election. Six Democrats filed, including long-time Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who had previously run for statewide office, and Allentown City Solicitor Susan Ellis Wild. Republicans feature two candidates, Lehigh County Commissioner and Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein, and former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning. Rep. Dent would have the edge here if he were running again. In open seat configuration, however, Democrats are looking at this district as a favorable conversion opportunity.

District 8 – Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton)

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre seat should lean to incumbent Matt Cartwright, but the historical voting patterns suggest a pure toss-up. Republicans filed three candidates, including two who have the ability to self-fund a campaign. Venture capitalist and investment banker John Chrin, who was originally running against Rep. Cartwright in his former 17th District, comes to the 8th, though most of his roots are in the neighboring 7th CD. Real estate developer Robert Kuniegel is also in the race along with former federal prosecutor Joe Peters. It appears the GOP will field a strong candidate no matter who wins the Republican primary.

District 9 – Open Seat (Safe Republican)

The east-central district that includes all or parts of eight counties is where Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) would have run for re-election had he not decided to challenge Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D). As an open seat, the district votes heavily Republican as President Trump’s 65-31 percent winning percentage reveals. Three Republicans and three Democrats have filed. The Republican field features former state Revenue Commissioner Dan Meuser, Schuylkill County Commission chairman George Halcovage, and former CIA officer Scott Uehlinger. Among the three Democrats is former state Agriculture Secretary Denny Wolff.

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