By Jim EllisJan. 22, 2019 — Five-term Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) announced that he is leaving Congress next week to accept a professional position in the private sector. Marino was first elected to the House in 2010, after serving five years as the US Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and 11 years as District Attorney of Lycoming County.
In the Republican wave election of 2010, Marino ousted then-Rep. Chris Carney (D) by a 55-45 percent margin and has averaged 66.1 percent of the vote in his subsequent re-elections. The 2018 Pennsylvania court-ordered redistricting plan re-numbered his 10th Congressional District to 12 and created a seat where 68 percent of the constituency carried over from the previous district.
In 2017, President Trump nominated Rep. Marino as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly referred to as the nation’s “drug czar.” But the congressman withdrew his name when experiencing some negative reaction during the confirmation process.
The 12th District will now go into a special election cycle. After the seat becomes officially vacant on Jan. 23, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will have 10 days to issue a writ of election to fill the newly open seat. The various political parties will meet in special conventions to choose their nominees, with the winners proceeding to an election date that the governor will assign. It is most likely he will schedule the 12th District special to run concurrently with the Pennsylvania municipal primary, which is calendared for May 21.
PA-12 is the third-most Republican congressional district in Pennsylvania, and the 41st most pro-Trump CD in the country. Though Republicans lost the early 2018 special election in a similar western Pennsylvania district, the former 18th CD was four points less Republican than the new 12th, which should give the next GOP nominee enough cushion to blunt any Democratic move to make the race competitive. Therefore, the eventual Republican special election nominee will be cast as a strong favorite to retain the seat later this year.
The 12th District begins just west of Harrisburg and stretches through 15 counties on the way to the New York border. President Trump carried the newly constructed CD with a 66-30 percent margin against Hillary Clinton, an improvement when compared to Mitt Romney’s 61-37 percent spread over President Obama, and John McCain’s 57-42 percent mark.
The Marino seat will constitute the second US House vacancy. The other is North Carolina’s 9th District, which continues to remain in political limbo over voter fraud allegations until a decision is made about calling a new election.
The disbanded NC Board of Elections’ membership must be replaced by Jan. 31, so at that time the new panel could quickly take action to review the electoral situation and potentially order a new election. Or, since the NC-9 seat is now officially vacant because the House membership has taken office for the new term, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) could himself order a special election as the state election law requires of him in the event of a vacancy in the congressional delegation.
Two other House members have already said they do not intend to seek another term in the 2020 election. North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) and Utah Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City/Ogden) have indicated that they will retire after serving the current term.