By Jim Ellis
Feb. 25, 2022 — Democrats notched major gains as courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina Wednesday chose maps that will largely favor their party as we move toward the midterm elections in November.
The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, to no one’s surprise, since they have consistently ruled as a partisan Democratic panel, adopted on a 4-3 vote a new congressional map that will cost sophomore Rep. Fred Keller (R-Middleburg) his current seat, but does give the Republicans a rather surprising chance to convert two seats in the eastern part of the state.
Though Reps. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) and Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) must still be regarded as clear favorites for re-election, they will again find themselves embroiled in highly competitive battles come November.
All other PA incumbents appear in strong shape for re-election. Additionally, the two open Democratic seats in the Pittsburgh area have been restored, both the downtown district from which Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh) is retiring, now numbered 12, and the western Allegheny County 17th CD that Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) is vacating to run for the Senate.
The current Keller seat, labeled District 12, is a safe Republican district that stretches from just west of Harrisburg in Perry County all the way to the New York border. The population anchor is Lycoming County and the city of Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series. Keller won a 2019 special election after then-Rep. Tom Marino (R) resigned the seat to accept an offer in the private sector.
The new map splits the current 12th District into three seats, and places Rep. Keller’s home in veteran Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson’s (R-Howard) 15th CD. Overlaying the current map over the new plan, Keller sees that 40 percent of his district lies within the confines of Rep. Thompson’s seat; but the congressman announced late Wednesday night that he will instead challenge Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Dallas) in the new 9th District. Approximately 34 percent of Keller’s current district moved to the new 9th with the new map, as compared to Meuser having more than 60 percent carryover territory.
Assuming Keller follows through, this will become the seventh intra-party pairing, and the fourth involving Republicans.
In eastern Pennsylvania, the adopted map attempts to make Rep. Cartwright’s 8th District a bit more Democratic, but it comes at the potential expense of District 7’s Rep. Wild, who won re-election in the last cycle with only a 52-48 percent spread over businesswoman and former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller (R). According to the FiveThirtyEight data organization, the new 7th rates as a R+4, which is down from the EVEN rating the seat held under the current map.
On the other hand, Dave’s Redistricting App records the Democratic percentage at 50.1 for the new PA-7 compared to the Republican 47.4. Rep. Cartwright sees his 8th District hold a 49.7 – 47.6 percent split in favor of the Democrats, but the FiveThirtyEight rating is R+8. Even what appears to be a fairly lofty figure to overcome, however, is still a tick down from the R+9 in the current district that Cartwright carried 52-48 percent in 2020.