Battle for U.S. House being fought in Pennsylvania
CharlieTong/iStock/Thinkstock(HARRISBURG, Pa.) — Control of the House of Representatives will be heavily affected by a battle being fought in the Pennsylvania state government.
Battle lines have been drawn in the state between the Republican-controlled state House, the Democratic governor, and the state Supreme Court over what the state’s congressional map will look like for the 2018 election.
GOP leaders in the state house will make their opening offer Friday night, when they present a map to Gov. Tom Wolf.
“The Republican Legislative Leaders in the House and Senate have agreed to a Congressional District Map that complies fully with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order and opinion. We will be submitting our map to the Governor this evening,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai said in a joint statement on Friday.
In January, the state Supreme Court ordered the state’s 18 districts redrawn, saying they were illegally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans by the GOP-controlled legislature. Republicans currently hold the advantage – 12 House seats to the Democrats’ five (one seat is empty but was held by the GOP). The GOP has fought hard to keep the current map, even going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled this week that the districts must be redrawn.
The next deadline in the map redrawing process is Feb. 15, which is the date by which Wolf must approve the map from the state legislature.
The governor sounded non-committal in a statement released on Friday.
“I intend to do my part to implement the Court’s order and ensure that fair maps become Pennsylvania’s new reality,” he said.
It is unclear if Democrats in the statehouse played a role in the map to be submitted on Friday.
“While an ideal scenario would be a consensus map that can garner the support of both chambers in the General Assembly and that meets standards for fairness, it remains unclear, at this time, if the entire General Assembly will be engaged in such a bipartisan process. If not, I will evaluate what options are at my disposal to ensure Pennsylvanians get the fair map they deserve under our constitution,” Wolf said.
Given the considerable power over the midterm election the new map is expected to play, both parties are heavily invested in its outcome.
The court ruling calls for a new map to be in place by Feb. 19. And the clock is ticking. The filing deadline in the state is March 6 and candidates have to gather signatures to fill out the petitions in the districts they plan to run in. Once they know the districts.
“All bets are off,” said pollster G. Terry Madonna of the Franklin and Marshall College about what the districts will look like when the new map is out.
There is a small possibility there could be a lawmaker versus lawmaker matchup.
One of the big battles is expected in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the neighboring 6th and 7th Congressional Districts. The 7th Congressional District, which wiggles and winds around Philadelphia and its surround area, is nicknamed “Goofy kicking Donald Duck” because of the odd way that it’s drawn.
That district is represented by Rep. Pat Meehan, who is retiring, so even if the district is combined with Rep. Ryan Costello’s 6th district next door it wouldn’t be a Republican member vs. a Republican member in November.
Both of those seats are expected to be Democratic targets though.
There is also talk about the southwest part of the state, in the area around Pittsburgh — the 18th and the 12th Congressional Districts.
The 18th Congressional District was represented by Tim Murphy, who resigned. Complicating matters, the special election for his seat is March 13 and is under the old congressional map.
But whoever wins will run for re-election in November under the new map. And, depending on how the lines are drawn, could find themselves running against Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus, who represents the neighboring 12th Congressional District, if the districts are somehow intermingled.
Another district Democrats are expected to target is that of retiring Republican Rep. Charlie Dent. His 15th congressional district stretches across several counties in the Lehigh Valley area outside of Harrisburg.
Dent told ABC News on Thursday that said he could see his seat in play in November under a new map.
Dent, who won with the 58 percent in 2016 in the GOP-leaning district said: “My seat will probably become an even district.”
But for lawmakers seeking re-election and those candidates who want to file to run, it comes down to one thing:
“I just want to find out what the district lines are,” Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., told ABC News.
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