Timley state court decisions create once in decade pickup opportunities in U.S. House
Pennsylvania is key to Democratic chances of capturing majority control of the House of Representatives. Governor Tom Wolf is the only Democratic Governor seeking re-election in a state carried by Donald Trump. The State Supreme Court overturned Republican Gerrymandering in 2018, creating a host of new competitive seats. Democratic victories are necessary to continue fair maps through 2030.
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The top priorities in Pennsylvania are:
1. Win the Governor's race, where Tom Wolf is the only incumbent Democrat seeking re-election from a state that Donald Trump carried in 2016;
2. Take advantage of newly-drawn maps that create the best opportunities for Congressional gains in at least a decade;
3. Break a Republican supermajority in the State Senate in 2018 (only one victory is necessary), as Democrats have a more favorable landscape now than in 2020;
4. Flip control of the State House, starting with 19 Republican-held seats in districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Pennsylvania has a very conservative legislature that is reeling from recent losses in redistricting court cases. Republicans will be eager to re-gerrymander these maps in 2022, which makes it imperative that Tom Wolf wins re-election as Governor. Wolf is the only incumbent Democratic Governor seeking re-election in a state carried by Trump, and Republican Scott Wagner is an ardent supporter of Trump; Wolf’s re-election would be a strong repudiation of the Trump administration in general.
Democrats need to win just one seat in order to break a Republican supermajority in the State Senate. There are several good pickup opportunities, including SD-6 (State Rep. Tina Davis has represented the area since 2011) and SD-38 (where a long-term moderate Republican was defeated in a 2018 Primary by a right-wing Republican candidate in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016).
Democrats represent just 82 of Pennsylvania’s 203 State House Districts, but a fast turnaround is possible with the right investments in 2018. Republicans currently hold 19 State House seats in districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Democrats are running a number of strong candidates -- including several women.
Pennsylvania voters consistently back Democratic candidates in statewide elections, but thanks to Republican redistricting shenanigans in 2011, the state’s Congressional delegation is overwhelmingly conservative. The State Supreme Court opened the door for immediate change in 2018 when it invalidated the previous gerrymandered maps, but without Democratic gains in November – starting with the re-election of Gov. Tom Wolf -- Republicans will be looking to repeat their redistricting efforts through the year 2030.
The road to a Democratic majority in Congress begins, and ends, in Pennsylvania. Democrats may be able to re-take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, but not if several Pennsylvania seats don’t switch hands in 2018.
Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature, including a supermajority in the State Senate. This is the year for change in the upper chamber of the legislature; only half of Pennsylvania’s State Senate seats are on the ballot this cycle, and Republicans have a better road to re-election in 2020.
No other state in the country represents a better current example of the destructive power of gerrymandering than Pennsylvania. In 2011, Republicans used majority control of the state legislature and the Governor’s office to redraw maps that paid immediate dividends. Over the next three election cycles, Republican candidates won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 Congressional seats at the same time that Democrats were winning 75% of statewide offices; Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation could hardly have been more at odds with the general statewide electorate, with zero women and only one person of color among the 18 districts.
In January 2018, the State Supreme Court (operating under a Democratic majority) made national headlines when it threw out these severely-gerrymandered maps. Two months later, Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election under newly-drawn boundaries in PA-18. Democrats are now poised to pick up 3-5 additional seats in November, which would return Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to a Democratic majority more reflective of overall voter sentiment in the state.
Pennsylvania is still very much at risk of returning to the gerrymandered mess that marked the first half of the decade. If Democrats do not hold the Governor’s office in 2018 and make inroads in the state legislature over the next two cycles, Republicans will be able to once again re-draw districts in their favor through the year 2030.
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US House Seats
Pennsylvania is in a unique position to make a dramatic switch in the makeup of its Congressional delegation, which is among the nation's largest with 18 members. Thanks to redistricting lawsuits decided in early 2018 that overturned gerrymandered maps, several Democrats are poised to flip a number of Republican-held seats.
Hillary Clinton carried 25 Republican-held House Districts in 2016 – four of which are in Pennsylvania (PA-1, PA-5, PA-6, PA-7). Democrats also won in two House Districts (PA-8, PA-14) that were otherwise carried by Donald Trump.
- PA-7 (Republican): Attorney Susan Wild must win this race in order for Democrats to retake control of the House of Representatives. This newly-drawn district is a swing seat in the truest sense. When Republican incumbent Charlie Dent decided against running for re-election, PA-7 instantly became the most important pickup opportunity for Democrats in Pennsylvania. Republican candidate Marty Nothstein is considered to be a tough opponent.
- PA-5 (Republican): Prior to the 2018 redistricting, this seat (formerly PA-7) was considered to be one of the most egregiously-gerrymandered districts in the country. The new district makeup is much more compact and evenly-divided, representing a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats. Mary Gay Scanlon won a 10-way Democratic Primary in impressive fashion, beating her closest opponent by 13 points. Scanlon is a nationally-recognized attorney, perhaps best known for defending students with disabilities.
- PA-10 (Republican): Democrat George Scott is a military veteran and a pastor whose background speaks well to residents of this rural district.Republican Scott Perry has peddled disgusting conspiracy theories and stoked racist impulses in the GOP; he has alleged that ISIS was behind the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.