Pennsylvania Happenings

There have been some new developments in a plethora of races in DDHQ’s favorite state. DDHQ contributor Jeff Ditzler provided me with a rundown while I’ve been watching the Alabama runoff.

U.S. Senate: U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R) is officially a candidate to challenge Sen. Bob Casey (D) in next year’s Senate election.  Barletta, with his staunch opposition to illegal immigration and appeal to white blue-collar voters, has a lot of parallels with President Trump, which could bring national attention to this race if he’s the nominee.  Barletta, though, isn’t likely to get out of the Republican primary without a fight.  The tastefully named Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer from the Philadelphia suburbs, has already launched an ad accusing Barletta of being a career politician, which GOP chairs in the counties in Barletta’s district denounced.  There’s precedent for a Bartos upset: in 2012, the state party endorsed Steve Welch, a venture capitalist from Chester County, to challenge Casey, only to see him lose the primary to Tom Smith, a coal mine owner from Armstrong County who outspent Welch on advertising.

Lieutenant Governor: When I covered this race for DDHQ back in June, incumbent Mike Stack (D) was in hot water but didn’t have any primary challengers with experience in public office.  Since then, Kathi Cozzone, one of the Chester County commissioners, has announced her candidacy, and Braddock mayor and former U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman has confirmed he’s considering running.  Cozzone might not be the best choice to reach the blue-collar voters who have been moving away from the Democrats in recent cycles; among Pennsylvania counties, Chester is the wealthiest and the only one to flip from supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016 while the rest of Pennsylvania was going the other way.  Fetterman, the mayor of an economically depressed industrial town outside Pittsburgh, is a more intuitive choice.  Given Fetterman’s media savvy, though, he might create the worst case of a second banana overshadowing the top of the ticket since Theodore Roosevelt was William McKinley’s running mate:

8th Congressional District: Just when we thought the retirement of Congressman Charlie Dent meant Pennsylvania wouldn’t have any challenges to its incumbent Congressmen, Dean Malik, a veteran and former prosecutor who briefly ran for the seat in 2016, has announced he is exploring whether to challenge Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.  Malik’s challenge, like the one Justin Simmons launched against Dent, is based on what he sees as the incumbent’s insufficient support of the Trump administration.  The Eighth District, which covers Bucks County and a Republican-leaning part of neighboring Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia suburbs, was less pro-Trump last year than the Fifteenth, and Fitzpatrick has been less vocal in opposition to Trump than Dent was, although he did vote against the Obamacare repeal.

10th Congressional District: After turning down the job a few months ago, Congressman Tom Marino will be joining the Trump Administration as the new Drug Czar.  Decision Desk HQ already covered this district’s demographics the first time it looked like it was going to become open.  Since this will be a special election, I recommend this writeup of the process Republican committee members will choose the nominee and this one for the Democrats (given the district’s heavy GOP lean, the Republican will start out as the favorite) and this analysis of who the candidates might be.   Of course, if a candidate feels snubbed by the committee, he or she might launch a primary challenge when the seat is up for its regular election next year.

11th Congressional District: With Lou Barletta officially in the race for Senate, attention is turning to the race to replace him in the House of Representatives.  Stephen Bloom, a state representative from Carlisle, and Dan Meuser, a Luzerne County businessman who formerly served as state Secretary of Revenue, are formally running for the Republican nomination.  Joe Peters, a former federal prosecutor from Wyoming County, and Andrew Lewis, an Iraq veteran and businessman from suburban Harrisburg, are also considering running.  For what it’s worth (probably not much), Lewis won a PoliticsPA reader poll on who would be the strongest candidate.  The only Democrat to announce a bid so far is Alan Howe, an Air Force veteran from Carlisle, but attorney and 2012 nominee Bill Vinsko, former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff, and state Senator John Yudichak have expressed an interest.

18th Congressional District: The Eighteenth District, running from the Pittsburgh suburbs to the state’s southwestern corner, did not receive any attention until incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy admitted to having an extramarital affair.  Originally one of two Pittsburgh-based districts, the Eighteenth became a wild gerrymander in the 2002 that included Republican suburban and rural areas south of Pittsburgh, and the area’s Republican trend allowed the district to be drawn more neatly in 2011 while remaining safely Republican.   There’s no sign yet that Rep. Murphy’s recent problems will affect the election (politicians have survived worse), but if Democrats can make this seat competitive, it will be an indication that they are regaining their appeal in their former strongholds.