House Dems see chance for big gains in Pennsylvania

House Dems see chance for big gains in Pennsylvania
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Pennsylvania could see a dramatic change in its congressional delegation beginning Tuesday, with at least six of its 18 House districts changing hands.

New congressional district lines combined with retirements and political turmoil in the Trump era have Democrats hoping to make sizable gains in a lopsided delegation that now includes five Democrats and 13 Republicans.

One Pennsylvania GOP source closely watching the House races said if Democrats run the table in November, they could take control of the House delegation, winning 10 of the 18 seats.

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“Pennsylvania is very much in play with this new map. On a great night for the Democrats, they could be at 10-8 or 9-9,” the GOP source said.

The shift could start Tuesday with the special election to replace GOP Rep. Tim MurphyTim MurphyJordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain Saccone loses GOP primary comeback bid in Pa. Nearly half of voters hope for Dems to win majority in 2018: poll MORE, who resigned in the fall after reports that the married, anti-abortion rights congressman urged his mistress to get an abortion.

Polls show Democrat Conor Lamb with a lead over Republican Rick Saccone in a historically deep-red district that Trump won by nearly 20 points and that has been in GOP hands for close to two decades.

A new state congressional district map was put in place after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined the previous lines were a case of partisan gerrymandering that violated the state’s constitution.

It has left Democrats with opportunities across the state.

Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentGOP House candidate placed on leave from longtime position after sexual misconduct allegation Election handicapper moves GOP leader's race to 'toss-up' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Pa.), an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, is retiring from a district that forecasters predict will be picked up by Democrats. So is House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterHouse and Senate negotiators reach agreement on water infrastructure bill Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure It’s high time for a discussion on infrastructure MORE, though his district is considered safe for the GOP.

Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaPoll: Democrats hold big leads in Pennsylvania Senate, governor races Obama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Poll: Pennsylvania Democrats surging with double-digit leads MORE, an ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE, is running for the Senate, while GOP Rep. Pat MeehanPatrick (Pat) Leo MeehanUS athletics watchdog closes probe into GOP House hopeful Dems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus MORE isn’t seeking a fifth term amid sexual harassment allegations. Barletta’s seat is likely to stay in GOP hands, but Democrats are favored to win Meehan’s seat given the new map.  

Rep. Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloDems eyeing smaller magic number for House majority House GOP starts summer break on a note of friction Overnight Energy: Proposed rule would roll back endangered species protections | House passes Interior, EPA spending | House votes to disavow carbon tax MORE (R-Pa.) has seen his suburban district shift toward Democrats under the new lines, leaving him with a challenging road to a third term.

The GOP source suggested that Costello is a goner unless the map changes.

“The Costello seat is totally f----- if the new map holds because Hillary [Clinton] would have won it by 9 points,” the GOP source said. “He knows that.”

Costello largely agreed with that assessment. “It’s intended to take me out,” he told The Hill on Monday. The state Supreme Court justices who ruled the GOP-drawn 2011 map was unfair and unconstitutional are “corrupt and have earned the right to now be impeached.”

Democrats are bullish about their chances of picking off not only Costello, but Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickSinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests Congress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms MORE in the Philadelphia suburbs.

“Right now our delegation is 13 to five, Republican. I think it will become either 10-eight Republican, or nine to nine in November,” said Rep. Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightRyan, lawmakers call on Catholic Church leaders to come clean Mellman: When attack ads cross the line Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (D-Pa.).

The spate of Pennsylvania veterans fleeing Washington also means the state will lose seniority, influence and power on Capitol Hill.

As chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs, Dent controls $90 billion in government funding, while Shuster’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gavel has given him enormous sway to decide which highways, ports and other projects around the country get funded and built.

It’s not just Republicans retiring either. Rep. Robert Brady, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, is also leaving Congress after 11 terms.

 “We’ll lose a lot of seniority, obviously. I have the Appropriations subcommittee chair, Shuster is chairman of Transportation, Brady is ranking member of Administration, Meehan is fairly senior on Ways and Means,” Dent, who was first elected in 2004, told The Hill. “It took a long time to build this level of influence within the delegation in the House. Now, we’re going back to fewer members who will have less seniority, and ultimately less influence on some of these discussions.

The state is also losing distinctive veteran personalities who’ve tapped their influence to become national advocates for the state.

“Shuster, Dent and Bob BradyRobert (Bob) A. BradyAmericans connect with government at the library – so fix the Federal Depository Library Program Forget term limits — retirements will create competitive 2018 elections House Dems see chance for big gains in Pennsylvania MORE all have sort of their own unique brands,” said Costello. “In the case of Meehan and Barletta, regionally, they are big deals. You’re going to have a third of commonwealth voters at a minimum having someone new represent them.”

State Republicans hoping to preserve the old district lines have petitioned to have the new map annulled. The Supreme Court dismissed an earlier entreaty from those same GOP lawmakers in Harrisburg, but a panel of federal judges heard their case Friday, without indicating when they’d pass down a ruling.

Costello, who now represents the affluent suburbs north and west of Philadelphia, believes the new map will be thrown out. But if that map is upheld, it’d be very difficult for him to win reelection, he acknowledged.   

“If the new map comes into place, the Philadelphia suburban Republican — they really look to make us extinct with that map,” Costello said.

This isn’t the first time the Pennsylvania delegation will have suffered such a dramatic shake-up. In 2000, Shuster’s father, then-Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.), and then-Education Committee Chairman Bill Goodling (R-Pa.) retired from Congress; then-Science Chairman Bob Walker (R-Pa.), a former chief deputy whip, left two years earlier.