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Fitzpatrick Targeted in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has yet to finalize its new Congressional lines, but some Democrats are already talking up their chances of knocking off Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) next year.

At least one local Democratic officeholder, Doylestown Township Supervisor Cynthia Philo, is exploring a run.

The district’s overall demographic, centered in suburban Philadelphia’s Bucks County, isn’t expected to change radically when the map is redrawn, and Philo confirmed last week she might seek the Democratic nomination.

“I am considering it, yes,” Philo said. “I’m looking at all the possibilities there. We need someone to focus on getting jobs created here.”

As part of her consideration, Philo confirmed she would be attending a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee candidate orientation session today in Washington, D.C. “I will be there,” she said.

Philo is the former executive director of the Old City District in Philadelphia, the neighborhood economic development organization for the historic section of the city. That experience with local economic development is part of the appeal for some Pennsylvania Democratic political operatives.

“Old City’s renewal is a local success story that she played a big part in. Everyone’s talking jobs right now, but Cynthia has spent a big chunk of her career fully dedicated to helping local businesses open, thrive and, yes, create jobs,” said John Blankstein of Market Street Strategies.

Philo ran for a Bucks County-based state Senate seat last year against incumbent Republican Chuck McIlhinney. She lost 60 percent to 40 percent.

Still, she appears to have a surplus of goodwill from local Democrats who feel she’ll have good support for a run.

“People in the region, Bucks County, know her work and know her personally and feel very comfortable with her,” said Vincent Rongione, a Pennsylvania political consultant.

“Especially in this kind of atmosphere in Washington that’s so divisive, people like the idea of someone they know who can work with both sides,” Rongione said.

Before she turns her full attention to any Congressional race, though, she has her own re-election race in Doylestown Township to tend to next month.

Another Democrat whose name has circulated as a possibility is Diane Marseglia, a Bucks County commissioner.

The Congressional race in Pennsylvania has been slow to develop, partly because the redistricting process isn’t complete, according to political operatives in the commonwealth and in Washington.

Fitzpatrick is among the House Republicans considered potentially vulnerable. He served one term before losing to Democrat Patrick Murphy by about 1,500 votes in the 2006 Democratic wave. He reclaimed his seat by defeating Murphy in last year’s Republican wave by 7 points. In 2008, the current district voted for President Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), 54 percent to 45 percent.

For his part, Murphy has turned his attention statewide and is running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

A Democratic operative in Washington, D.C., confirmed that Fitzpatrick is a prime target in the party’s quest to retake the House majority.

Before Fitzpatrick has to worry about a Democrat in the general election, he’s getting some heat from the right wing and might have a primary fight on his hands. Jennifer Stefano, a staffer for Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers-affiliated advocacy group, is considering challenging Fitzpatrick for the Republican nomination.

The chatter about a possible Stefano run picked up last month after Fitzpatrick voted against a GOP bill that would have restricted the authority of the National Labor Relations Board. His vote might have been more in tune with the moderate politics of the district, but conservatives did not take kindly to it.

The conservative blog “Bucks Right” reacted to the speculation about Stefano with the following post: “Everyone knows Mike Fitzpatrick’s pattern. Post-election, Mike Fitzpatrick is RINO Mike. But pre-election, especially during primary season, Mike Fitzpatrick turns into Tea Party Mike. So, in my book, a viable challenger from the right that keeps Fitzpatrick in ‘Tea Party Mike’ campaign mode for as much of his two-year term as possible is a good thing.”

“The district is neither far left nor far right. … Congressman Fitzpatrick is a fiercely independent advocate for his constituents, a proven fund-raiser and a popular former county commissioner,” a spokesman for Fitzpatrick said.

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