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Pennsylvania: Redistricting Claims Another Victim as Holden Falls to Cartwright

Rep. Tim Holden (above) will not return for an 11th term after losing to Matt Cartwright in a primary tonight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Tim Holden (above) will not return for an 11th term after losing to Matt Cartwright in a primary tonight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 11:26 p.m. | A decade after Rep. Tim Holden (Pa.) beat the odds in a redistricting cycle by defeating a GOP colleague, the Blue Dog lost a Democratic primary tonight as a result of the decennial redrawing process.

Attorney Matt Cartwright easily defeated Holden in the redrawn 17th district, making him the second incumbent to lose re-election this cycle without being defeated by another Member. With 80 percent of the vote counted, Cartwright led 59 percent to 41 percent.

When Republicans redrew the Congressional map late last year, they stretched Holden’s district into the northeast corner of the state, packing in the Democratic strongholds of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. As a result, Holden sought re-election in a district that included almost 80 percent new turf for the 20-year incumbent.

In addition to spending some of his personal wealth on the race, Cartwright is a well-known personality in Pennsylvania’s twin cities. He appeared five days a week on a local news show to offer legal advice for the past seven years, plus his law firm aired commercials in the Scranton media market for more than a decade.

     Updated 11:26 p.m.

Cartwright spent almost $400,000 of his own money to fund his first bid for elected office. His cash plus large ad buys from outside groups, including the League of Conservation Voters and the Campaign for Primary Accountability super PAC, meant Holden was outspent in the primary. The two groups together spent more than $400,000 to defeat Holden.

Over the past decade Holden has been viewed as politically invincible as he has easily held a reliably Republican district. It was a district drawn to favor then-Rep. George Gekas (R) in 2002, but Holden came from behind to pull out a victory.

The redrawn 17th district is a safe Democratic seat, and Cartwright will be the next Member of Congress elected to represent it in all likelihood.

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