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New Pennsylvania Map, New Pennsylvania House Ratings

Six races shift in Democrats’ direction, two in GOP’s favor

Under the new lines, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s district shifted from one carried narrowly by President Donald Trump to one carried narrowly by Hillary Clinton. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Under the new lines, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s district shifted from one carried narrowly by President Donald Trump to one carried narrowly by Hillary Clinton. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If you’ve been wondering what political handicapping is like in a redistricting cycle — or it’s been long enough for you to forget — the Pennsylvania Supreme Court offered a good reminder.

With newly drawn districts, misplaced incumbents and new district numbers, confusion is inevitable. But the bottom line for Pennsylvania is that Democrats had a half-dozen takeover opportunities with the old map and they have a half-dozen takeover opportunities with the new map, although they have a distinctly better chance at gaining those seats.

Pennsylvania alone could deliver a large chunk of the 24 seats Democrats need to retake the House. Republicans won 13 of the state’s 18 congressional districts in 2016, prompting some Democratic outrage considering President Donald Trump only narrowly carried the Keystone State.

The map shifted from 12 districts carried by Trump and six by Hillary Clinton to 10 Trump districts and eight Clinton districts. But the new lines also gave some new territory to Republican incumbents, which could dampen their traditional incumbency advantage.

Watch: The Many Ways to Draw a Gerrymander

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Under the old congressional lines, races for six GOP-held seats were competitive, including five rated Leans Republican (the 6th, 8th, 15th and 16th districts, as well as the 18th District in the March 13 special election). One contest was rated Tilts Democratic (retiring Rep. Patrick Meehan’s open 7th District).

Even though some of the candidate fields are still taking shape under the new lines and Republicans are attempting a last-ditch appeal, we’re operating on the assumption that the new districts (with the new numbers) will be in place for November.

Democratic prospects in six races have improved, including the new:

1st District — from Leans Republican to Tilts Republican

5th District — from Tilts Democratic to Likely Democratic

6th District — from Leans Republican to Tilts Democratic

7th District — from Leans Republican to Tilts Democratic

10th District — from Solid Republican to Likely Republican

17th District — from Solid Republican to Tilts Republican

A couple of districts improved for Republicans. GOP Rep. Lloyd K. Smucker’s seat shifts from Leans Republican to Solid Republican and former Rep. Tim Murphy’s district, which is hosting the March 13 special election, is Solid Republican for the fall. The Republicans’ one takeover opportunity, the race for Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright’s seat, remains Likely Democratic.

“State and federal GOP officials will sue in federal court as soon as tomorrow to prevent the new partisan maps — gerrymandered by a partisan state supreme court — from taking effect,” a GOP source close to the case said Tuesday. “The suit will be grounded on the separation of powers. With this latest ruling, the courts have stepped into the role that is constitutionally charged to the legislature.” According to other GOP sources, that appeal will be filed in federal district court Wednesday morning.

The GOP appeal is viewed as a long shot, so we’re proceeding with new handicapping and ratings under the new court-ordered map. In order to avoid confusion, the following analysis uses the new district numbers, but tries to match up the likely candidates with their best opportunities.

There are some invaluable resources for analyzing the new lines, including the Daily Kos Elections maps and spreadsheet breaking down how much of the old districts are contained within the new district lines, 2016 presidential results from political scientist Brian Amos, and Nate Cohn’s map comparisons for each district for The New York Times.

Of course, the new map is fresh and incumbents and challengers are still making decisions, but here’s a start:

1st District (Brian Fitzpatrick, R)

Clinton over Trump, 49-47 percent.

This suburban Philadelphia district was a takeover target under the old map and got a little better for Democrats under the new lines, shifting from a narrow Trump district to a narrow Clinton district. GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick currently represents 93 percent of the new district, which now includes all of Bucks County and part of Montgomery County. The congressman, who had $1.1 million in the bank on Dec. 31, has been preparing for a competitive race all cycle, and his Democratic opponents are still trying to gain traction. Democratic lawyer and Navy veteran Rachel Reddick ($80,000 cash on hand) has been running, while wealthy investment fund CEO Scott Wallace entered the race more recently and could develop into an interesting challenger.

Rating Change: From Leans Republican to Tilts Republican.

2nd District (Brendan F. Boyle, D)

Clinton over Trump, 73-25 percent.

Democratic Rep. Robert A. Brady’s retirement under a cloud of legal trouble makes this newly drawn Philadelphia seat less complicated for his party. This looks like a natural place for Democratic Rep. Brendan F. Boyle to run, considering he currently represents 50 percent of it. Boyle, who had $765,000 in the bank on Dec. 31, could run in the 4th District as well.

Rating: Solid Democratic.

3rd District (Dwight Evans, D)

Clinton over Trump, 91-7 percent.

The second Philadelphia seat is in no danger of falling into Republican hands. Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans ($103,000 cash on hand at Dec. 31) currently represents 80 percent of the new district.

Rating: Solid Democratic.

4th District (Open)

Clinton over Trump, 58-39 percent.

This new, southeast Pennsylvania district is a composite of Boyle’s district (43 percent), GOP Rep. Ryan A. Costello’s district (27 percent), and Meehan’s district (19 percent). This is likely to stay in Democratic hands while a Republican president is in the White House. But it could become competitive in future cycles. Potential Democratic contenders include former Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, Montgomery County Commission Chairwoman Val Arkoosh, and state Rep. Madeleine Dean.

Rating: Solid Democratic.

5th District (Open)

Clinton over Trump, 63-34 percent.

Meehan currently represents 54 percent of this newly drawn seat, west of Philadelphia, but it has shifted from a competitive district to one that Clinton won handily. It would be a difficult seat for him to hold, but he already announced he wasn’t running for re-election anyway following allegations of sexual misconduct. Any elected Democrat within spitting distance of the seat is likely to take a look, considering a three-month sprint to the May 15 primary might be enough to get elected to Congress.

Rating Change: From Tilts Democratic to Likely Democratic.

6th District (Ryan A. Costello, R)

Clinton over Trump, 53-43 percent.

One of the most dramatic changes involved this district, which now includes all of Chester County and Reading. Clinton narrowly carried Costello’s old seat, 48.2 percent to 47.6 percent, but she took the new 6th by a whopping 10 points. These are not insurmountable re-election odds, considering GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo won re-election in 2016 in a South Florida seat that Clinton carried with 57 percent. But Costello, who had $1.4 million in the bank on Dec. 31, isn’t just facing the challenge of a presidential shift, but also lost some power of the incumbency since he currently represents just half of the new territory. Retired Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan, a former executive of the AND1 athletic wear company, was challenging Costello under the old lines and is considered a top Democratic recruit. (She had $950,000 at the end of the year.) Republicans are at risk of losing a young member and their starting shortstop for the Congressional Baseball Game.

Rating Change: From Leans Republican to Tilts Democratic.

7th District (Open)

Clinton over Trump, 49-48 percent.

Retiring Republican Rep. Charlie Dent currently represents 72 percent of the newly drawn Lehigh Valley district but the partisan makeup has changed fairly significantly. It’s gone from an 8-point Trump district to a 1-point Clinton district. State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie ($204,000 in the bank on Dec. 31) and Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein ($112,000) were the top GOP contenders under the old lines, but Republicans believe Mackenzie might now run for re-election instead. Wealthy venture capitalist John Chrin, who was challenging Cartwright, might choose to run here instead. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli looks like the Democratic front-runner, but former Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (who lost to Dent in 2010) and former Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham will likely take a look.

Rating change: From Leans Republican to Tilts Democratic.

8th District (Matt Cartwright, D)

Trump over Clinton, 53-44 percent.

Republicans had their eye on Cartwright last cycle, and even more now that he represents a Trump district. While the 2016 presidential performance didn’t change all that much under the new map, some GOP sources argue it got better for the congressman considering he swapped out “coal country Republicans” for GOP voters in the northern suburbs of Scranton who should be more open to supporting a Democrat. Cartwright, who had $1.5 million in the bank on Dec. 31, currently represents 48 percent of the newly drawn seat, which includes Scranton and Wilkes-Barre in the northeast corner of the state. Chrin, his current GOP opponent who put in $877,000 of his own money into the race before the end of the year and had $915,000 on hand, could choose to run in the open 7th District. This seat might be more vulnerable in a different political climate but likely not this year.

Rating: Likely Democratic.

9th District (Open)

Trump over Clinton, 65-31 percent.

The Schuylkill County-anchored district was and is firm Republican territory in the central part of the Pennsylvania that Democratic consultant James Carville used to refer to as “Alabama.” The newly drawn district is comprised of nearly a quarter each from the districts of Cartwright (28 percent), retiring GOP Rep. Lou Barletta (27 percent), and Costello (23 percent). That’s why there is some talk that Costello could run for re-election here rather than in the more Democratic 6th. Barletta is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

Rating: Solid Republican.

10th District (Scott Perry, R)

Trump over Clinton, 52-43 percent.

Rep. Scott Perry lives in the newly drawn district but currently represents 60 percent of it, so he could potentially challenge Smucker in the GOP primary in the new 11th District. Trump carried the Harrisburg-area district by 9 points, but Perry could experience problems considering he is from York, at the southern end of the new district. The congressman had $374,000 in the bank on Dec. 31. Democrats might need a top-tier recruit, such as state Auditor Eugene DePasquale of York, to make this a race.

Rating Change: From Solid Republican to Likely Republican.

11th District (Lloyd K. Smucker, R)

Trump over Clinton, 61-35 percent.

Smucker ($200,000 in cash on hand on Dec. 31) has proved to be a mediocre fundraiser as an incumbent, inspiring some spirited Democratic challengers to run, but he’s arguably the biggest GOP beneficiary of the new map. He lost Reading to Costello, transforming his 51 percent Trump district to a 61 percent Trump district. It’s possible that Perry (who represents 26 percent of the new district) challenges Smucker (69 percent) in the GOP primary, but Perry would have a tough time as a York County politician in a Lancaster-based district. The new lines are also a big blow to Smucker’s previous Democratic challengers Christina Hartman ($219,000) and Jess King ($146,000).

Rating Change: From Leans Republican to Solid Republican.

12th District (Tom Marino, R)

Trump over Clinton, 66-30 percent.

At one point last year, it looked like Republican Rep. Tom Marino would join the Trump administration. But he withdrew his name and announced he would run for re-election. Now he’s found himself in a newly drawn district in the north central part of the state. The congressman had $198,000 in the bank on Dec. 31 and currently represents 68 percent of the Williamsport-area seat.

Rating: Solid Republican.

13th District (Open)

Trump over Clinton, 71-26 percent.

GOP Rep. Bill Shuster represents 53 percent of this newly drawn district, but previously announced he was not running for re-election. With a Trump winning margin of 45 points here, there is little chance Democrats take over this southern district, which includes Altoona and Breezewood (home to arguably the worst highway interchange in the country).

Rating: Solid Republican.

14th District (Vacant)

Trump over Clinton, 63-34 percent.

This is where things get complicated. The March 13 special election in the current 18th District is being conducted under the old lines and is rated Leans Republican. The old 18th makes up 57 percent of the new 14th. It looks like a natural place for GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone to run for re-election (if he wins next month), even though he lives in Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle’s district. And the newly drawn 14th District went for Trump by a larger margin than the seat where the special election is taking place. If Democrat Conor Lamb wins the special election, he’s more likely to run in the 17th District, a more Democratic seat where he lives and where GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus will likely run.

Rating: Solid Republican for November.

15th District (Glenn Thompson, R)

Trump over Clinton, 70-27 percent.

There isn’t much to see here. Republican Rep. Glenn Thompson currently represents 57 percent of the newly drawn district, where Trump received 70 percent of the vote. The congressman had $373,000 in the bank on Dec. 31.

Rating: Solid Republican.

16th District (Mike Kelly, R)

Trump over Clinton, 58-38 percent.

GOP Rep. Mike Kelly currently represents 81 percent of this northwest district, which now unites Erie County. Democrats will naturally look to Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper to run. She served one term in Congress before losing to Kelly in 2010. Erie attorney Ron DiNicola, who lost a close race to GOP Rep. Phil English in 1996, could also run. Kelly had $1.3 million in the bank on Dec. 31. The court ordered counties to remain intact when at all possible, but Butler County, Kelly’s base, was divided into the 15th, 16th, and 17th districts. This race could develop in the strongest of Democratic waves.

Rating: Solid Republican.

17th District (Keith Rothfus, R)

Trump over Clinton, 49-47 percent.

If there is a second Democratic district in western Pennsylvania, this would be it. Rothfus currently represents 56 percent of the newly drawn seat, but Lamb could run here, whether he wins or loses the 18th District special election on March 13. This seat contains 20 percent of that vacant district. Rothfus had $1.2 million in the bank on Dec. 31 but would see his district shift from a 59 percent Trump seat to a 49 percent Trump one.

Rating Change: From Solid Republican to Tilts Republican.

18th District (Mike Doyle, D)

Clinton over Trump, 62-35 percent.

Democrat Mike Doyle represents 76 percent of the newly drawn Pittsburgh district. He had $257,000 cash on hand at the end of the year and will win re-election.

Rating: Solid Democratic.

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