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Race ratings show Republicans positioned for pickups in Pennsylvania

GOP may net two seats even after losing one to reapportionment

Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright's reelection race in Pennsylvania is rated a Toss-up this year.
Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright's reelection race in Pennsylvania is rated a Toss-up this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Pennsylvania is no stranger to redistricting. Unlike the vast majority of states, the Keystone State didn’t wait a full decade to implement new lines thanks to a court challenge. The latest map and political dynamic give Republicans an opportunity to pick up seats if the midterm elections continue to trend their way. 

The 9-9 split in Pennsylvania’s House delegation matches Joe Biden’s narrow victory over President Donald Trump in 2020. But considering midterm elections are typically a referendum on the president and Biden’s job approval rating sits between mediocre and terrible, Republicans could shift the balance of power in the delegation.

Pennsylvania went through redistricting prior to the 2018 elections after the state Supreme Court threw out the map drawn by Republicans following the 2010 census and used in three election cycles. This time around, the courts stepped in after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the map drawn by the Republican majorities in the legislature and chose a map proposed by the Democratic plaintiffs.

[More House race ratings | Initial Senate race ratings]

Under the right conditions, Republicans could enjoy a net gain of two seats out of Pennsylvania. The party basically absorbed Pennsylvania’s loss of a seat due to reapportionment (noted by GOP Rep. Fred Keller’s retirement) but could take over Democratic seats in the 7th, 8th and 17th Districts. Republicans need a net gain of five seats nationwide to capture the majority. 

The action isn’t limited to the general election, however. Three Democrats are running to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle in the new 12th District. Biden would have won the Pittsburgh-anchored seat by nearly 20 points, so the race is rated Solid Democratic and the real fight is in the primary. Former Pennsylvania Department of Banking & Securities Commissioner Steve Irwin, state Rep. Summer Lee and University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson are in the mix.

1st District (Brian Fitzpatrick, R)

A perennial Democratic target since his initial win in 2016, Fitzpatrick has won in worse political environments (specifically 2018) and in 2020, when Biden won his suburban Philadelphia seat by 5 points. The 1st is effectively unchanged after redistricting, and Biden is likely to be a drag on Democratic candidates around the country. 

Ashley Ehasz, a former Apache helicopter pilot and Deloitte consultant with degrees from West Point and Oxford, looks like the likely Democratic nominee. Fitzpatrick can’t take his race for granted, but there’s little reason to believe he’ll lose in a favorable midterm cycle for the GOP. Initial rating: Likely Republican.

7th District (Susan Wild, D)

Wild won a second term by less than 4 points in 2020. Now she’s running for reelection in a newly drawn seat that is less Democratic and in a cycle that is likely to be more Republican. Biden won the old 7th by 5 points but would have won the new 7th by less than 1 point. Republican Lisa Scheller, who lost to Wild last cycle, is back for a rematch and is considered one of the GOP’s top candidates in the country. Initial rating: Toss-up.

8th District (Matt Cartwright, D)

The district got a little better for the congressman, but he’s certainly not in the clear considering the overall political environment. Trump won his current district by 5 points in 2020 and would have secured a 3-point victory under the new lines. That’s still a very challenging seat to hold at a time when Democrats are going to struggle to hold on in districts Biden carried by at least a handful of points. Former Trump administration official Jim Bognet lost to Cartwright 52 percent to 48 percent in 2020 and is back for a rematch. If Republicans can’t finally knock off Cartwright under these circumstances, then they aren’t having as great a cycle as they expect to have. Initial rating: Toss-up.

17th District (Open; Conor Lamb, D)

Lamb would have had a tough reelection race in this western Pennsylvania district that Biden would have won by just less than 6 points in 2020. Democrats will have an even tougher time holding the seat, considering Lamb is leaving the House to run for the Senate.

Navy veteran and voting rights attorney Chris Deluzio and Victory Fund adviser Sean Meloy are running on the Democratic side. Former Ross County Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, 2018 lieutenant governor candidate Kathleen Coder and former Project Veritas COO Jason Killmeyer are running for the GOP nomination.

Under normal political circumstances, Democrats should hold the seat, but the national environment will likely overcome the typical partisan performance. Initial rating: Tilt Democratic.

Races rated Solid Democratic

Races rated Solid Republican

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.

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