Euphoria is leading to a new problem

Posted by By at 3 November, at 15 : 12 PM Print

As many have commented on, the capture of the Governor’s Mansion, the State House and retention of the State Senate, coupled with a majority GOP Supreme Court, leaves almost the entirety of redistricting in the hands of the GOP. Again.

Scott Paterno

What is interesting is what they will do with it. The conventional wisdom suggested that the Keystone state will continue its decline in clout in the US house and lose at least one seat. It looks promising that it will ONLY be one.

That said, the redrawing of districts got a LOT more appealing last night. 24 months ago the thought was you could put Timmie and Kanjo together, or carve up Dahlkempper, Carney, etc.

But those seats are all freshmen GOP members (Timmie, of course, excluded). So the question becomes – who is on the block?

The fact is the population is dropping center west and growing south central to southeast. The other fact is with Murtha gone, and a serial back-bencher Tim Holden as the dean of the Pa Delegation (my god), the Democrats have almost NO leverage at the table.

In 2002,Murtha still had a ton of influence and could force the GOP to set up the 17th as an allegedly competitive district (it’s not, but it is not uncompetitive in the way the GOP had intended). Tim just doesn’t have anywhere near that clout, especially in a minority party. Now, if he switched, but I digress.

Knowing this, what is the GOP likely to do? I have no idea, but I would not rest too easily if I were Congressman Altmire or Critz.

The much closer than expected races in the 4th and 12th last night, coupled with declining western PA population numbers put these guys squarely in the sights. Altmire’s mere 4000 vote margin in a race he was thought to have sown up the last few weeks – and, more importantly, the breakdown of where he was weakest – make him an easy target. And Critz, with even less seniority and a shakier base, might be standing on the thinnest of ice.

But chopping Johnstown into, say Shuster’s district – a move that the earmark loving Cambria county-ites would welcome with a loving embrace – and fold the southwestern “finger” into an almost unstoppable Murphy takes care of the lost seat. But it does not do enough in terms of the shift.

There is simply more people in the southeast and the northeast, relatively speaking, than there were last cycle. The gains of last night – especially those east of the Susquehanna – have to be carefully redistricted to absorb the locales where the vast majority of 2008’s new democrats live. The fact is it is unavoidable that at least one new gain will be competitive.

Knowing this, however, also opens up the possibility of carving some of Altmire’s Democrats and putting them in with the bulkhead of Murphy (67% — wow), with rural parts of the 4th going into Congressman elect-Kelly’s district. Altmire – weaker than ever as he will not have the benefit of pork barreling his way to re-election in the minority and without a strong Democratic appropriator left in the delegation – can thus be taken out, as well.

By essentially taking out your two weakest western PA democrats, the GOP can guard against a potential loss in the southeast when raw numbers make a competitive seat almost unavoidable. In essence, this could ensure that the overall makeup of the delegation stays the same.

In light of that, one has to wonder if Altmire – who ran away from almost every Democrat anyone has ever heard of – might not be getting a tingling in his ear that he fits better in the majority.

Crazy? No crazier than the swing from 2008 to 2010.

And we are just getting started – only 15 months until the Iowa caucuses.

This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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