9 Things to Know about Pennsylvania’s 7th District Race

by Nathan L. Gonzales January 22, 2018 · 12:00 PM EST

Republican Rep. Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania is the latest Member hit with allegations of sexual misconduct, putting his suburban Philadelphia seat at even more risk of a Democratic takeover. 

GOP Leadership removed Meehan from the Ethics Committee within hours of the initial New York Times report that he used funds from his personal office to settle a sexual harassment complaint with a former member of his staff. The congressman denies wrongdoing.

It’s unclear whether Meehan will resign, retire, or run for re-election, but initially it looks like the leadership of his party is giving him some breathing room. “Any further action or comment will come pending a full and prompt investigation by the Ethics Committee,” said AshLee Strong, Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman.

Meehan’s 7th District is the type of suburban seat that would likely be a nightmare for Republicans to hold in a special election or in November based on the current enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans and circumstances surrounding this particular vacancy.

At a minimum, the seat is more vulnerable than it was a couple days ago. Innocence until proven guilty is no longer the default position in this environment and Meehan’s use of taxpayer dollars is tailor-made for Democratic attacks. But until more facts of the situation become known and Meehan makes a final decision, it’s hard to handicap the race. It’s also unclear whether Meehan staying or going would help the GOP’s cause. He’s locked down the competitive seat for years, but his political stock will depend on how the complaint plays out in the public and if more accusers come forward.

  • Geography: The 7th District sits in the western Philadelphia suburbs and includes most of Delaware County and parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lancaster counties. It was drawn by Republicans to elect a Republican, under most circumstances.
  • Recent presidential results: Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump 49-47 percent in 2016; Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama 50-49 percent in 2012, according to Daily Kos Elections.
  • Other election results: Also in 2016, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey defeated Democrat Katie McGinty, 53-45 percent, and Republican candidates for attorney general (52 percent), auditor (52 percent), and treasurer (50 percent) were also victorious, according to J. Miles Coleman of Decision Desk HQ
  • Demographics: 84 percent non-Hispanic white; 43 percent bachelor’s degree or higher; median age 42.6 
  • Inside Elections rating: Change from Likely Republican to Lean Republican, until circumstances play out and Meehan’s fate is decided. 
  • Filing Deadline: March 6 with a May 15 primary. If Meehan resigns, there could potentially be a different filing deadline, but local party leaders choose nominees instead of a special primary.
  • The Incumbent: Patrick Meehan, 62, was first elected in 2010. He’s a former U.S. attorney and Delaware County district attorney who was previously GOP Sen. Rick Santorum’s campaign manager in 1994 and a professional hockey referee.
  • Potential Republican Field: Should Meehan retire or resign, state Sen. Tom McGarrigle is potential candidate.
  • Democratic Field: As explained by Bridget Bowman of Roll Call, sexual harassment allegations had already upended the race on the Democratic side. State Sen. Daylin Leach, a top challenger, faced his own allegations of inappropriate conduct. Leach said following the allegations that he would be taking a step back from the congressional campaign. Attorney/2016 2nd District candidate Dan Muroff, IT consultant Drew McGinty, medical research scientist Molly Sheehan, real estate broker Elizabeth Moro and others were already running. Former CIA officer Shelly Chauncey was planning to run before the Times story and officially announced this week. It’s possible other potential challengers reconsider their options, particularly if there is a special election.