New Pennsylvania Map, New Pennsylvania House Ratings

by Nathan L. Gonzales February 20, 2018 · 5:15 PM EST

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 along could deliver a large chunk of the 24 seats Democrats need for a majority. Currently, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the congressional delegation, 13-5, prompting some Democratic outrage considering Donald Trump narrowly carried the Keystone State in 2016. 

The map shifted from 12 districts carried by Donald Trump and six districts carried 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.  

Under the old congressional lines, six GOP-held districts were competitive, including five rated as Lean Republican (the 6th, 8th, 15th and 16th districts, as well as the 18th District in the March 13 special election) and one as Tilt Democratic (Pat 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 that the new districts (with the new numbers) will be in place for 2018. 

Democratic prospects in six races improved, including:

  • 1st District- from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican
  • 5th District- from Tilt Democratic to Likely Democratic
  • 6th District- from Lean Republican to Tilt Democratic
  • 7th District- from Lean Republican to Tilt Democratic
  • 10th District- from Solid Republican to Likely Republican
  • 17th District- from Solid Republican to Tilt Republican

A couple districts improved for Republicans. GOP Rep. Lloyd Smucker’s seat shifts from Lean Republican to Solid Republican and former Rep. Tim Murphy’s seat, which is hosting the March 13 special election, is Solid Republican for the fall election. Republicans’ one takeover opportunity, Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, 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,” according to a GOP source close to the case, “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 the 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. The congressman currently represents 93 percent of the new district, which now includes all of Bucks County and part of Montgomery County. Fitzpatrick, 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 attorney 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: Move from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican.

2nd District. (Brendan Boyle, D). Clinton over Trump 73-25 percent.
Democratic Rep. Bob Brady’s retirement under a cloud of legal trouble makes this newly-drawn Philadelphia seat less complicated for the Democratic Party. This looks like a natural place for Democratic Rep. Brendan 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 the end of the year) currently represents 80 percent of the new district. Rating: Solid Democratic.

4th District. (Open; Brendan Boyle, D). Clinton over Trump 58-39 percent.
This new, southeast Pennsylvania district is a composite of Boyle’s district (43 percent), GOP Rep. Ryan Costello’s district (27 percent), and retiring GOP Rep. Patrick 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 Schwartz, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Val Arkoosh, and state Rep. Madeleine Dean. Rating: Solid Democratic. 

5th District (Open; Patrick Meehan, R). Clinton over Trump 63-34 percent.
Meehan currently represents 54 percent of this newly-draw 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 Meehan previously announced he wasn’t running for re-election anyway after 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 primary might be enough to get elected to Congress. Rating Change: From Tilt Democratic to Likely Democratic.

6th District (Ryan 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, 48.2-47.6 percent, but Clinton carried the new 6th by a whopping 10 points. It’s 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 Lean Republican to Tilt Democratic.

7th District (Open; Charlie Dent, R). Clinton over Trump 49-48 percent.
The retiring congressman currently represents 72 percent of the newly-drawn Lehigh Valley district but the partisanship 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. Wealth venture capitalist John Chrin, who was challenging Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright, might choose to run here instead. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli looks like the Democratic frontrunner, 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 Lean Republican to Tilt 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. Republican Chrin 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 for now, still Likely Democratic.

9th District. (Open; Lou Barletta, R). Trump over Clinton 65-31 percent.
The Schuylkill County-anchored district was and is firm Republican territory in the central part of the Pennsylvania Democratic consultant James Carville used to refer to as “Alabama.” The newly-drawn district is comprised of nearly a quarter each from Cartwright’s (28 percent), Barletta (27 percent), and Costello’s (23 percent) districts. That’s why there is some talk that Costello could run for re-election here rather than in the more Democratic 6th District. Barletta is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. Rating: Solid Republican.

10th District. (Scott Perry, R). Trump over Clinton 52-43 percent
Perry lives in the newly-drawn district but currently represents 60 percent of it, so he could potentially challenge fellow Rep. Lloyd 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, in 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 Smucker, R). Trump over Clinton 61-35 percent.
Smucker ($200,000 cash on hand on Dec. 31) has proven 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. Smucker 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 seat. 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 Lean Republican to Solid Republican. 

12th District. (Tom Marino, R). Trump over Clinton 66-30 percent.
At one point last year, it looked like Marino would join the Trump Administration. But he withdrew his name and announced his 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 Williamsport-area seat. Rating: Solid Republican.

13th District. (Open; Bill Shuster, R). Trump over Clinton 71-26 percent.
Shuster represents 53 percent of this newly-drawn district, but previously announced he was not running for re-election. With a Trump margin of 45 points, 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; Tim Murphy, R). Trump over Clinton 63-34 percent. 
This is where things get complicated. The March 13 special election in the 18th District is being conducted under the old lines and is rated Lean Republican. The old 18th District 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 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 “G.T.” Thompson, R). Trump over Clinton 70-27 percent.
There isn’t much to see here. 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.
Kelly currently represents 81 percent of this northwest district, that 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. The congressman 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 could develop in the strongest of Democratic waves. 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 Conor Lamb could run here whether he wins or loses the 18th District special election on March 13. This seat contains 20 percent of the vacant seat with the special election. Rothfus had $1.2 million in the bank on Dec. 31 but would go from re-election in a 59 percent Trump district to a 49 percent Trump seat. Rating Change: From Solid Republican to Tilt Republican.

18th District. (Mike Doyle, D). Clinton over Trump 62-35 percent. 
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.