The National Republican Congressional Committee leadership scored a recruitment victory in the Allentown/Bethlehem seat to oppose freshman Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown). Former Lehigh County Commissioner and corporate CEO Lisa Scheller (R) announced that she will challenge the freshman lawmaker next year. Ms. Scheller was the Committee’s top recruitment prospect.
First, however, she will have to get past former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning, who announced his candidacy quickly after the November general election. The new 7th District, crafted in the court-mandated redistricting plan instituted before the 2018 election, is a politically marginal district that leans slightly Democratic.
Frequent Pennsylvania pollster Susquehanna Polling & Research also released their latest work (9/30-10/6; 307 PA registered voters), which is again a small-sample survey. As expected, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the pack of candidates, but with only a 17% preference factor. No other candidate even reaches double digits. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is second with 9%, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has 8% support, just ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who records 6% support. The small sample size and abnormally high undecided figure leaves much to question about this study.
Saying, “I think more people are interested in me running than I am,” ex-Rep. Lou Barletta, who was the Republican US Senate nominee in 2018, indicates he is not planning to challenge Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) in the district that adjoins his previous CD. Republicans are looking for a strong candidate to challenge Rep. Cartwright because he sits in a seat that went strongly for President Trump in 2016. Early this year, 2018 nominee John Chrin, who lost to Cartwright 55-45%, filed a 2020 cycle FEC committee but has since declined to run.
Franklin & Marshall College released their new Keystone State survey (7/29-8/4; 295 likely PA Democratic primary voters from a pool of 627 PA registered voters) for the Democratic presidential primary and finds former Vice President Joe Biden’s advantage being a bit less than expected.
Mr. Biden, born in Pennsylvania and who represented neighboring Delaware for 36 years in the Senate, scores only 28% support here, and is closely followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) 21% preference. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the only other candidate who scores in double-digits, at 12%. California Sen. Kamala Harris posts only 8%, while South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg registers a first-choice tabulation of just 6 percent.
The poll’s sample size, however, is very small. Just 295 likely Democratic primary voters are surveyed, making the poll’s error factor very high. Therefore, the results should be discounted, but it is difficult to tell in what direction. The Pennsylvania primary is one of the later ones on the Democratic schedule, April 28, 2020, which could put the state in an interesting position if the race is close at that point. Pennsylvania has 186 first ballot delegate votes.
A trio of candidates, two Democrats and one Republican, just announced their intentions to challenge sophomore Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) next year. Peasburg School Board member Debbie Wachspress and Bucks County Prothonotary (Court Clerk of Records) Judi Reiss both entered the Democratic primary.
A primary challenger to Rep. Fitzpatrick also emerged. Investor Andrew Meehan, whose father is a former Philadelphia County Republican chairman, made public his intention to run and won’t be easy on Mr. Fitzpatrick. Attacking from the right, Mr. Meehan described the Congressman as a “weak-kneed, fake Republican whose anti-Trump and a Trump-hating RINO.” Rep. Fitzpatrick won a close 51-49% victory last year in a court re-drawn district. He can expect to again be a Democratic target next year.
Speculation coming from central Pennsylvania suggests that state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale will announce his congressional candidacy within or around the July 4th holiday break. Mr. DePasquale is ineligible to seek re-election to his statewide position and will be a formidable opponent for Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg). The court-mandated 2018 redistricting plan drastically changed this York-Harrisburg anchored seat from a safe Republican CD to a politically marginal district. Mr. Perry was re-elected last November against first-time candidate George Scott (D) with a 51-49% majority, and another close finish against Mr. DePasquale will be projected.
Former Philadelphia suburban Congressman Joe Sestak, who lost the US Senate race to current incumbent Pat Toomey in 2010, came out of nowhere yesterday to announce his presidential candidacy. Mr. Sestak, who served as an Admiral in the US Navy and on President Clinton’s National Security Council before being elected to Congress, is billing himself as Admiral Joe for the presidential campaign. His late start, he says, is due to his daughter’s illness and her overcoming brain cancer for a second time. At this point, with little possibility of qualifying for the debates, he is the longest of shots to become a credible candidate.
Investor John Chrin (R) challenged Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) in 2018, and held him to a ten-point victory, 55-45%. Earlier in the year, Mr. Chrin filed an FEC committee for 2020 suggesting that he was gearing up to run again. With other rumors flying that Mr. Chrin is also looking at the 7th Congressional District, the seat that freshman Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) won, individuals close to him say it is highly unlikely that Mr. Chrin will run for any office next year.
Pennsylvania state Rep. Fred Keller (R-Mifflinburg) easily defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg last night in the battle to succeed resigned-Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport). Mr. Keller’s victory margin was 68-32%, a stronger performance than both President Trump and Rep. Marino enjoyed in their most recent elections in the district. More than 130,000 people voted in the special election, which was a strong number considering the outcome never seemed in doubt. Mr. Keller holding this seat for the GOP means the House party division is now 235 Democrats; 198 Republicans; and 2 vacancies that will both be filled on September 10th (NC-3; NC-9).
Five-term Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler), who won re-election with a competitive 52-47% victory margin over Democrat Ron DiNicola, has drawn at least one new opponent next year. Yesterday, former state Representative candidate Daniel Smith (D) announced that he would challenge Rep. Kelly. No word as yet whether Mr. DiNicola will attempt to seek a re-match.
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