The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a new map for the state’s Congressional districts. That means new boundaries for U.S. House districts, including those in central and northern Pennsylvania. WPSU’s Anne Danahy reports that some candidates who were running in the primary are moving ahead, while others say they haven’t decided.
For starters, forget the old numbers for Congressional districts in Pennsylvania. The new map from the state Supreme Court completely shifts those districts around.
“Those of us in State College, we’re used to talking about the 5th Congressional District. We’re no longer anywhere close to the fifth congressional district," Berkman said.
Michael Berkman is a professor of political science at Penn State. He was looking at a map outlining Pennsylvania’s new Congressional districts.
The changes are minor in some cases and sweeping in others. Berkman said the redistricting has created both more Democratic districts and districts that could be competitive.
“It’s a radically different map for Pennsylvania," Berkman said.
The 5th Congressional district that Republican Glenn G.T. Thompson represents was redrawn. It now includes only part of Centre County. The three Democratic candidates who had been competing in the primary are now split between the 12th and 15th districts.
Democratic candidate Marc Friedenberg, a faculty member at Penn State, is now running in the 12th district. It stretches from Perry county near Harrisburg up to Susquehanna County in the northeast.
He said his message will resonate with voters in the new district.
“I’ve said this with the 5th and I think the same with the 12th, that it’s good for there to be a strong, contested primary that brings out the best in both and gives voters a choice," Friedenberg said.
Both Friedenberg and his new primary opponent Judy Herschel have taken aim at Republican Tom Marino, who currently holds the seat.
In a release, Friedenberg said Marino is “every bit the swamp dwelling sellout” as Thompson.
“One of the first issue statements my campaign did was about the opioid crisis and about how Tom Marino single-handedly contributed to it in a pretty serious way," Friedenberg said. "And that problem, the opioid crisis only continues to get worse. And I think that’s something voters are really going to care about.”
Herschel, who is now up against Friedenberg, is a drug and alcohol counselor from Oakland in Susquehanna County. She is staying in the race.
“My community deserves better than our current representative who authored a bill to flood the streets with opioid pills," Herschel said. "I’m running to help my community recover, and I’m running for my children’s future and the future of all children.”
Herschel said the opioid epidemic is a top priority, along with creating good jobs, education and affordable health care.
Marino’s office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The 15th Congressional district stretches from Centre County up to the New York border and down to Cambria county. It includes counties that tend to go Republican.
Two Democratic candidates in the 15th haven’t decided if they’re running. Whoever the Democrat is will likely face Republican Rep. Thompson. But one Republican who had been running in the primary in Bill Shuster’s 9th district is now also in the 15th.
Kerith Strano Taylor, an attorney from Brookville and Democratic candidate, had been in the 5th district. She said the new map is good, but it changes the landscape.
“There’s a woman running in Indiana County, that’s now in this district," Strano Taylor said. "So, we’re reaching out to have conversations to make sure we’re all using our resources to the best possible use, and we just want to take a day or two and absorb it.”
That woman is Susan Boser, a faculty member at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. An Indiana County resident, she had been running in the Democratic primary in Shuster’s 9th district. Now she’s in the 15th.
She said she supports the new map and is considering her options. She’s optimistic about Democrats’ chances in traditionally Republican areas.
“I think there are predictions of a blue wave," Boser said. "I’ve heard it described as a blue tsunami. And not only blue, but women are coming out in unprecedented numbers, and I think a lot of people are unhappy.”
The new map comes from the State Supreme Court. It follows a court challenge to the old map that argued the districts were gerrymandered to benefit the Republican party.
State Republican leaders are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the new map.
Wade Jodun, of Mill Hall, had been a Democratic candidate in Thompson’s old district. He’s now in the 12th, where Marino is the incumbent. Jodun supports the redistricting, but he hasn’t decided if he’s staying in the race. He’s waiting to see how things play out.
“The court’s map is a good map," Jodun said. "It brings the competitive balance back into play. It has, however, caused a little bit of confusion with a lot of the candidates, who like myself, launched a campaign in one district only to find ourselves marooned in a new district.”
Elections officials in Pennsylvania say they’re putting the redistricting changes into place. Jonathan Marks is commissioner for the bureau of elections.
“Really the only change that voters should see in many cases are the names of candidates on the ballot for Congress," Marks said. "Otherwise, they won’t see any changes where they go to vote, what they need to bring with them when they go to vote. None of that changes.”
The primary is May 15.