The 116th Congress just began, and we’re already having special elections. First among them will be the 2019 Pennsylvania 12th District special election.
A sprawling area in the Keystone State has no representative in Congress at this time. Yet, the Republican vacancy will soon be filled. Does this one stay in the GOP column or will Democrats defy the odds in this red area?
Election day is May 21, 2019.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election: The District
Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District is one of the largest by land area within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It runs about 140 miles along the northern border with New York, with its towns to the north including New Milford, Towanda, and Mansfield.
In the center of the district, you will Lock Haven and Williamsport, the latter of which is famed as the home of the Little League World Series.
Finally, in the more southern reaches of the district, the most notable locale is State College, home to Penn State University. Other towns in this region of the 12th District include Sunbury, Lewistown, and Newport. Its boundaries stop just short of Harrisburg.
The Pennsylvania 12th Congressional District is predominantly rural. Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voter Index (PVI) rating for this district is R+17. This means that this district is 17 points more Republican than the average seat on a federal level. It is tied for 56th-most Republican district in the nation out of 435.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election: 2018 Election
In 2018, incumbent Tom Marino (R) was re-elected. Previously the member for the 10th District, Marino was shifted into the 12th after 2018 redistricting. He only served as the 12th District congressman for about three weeks before resigning to take a job in the private sector.
Marino nearly doubled-up his Democratic opponent in the November election.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election: Candidates
There are four candidates running for the House in this special election. Republicans have nominated Fred Keller, a state representative from the 85th District, in the southern reaches of Pennsylvania’s 12th. Democrats nominated Marc Friedenberg, the 2018 nominee who lost to Marino. There are also a Libertarian, Zakrey Bissell, and an independent, Don Nevills, in the running.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election Prediction
Electionarium predicts a Republican hold (safe) as of April 27, 2019.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election Results
Republican Fred Keller won the first special election of the 116th Congress, defeating Democrat Marc Friedenberg. Keller netted just short of 68 percent after netting a modest swing of almost two percent from Tom Marino’s 2018 run.
The 12th District’s heavy Republican tilt manifested itself again during the May 21 election. As suspected in our April 27 analysis, Democrats focused their efforts on getting out the youth vote in and around Penn State in Centre County. They did, but that was one blue county and 14 red. Keller more than doubled Friedenberg’s total district-wide.
Not a single county was close on election night. The narrowest margin of victory by either candidate was in Clinton County, where Fred Keller took 62.57 percent to Friedenberg’s 37.43 percent.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election: Analysis, April 27, 2019
Not much has changed in our outlook of the Pennsylvania 12th special election. Republicans are on track here in this very red seat to send Fred Keller to Congress.
About the only worrisome thing to happen to him so far is that Tom Steyer, a liberal in charge of the NextGen America Super PAC, is targeting young voters in and around State College. (Source: Politics PA) The 12th District is a sea of red except for that city, the home to Penn State. Given that college towns tend to veer leftward, and State College is no exception, getting more progressive college-aged voters interested in this election is their only smart play.
However, while a get out the vote effort in State College is what the Democrats need to do, it’s still the only deep blue area within a 50-mile radius. Save for a very low turnout, there are not enough blue votes in the rest of the district to overcome the massive GOP advantage. Predicting special elections are hard, and predicting ones with no polling are harder. Nevertheless, this is one of those districts that the GOP should lose under no circumstances; a defeat here, somehow, would be genuinely devastating. Fortunately for them, we are not at the point where we consider it even a remote possibility.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election: Analysis, March 18, 2019
Republicans have a very strong chance of holding this seat in the May special election. Despite the fact that State College is within its borders, this district is one of the redder ones in America. If the GOP were reduced to sixty seats in an apocalyptic electoral event, this would be one of the sixty. It is not to say that the Democrats have no chance in a low-turnout election, but there is a lot of deep, rural red in the 12th District of Pennsylvania.
Friedenberg has the advantage of having run for Congress before, but Keller has election victories under his belt. Anything less than a 20-point win for Keller would be a bad result for the GOP.
2019 Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election: Election Day Information
The May 21 special election is on the same day as the Pennsylvania municipal primaries.
Polls will be open in PA-12 from 7am local time until 8pm.