Breaking Down The Pennsylvania Redistricting: Which Seats Change?

Pennsylvania redistricting for the 2018 US House election hit hard this week, and it sent the Republicans scrambling to save some of their 13 seats. Chances are, not all are salvageable, with the Democrats primed to pick off several of them.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court approved a new congressional district map for the Keystone State, to be applied for the coming election. This means that the special election for the 18th District in March is being held in a seat that won’t exist in November. In fact, the successor district will have a different composition, but its change is far less pronounced than in some others, particularly in eastern Pennsylvania.

Love the changes or hate them, they are here to stay. The thing to do now is assess Pennsylvania’s new 18 districts, and update our reads of them. For our exact race ratings with no tossups ever, check out the Electionarium 2018 US House race ratings.

Levittown, Doylestown, Quakertown

Bucks County for the most part has its own district, and in fact its boundaries are not much different from how they look now. The new boundaries lopped off some Republican-leaning areas like Salford and Franconia. Overall, this is a swing district and perhaps nominally Republican in nature, not unlike what it was before the switch.

Philadelphia (east)

Not without its pockets of Republican voters, but you’ll have a snowball fight in Hell before a Republican wins this district. Perhaps the second-most Democratic seat in Pennsylvania, with Philadelphia being bluer than blue.

Philadelphia (north and west)

Solid blue all over, and most likely the leading Democratic district in the state. Charlie Cook has this as a whopping D+41 seat, which makes it one of the bluest in the country.

Willow Grove, King of Prussia, Bala Cynwyd, Harleysville

Most of Montgomery County moves into one district that will be Democratic in nature. The close Philadelphia suburbs like Bala Cynwyd, Whitemarsh, Norristown, and Abington are quite blue. It’s not until you get to the northern reaches of the county that red appears again, but there’s much more blue to the south than red to the north. On balance, the incumbent, Brendan Boyle, does not have as blue of a seat as he did before, but it’s plenty blue.

South Philadelphia, Wayne, Upper Darby, Radnor, Media

Another county united, and this time, it’s Delaware County. A little bit of Philly joins DelCo in this district that has a lot of blue character to it. What was a slightly Republican-leaning district is now a hardcore Democratic seat. You won’t see a bigger partisan switcheroo in the whole state. Incumbent Republican Patrick Meehan would have stood next to no shot of re-election here.

Reading, West Chester, Exton, Oxford

Chester County and Reading up in Berks County get together to form this new district, another that has a more Democratic tenor than the one coming before it. Cook’s PVI swung from R+2 to D+2; not an impossible hill for Ryan Costello (R) to climb, but if it’s going to be a Democratic year, then he is in big trouble.

Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Stroudsburg

The swing district of the Lehigh Valley is more Democratic-leaning now. The old district used to stretch from Allentown all the way down to Hershey, but this one exclusively hugs the New Jersey border. Some conservative areas of the district west of Allentown are out, and blue Easton and Stroudsburg are in. What had been a Republican seat for almost 20 years is a likely switch.

Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Milford

The Poconos district is anchored by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as almost all of northeast Pennsylvania is back in the same district. SWB and Hazleton will make this a competitive seat. With a Democratic incumbent in the person of Matt Cartwright, expect a Democrat hold.

Lebanon, Pottsville, Bloomsburg, Hamburg

With other eastern Pennsylvania Democratic centers being absorbed, you’re left with this district, which looks like a GOP slam dunk. Lou Barletta (R) is not running for re-election, but he will almost certainly be replaced with another Republican.

Harrisburg, York, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg

Harrisburg and York are the blue anchors of the new 10th, but almost everything outside of them is red. There is enough red in this district to keep the Republicans in decent position, assuming November is not a blue wave election.

Lancaster, Ephrata, Columbia, New Freedom

Amish Country is essentially red, with the exception of Lancaster. This district is far redder than its predecessor now that Reading was cut out of its borders. Lloyd Smucker (R) should not have trouble getting re-elected.

State College, Williamsport, Sunbury, Towanda

State College, home to Penn State, is by far the bluest part of the district, which is otherwise very red. This is one of those seats in the heart of the “T” of Pennsylvania. The Republicans would only lose this seat in a national crash-and-burn that sees them reduced to a rump party.

Altoona, Johnstown, Gettysburg, Somerset

One of the most solid red districts in Pennsylvania on this new map. There are hardly any Democratic votes to be had and the Republicans are a lock.

Washington, Uniontown, Greensburg, New Kensington

This district is mostly the 18th in the current configuration, a seat holding a March 2018 special election. The southwestern corner of the state is coal country, and there is a lot of red as in neighboring West Virginia. Washington and Uniontown are the most Democratic areas. It’s probably a more Republican district in the new setup, albeit slightly. If Conor Lamb wins it for the Democrats, he will still have difficulty getting re-elected.

Warren, DuBois, Indiana, Bradford

Solid red district in northwest Pennsylvania. This is in the western part of the “T” and the GOP can expect to put up big numbers here in most elections. Another slam dunk for the Republicans.

Erie, Sharon, New Castle, Butler

Erie dominates this district, though aside from that, most of Pennsylvania’s lakeshore is red-leaning. There are only small pockets of Democratic votes elsewhere in the seat. Mike Kelly (R) has a respectable chance at re-election in this seat that isn’t much more Democratic than it is now.

Mt. Lebanon, Moon, Oakmont, Center

These are the northern and western suburbs of Pittsburgh, and many of those suburbs have the slightest tinge of red. When you get to the rural areas, then you see the bright red. The Republicans’ problem is that there’s a lot less of it now than there was before, making this a competitive seat. Incumbent Keith Rothfus (R) seems to have the edge, but it’s not a runaway anymore.

Pittsburgh, McKeesport, Jefferson Hills

This seat is dominated by Pittsburgh, which cancels out any less blue suburban areas. The fact that it isn’t quite as blue as it used to be won’t impact the outcome, which will usually be a Democrat victory.

Pennsylvania Redistricting: Overall Analysis

What was a 13 to 5 split in favor of the Republicans is likely to become a 10-8 split in favor of the Republicans, with a 9-9 tie not impossible. The GOP are goners in the 5th District, with the 6th and 7th also underdog propositions for the GOP. The 1st and maybe the 12th are going to be dicey as well.

A swing of three or four seats could be the difference in a close national election for control of the US House. For a state that was in essence a tie in the latest presidential election, it’s not unfair that the final outcome could be a split in House seats.

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