Power balance in Congress on ballot for Pennsylvania voters

Nov 8, 2022, 3:00 AM | Updated: 6:49 pm
Jeremy Shaffer, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, talks afte...

Jeremy Shaffer, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, talks after receiving the support of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge #1 in Pittsburgh, Oct. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three races among Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation took shape as some of the closer contests in the country this year as voters decided Tuesday whether to shift majority control in the U.S. House from Democrats to Republicans.

Pennsylvania’s delegation has been redistricted twice in recent years — first because of a court challenge and again as a result of the 2020 census — and the state has lost one seat in Congress this year because of its anemic population growth.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright in the Scranton area and Susan Wild in the Lehigh Valley both found themselves in rematches with Republican candidates they narrowly beat two years ago.

A third competitive district, just north of Pittsburgh, consists largely of the voters who elected Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb to Congress for the past couple of terms. It came vacant for this year’s election when Lamb chose not to seek reelection in what was an ultimately failed attempt to get his party’s nomination for U.S. Senate.

Although polls closed in most of the state at 8 p.m., a judge in Luzerne County ordered polling places to stay open until 10 p.m. after they ran low on supplies.

As happened across the country, Pennsylvania’s competitive congressional races had Democrats emphasizing support for abortion rights and Republicans reminding voters how inflation and other economic problems are affecting their lives.

Roughly 8 in 10 Pennsylvania voters say things in the country are moving in the wrong direction, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,100 voters in the state.

About half the state’s voters say the economy and jobs are the most important issue facing the country, according to the survey.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade also played a role in most voters’ decisions, with about 8 in 10 calling it a factor. Only about a quarter called it the single most important factor, with more of those voters casting a ballot for Fetterman.

Most voters say they are confident ballots will be counted accurately, according to the survey, though nearly 3 in 10 said they were either not too confident or not at all confident.

In northeastern Pennsylvania, Republicans hoped conservative activist and former Trump administration official Jim Bognet would reverse his 3.6 percentage point loss to Cartwright in 2020. A flip of that seat in a region where the GOP has been making gains in recent years would resonate in Washington, given President Joe Biden spent his early childhood in Scranton.

“It’s a referendum on Biden,” Bognet campaign manager Joe Desilets said. “Especially because Cartwright is so close to him.”

Cartwright’s campaign director, Kunal Atit, called Cartwright “the only Democrat who could hold this district,” with “cross-party appeal that has been demonstrated time and again through actual election results.”

Wild’s quest for a third term had her facing off against former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller, head of a manufacturing business. Wild, a former Allentown city lawyer, edged Scheller by 3.7 percentage points two years ago. Redistricting added GOP-friendly Carbon County to the map.

Wild’s campaign argued Scheller has cut her U.S. workforce and sent jobs overseas, while Scheller blamed Wild’s support for spending bills under Biden for voters’ economic problems.

The third competitive district, in the suburbs north of Pittsburgh and encompassing all of Beaver County, pitted election lawyer Chris Deluzio, a Democrat, against Republican businessperson and former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, a Republican who lost a 2018 state Senate race.

Shaffer said he would position himself in Congress as “a pragmatic, common sense problem solver” and wants term limits and nonpartisan redistricting policies. Deluzio’s campaign biography noted his involvement in the effort to establish a faculty union at the University of Pittsburgh last year.

“The union way of life is a huge thing here in western Pennsylvania,” Deluzio campaign manager Matt Koos said. “And there’s no doubt that the Dobbs decision has put abortion access at the front of voters’ minds.”

Elsewhere in the state, two Republican incumbents faced no opposition this fall: Reps. Guy Reschenthaler south of Pittsburgh and John Joyce in a sprawling district that runs from Gettysburg to Johnstown.

In Pittsburgh, Democrats were concerned about potential voter confusion because the Republican running against Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee is named Mike Doyle, the same name as the city’s longtime Democratic congressman, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The version of the state’s congressional district map that was drawn after the 2010 census had been particularly friendly to Republicans, producing a durable 13-5 GOP majority until it was thrown out by the state’s Democratic-majority Supreme Court in 2018. Since then, the delegation has been evenly split between the two parties.

After the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf deadlocked on talks to produce new districts using 2020 census numbers, the state Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote in February chose a map that had been proposed by a group of Democratic Party-aligned voters who had sued in 2021.

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This story has been corrected to show that all Luzerne County polls were ordered to stay open until 10 p.m., instead of several allowed to stay open.

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Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              FILE - Jim Bognet, Republican candidate for U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania's 8th District, addresses during a campaign rally at the Westmoreland Fair Grounds in Greensburg, Pa, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
            
              FILE - Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., from Pennsylvania's 8th U.S. Congressional District, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol building, in Washington, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
            
              FILE - Lisa Scheller, Republican Party candidate for Pennsylvania's 7th U.S. Congressional District, attends the grand opening of Hope and Coffee, in Tamaqua, Pa., July 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)
            
              FILE - Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., laughs as she speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
            
              Jeremy Shaffer, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, talks after receiving the support of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge #1 in Pittsburgh, Oct. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
            Chris Deluzio, Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, speaks Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at a party campaign stop in Beaver, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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Power balance in Congress on ballot for Pennsylvania voters