Two Democrats in the 11th district tell PoliticsPA that they received a telephone poll from the Democratic Congressional Committee testing Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) against former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Susquehanna).
It’s the first step in an effort by Dems to recruit a challenger to Barletta, whose district is darker red than the party’s 2012 congressional targets.
“I know the DCCC is recruiting him hard,” said one northeast Pa. Democratic operative.
A DCCC spokesperson declined to confirm the poll or to comment on recruiting, beyond saying that efforts are ongoing nationally.
Committees typically conduct polls in order to convince prospective candidates to consider a run for office.
PoliticsPA was unable to reach Carney, but a source close to him said he’s looking closely at a run versus Barletta – and a possible bid for Lieutenant Governor.
“He’s narrowing his options, including congress and the LG race,” said the source. “He’s received a lot of encouragement from around PA to seek statewide office.”
Several efforts to contact Barletta’s campaign were unsuccessful.
Carney has an attractive profile for Democrats. He served in the U.S. naval reserves for several overseas tours of duty, and has worked as a counterterrorism analyst.
He defeated an ethically challenged Republican incumbent in the Democratic wave year of 2006 and easily held on to the 10th district in 2008. But after voting for Obamacare, he was swept from office in 2010 by Rep. Tom Marino (R-Lycoming) who won by over 10 points.
Carney went on to work in government affairs for BAE systems, a defense contractor, in 2011. At the same time, Republican mapmakers were re-drawing the 10th and 11th congressional districts. Though Carney’s home in Dimock, Susquehanna County remains in the 10th district, most of his base was moved to PA-11. Barletta’s district now has 24% of the constituents of the former 10th.
The law doesn’t require congressional candidates to live in their district, so Carney could still challenge Barletta.
Dem efforts to oust Republican incumbents in southeastern Pa., where Obama performed relatively more strongly compared to the rest of Pa., failed totally in 2012. Barletta’s district is more conservative than those of Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) or Pat Meehan (R-Delaware), but based in the Scranton and Harrisburg media markets, a race in the 11th is relatively cheaper to run.
It’s still an uphill slog.
The district gives Republicans a 44.7% to 43.4% voter registration advantage, according to Labels & Lists. But Romney won the 11th by 9.4 points in 2012 and McCain won by 4.9% in 2008. George W. Bush won it by 16.2% in 2004.
Barletta built upon his 2010 win (when he defeated Rep. Paul Kanjorski by 9.4%). Last year, he cruised past good government advocate Gene Stilp (by 17%).
Stilp told several party activists at the recent Democratic State Committee meeting that he was already planning to challenger Barletta again in 2014.