By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
PoliticsPA has just learned that Pennsylvania’s Republican delegation is coming to Harrisburg on Monday to discuss possible outcomes of legislative redistricting with the caucus leaders of the PA House and Senate.
The office of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi confirmed to PoliticsPA that the meeting will take place, but did not confirm the agenda.
Priority number one for this year, according to insiders, is to preserve the gains of 2010 and create more secure Republican seats.
The GOP learned well the lessons of 2001, when Harrisburg Republicans called most of the shots. Most GOP insiders now agree that the party over-reached that year and left the delegation vulnerable to large swings (e.g. 2006 and 2008).
This year, the effort will be a collaboration, and the GOP’s strategy is already taking shape.
Here are some scenarios that PA’s Republican Congressmen are talking about, according to sources close to the delegation:
Schwartz vs. Fattah
Republicans are eying the possibility of matching up two of PA’s most powerful Democrats in a fratricidal showdown. Schwartz has millions of campaign dollars and the support of the white collar liberals of the Philly suburbs. Her district currently abuts that of Chaka Fattah, the most liked public figure in Philadelphia. It’s unlikely either would be willing to budge from their seat if their districts were combined, and that would mean a knock-down, drag-out fight between the liberal white Democrats of the suburbs and the African-American Democrats of Philly. What Republican wouldn’t love to see that?
Go West, Suburban Republicans
Each of the Philly area Republicans hopes to have his district made more secure, and they’re looking west to do it. The state’s population growth is disproportionately found in south central PA, meaning that the Lancaster-based 16th district is likely to contract. That would leave room for Reps. Gerlach and Meehan to move west into the conservative parts of Chester County. Rep. Joe Pitts is the X-factor. The 71 year-old dean of the GOP delegation, Pitts lives in Chester County and would prefer to keep the seat based there.
Shuffle SWPA Dems and Beat Altmire the Old-Fashioned Way
The GOP sees Rep. Jason Altmire as the most vulnerable Democrat in PA, but Republicans (read: Reps. Tim Murphy and Bill Shuster) don’t want to pick up Democratic voters from his district. The GOP is looking at ways to move Democratic voters from Altmire’s district into either that of Rep. Mark Critz or Rep. Mike Doyle in an effort to tweak the 4th district and ensure a GOP win there. And they’re paying attention to rumblings of a Democratic primary challenger for Altmire.
No Republican plan currently on the table will make Rep. Lou Barletta’s Scranton and Wilkes-Barre-based district a sure bet for the freshman Congressman. Barring some radical shift in Tim Holden’s 17th district to include the city of Scranton (which is regarded as a distant possibility at this point), Barletta’s district will become only slightly more favorable for Republicans and will still contain the city of Scranton.
GOP plans to secure their districts will come as good news to some Democrats, whose districts are likely to absorb the Democrats that Republicans don’t want. Some of those winners include (as of the current plans): Rep. Mark Critz, Rep. Tim Holden, and Rep. Mike Doyle. Each of their districts is likely to get more blue.
And no matter that the delegation wants to do, none of the Philly-area GOP State Reps. or State Senators (who will actually vote on this in Harrisburg) want to pick a fight with Democratic Party Chairman and Congressman Bob Brady.
Corrections: An earlier version of this story cited Rep. Pitts’ age as 76. He is 71. Additionally, thanks to reader Adam Lang for pointing out our statement that Chaka Fattah is the most-liked figure in Philadelphia. This statement was based on this Municipoll, a link which we originally intended to include.
Clarification: The above scenarios are being discussed by members of the PA delegation, but PoliticsPA has heard conflicting reports as to the level of detail in Monday’s meeting.