GOP rules the state’s delegation

Republicans reverse the Democrats’ 12-7 edge in Pennsylvania.

MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Republicans seized control of Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation on Tuesday, picking off several Democratic incumbents to command a majority of the 19 seats for the first time since 2006.

On his third try, Hazleton’s Republican mayor, Lou Barletta, ended the career of 13-term Rep. Paul Kanjorski in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Other Democratic incumbents who fell included freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper of Erie and two-term Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Philadelphia area.

Republican Pat Meehan beat Democrat Bryan Lentz in the race for the suburban Philadelphia seat being vacated by Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak.

“We’re back,” said a jubilant state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, who personally recruited many of the winning candidates. “We’re back.”

“We decided two years ago, after (President Barack) Obama won, that we wanted to get back in the game in Congress, and we started recruiting candidates all over the place,” he said.

Republicans won 12 seats, and Democrats won seven — an exact reversal of the partisan makeup heading into the election.

Though Kanjorski beat Barletta twice before in a blue-collar, predominantly Democratic district that includes the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Republicans seized their best chance in years of knocking off the incumbent, a staunch ally of President Barack Obama.

On the other end of the state, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper — elected in the Obama tide of 2008 — lost to Republican Mike Kelly, a 62-year-old car dealer.

Dahlkemper, 52, of Erie, knocked off longtime GOP Rep. Phil English two years ago, even as the mostly rural and conservative district in northwestern Pennsylvania gave Republican presidential nominee John McCain a 17-vote edge over Obama.

Pollsters said her vote for the health care bill hurt Dahlkemper’s re-election chances. In a sign of her peril, the House Democrats’ campaign committee cut back on TV advertising in the district nearly a month ago.

“The voters of the 3rd District have spoken, and I respect their decision,” she said. “I am proud of my record in Congress. I delivered on the promises I made on the campaign trail: to reform the health care system, take on the fiscal irresponsibility in Washington and strengthen the economy of western Pennsylvania.”

Republicans also reclaimed a 10th District seat they held for more than four decades before a sex scandal foiled the GOP incumbent in 2006.

The race pitted Chris Carney, 51, a Democrat seeking his third term, against Tom Marino, 58, the GOP nominee who overcame unflattering media coverage of his tenure as Lycoming County district attorney and chief federal prosecutor for central and northeastern Pennsylvania.

In the contest for the 7th District seat being vacated by Sestak, Meehan, 55, a former federal prosecutor and district attorney, beat Lentz, 46, a Democratic state representative, former prosecutor and Iraq war veteran.

And in Bucks County, 37-year-old Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy — the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress — lost to the Republican incumbent he beat in 2006, Mike Fitzpatrick, 47.

A rare bright spot for Democrats: Rep. Mark Critz, 48, beat Republican businessman Tim Burns, 42, in a rematch less than six months after a special election in which Critz beat Burns to fill the seat of veteran Democratic Rep. John Murtha, who died in February.