Congressman Joe Pitts surprised the political world today when he announced he won’t be running for re-election next year.
Pitts has represented the 16th district since 1997, so the question now becomes, with Pitts gone do the Democrats have a chance at the seat?
At first glance the answer would appear to be no. Pitts survived the Democratic wave elections of 2006 and 2008 rather easily (he won by 56.6%-39.6% and 55.8%-39.4% margins respectively). Pitts’ lowest percentage came in 2012 when he pulled in 55%.
He won’t be on the ballot this time, however, and the Reading district has been more competitive when it comes to presidential elections. After heavily supporting George W. Bush in 2004 (61% to 38%), the 2008 (51% to 48%) and 2012 (52.4% to 46.3%) elections were much closer even with McCain and Romney both prevailing.
In fact, Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball announced that he was already moving the seat from “Safe R” to “Likely R”.
— 270toWin (@270toWin) November 6, 2015
Christopher Nicholas, Political Director of the PA Business Council, also believes it could be a competitive race.
“PA-16 is almost as likely to switch parties next year as PA-8 as the trends in the 16th are moving in the Democrats’ direction,” he told PoliticsPA.
Democrats will have the advantage that it is a presidential election and they already have a candidate in Christina Hartman who is winning over party support. Additionally, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee it wouldn’t hurt to have another female candidate on the ticket.
Nevertheless, Hartman’s fundraising (at least for now) is not very impressive and Republicans privately believe Lancaster County Commissioner Scott Martin will get into the race and be a strong GOP nominee.
The 16th district includes parts of Berks, Chester and Lancaster County as well as the city of Reading.