Mike Fitzpatrick took the oath just about a week ago, and politicians are already lining up to replace him.
The 2016 race is being called a toss-up right out the gate and will very likely be the most competitive congressional race in PA.
As a result, it’s worth taking a look at some of the potential candidates that could (or did) jump into the race.
Steve Santarsiero: Unique among all the other potential candidates on this list is the fact that Santarsiero has already declared his candidacy. He is also a local State Representative that has served the 31st district since 2009. Before that, he was the Lower Makefield Township Supervisor for six years. As a result, Santarsiero has a decade-plus worth of name recognition. Additionally, being the first one in gives him an advantage when it comes to fundraising and campaign infrastructure. He’ll start out with endorsements from ex-Rep. Allyson Schwartz and the Democratic Party Chair of Bucks County, John Cordisco.
Shaughnessy Naughton: The political novice performed exceptionally well in 2014 as the underdog to DCCC-backed opponent Kevin Strouse. Naughton was vastly outspent and never ran a TV ad, yet came up just 817 votes short of winning the nomination. 2016 could shape up to be a great year for her. With Hillary Clinton likely to head a Democratic ticket, Naughton can target female voters. A big factor will be whether EMILY’s List gives her a full push this time. Santarsiero’s roots, though, will make him a tougher competitor than Strouse (who moved to Bucks in 2013). Lower Makefield was one of Naughton’s strongest areas last year. If her constituency overlaps too much with Santarsiero, she’ll have to adapt her whole approach.
Patrick Murphy: The ex-Congressman represented the district from 2007 to 2011 and could really make a splash if he jumped back in. It appears, though, that he won’t make the leap. After falling to Kathleen Kane in a bitter primary for the AG nomination in 2012, Murphy has been out of politics, working for Fox Rothschild and hosting a show on MSNBC. The former Rep. seems to enjoy life out of D.C. and doesn’t seem intent on heading back anytime soon.
Diane Marseglia: Marseglia has been a Democratic target in this district for years, but doesn’t seem to want the seat. A County Commissioner with life-long ties to Bucks County, she could be a formidable candidate but it looks as if she won’t pull the trigger.
Jim Cawley: The biggest question right now in this race is whether Lieutenant Governor and Bucks native Jim Cawley jumps in. Our readers, and many political observers, believe he will but he hasn’t tipped his hand. There is always the possibility that he wants to run for a statewide office or avoid Washington altogether. Still, if he were to run he’d be the favorite in terms of his name ID and fundraising network. One drawback, though, is his connection to Governor Corbett. His ticket-mate isn’t popular in Southeast PA. You can bet any Democratic nominee will use the terms “Tom Corbett” and “Harrisburg” 100,000 times each if Cawley is the GOP candidate.
Scott Petri: A possible alternative to Cawley would be State Rep. Scott Petri. The Chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Petri has represented Upper Makefield’s 178th district since 2003. Petri might even stay in the race even if the Lt. Governor decides to run. The State Rep. passed up the 2008 race and he may not want to step aside again.
Robert Loughery: Another potential challenger to Cawley, Loughery is much less intent on throwing his hat in the ring. The Bucks County Commissioners Chair has a great resume but is reluctant to tackle a congressional run. Like Marseglia, his heart may just not be in it.
Mike Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick swears he’s out but they might just pull him back in. At a debate last year, the Congressman pledged that regardless of the result he would “be sitting back in the seats” at the next event in 2016. He doubled down on that promise on election night. As I predicted, though, Republicans are begging him for one more run. So far, Rep. Fitzpatrick is sticking to his pledge. But you never know…