Pennsylvania Congressional Vulnerability: Baseline Ratings for 2020
After the upheaval of 2018, when Pennsylvania Democrats gained a net three seats under new congressional district lines, the Keystone State’s House delegation is starting the 2020 election cycle in a much quieter state.
In PoliticsPA’s latest congressional vulnerability rankings for the Pennsylvania delegation – the sixth cycle in which we’ve made these rankings – we find two districts that are clearly vulnerable to a party takeover. Both districts are held by Republicans – Scott Perry Brian Fitzpatrick.
As always, we rank the districts in descending order, from most vulnerable to less vulnerable. Here’s the list.
None in this category
1. 10th District: Rep. Scott Perry (R)
Geography: Harrisburg and York
Perry, a four-term House member, won by less than 3 points in 2018 against Democrat George Scott. Scott isn’t running this time, but a potentially even stronger Democrat has jumped in: state auditor general Eugene DePasquale. DePasquale is a proven winner statewide; Republicans plan to attack him as a career politician. Meanwhile, Perry is getting a GOP primary challenge from Bobby Jeffries, a 28-year-old distribution manager. Perry currently has $300,000 in the bank, not a large amount for an incumbent.
2. 1st District: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)
Geography: Bucks County
Fitzpatrick is one of just three Republicans nationally to survive in 2018 in a House district won by Hillary Clinton, thanks in large part to a weak Democratic challenger, Scott Wallace. Fitzpatrick has styled himself an independent-minded Republican, becoming one of just four Republicans voting to condemn President Donald Trump’s tweets against four Democratic House members of color as racist, voting to end the government shutdown, and joining House Democrats in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. Fitzpatrick has more than $800,000 in cash on hand and he’s the favorite over Trump-aligned GOP primary challenger Andrew Meehan. The Democratic field, meanwhile, is a work in progress. So far, it includes Ivyland Borough Councilwoman Christina Finello, Bucks County Prothonotary Judi Reiss, and Pennsbury School Board member Debbie Wachpress. Democrats won’t rule out a higher-profile challenger entering the race eventually.
3 (tie). 7th District: Rep. Susan Wild (D)
Geography: Lehigh Valley
Wild won an open seat in this competitive district in 2018. She has $423,000 in the bank, a fairly modest amount for an incumbent, and has had a relatively quiet tenure in Congress so far. One Republican challenger is in the race — former Lehigh County commissioner Dean Browning. Other potential GOP candidates include former Lehigh County commissioner Lisa Scheller and former congressional candidate Matt Connolly.
3 (tie). 8th District: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)
Geography: Scranton-Wilkes Barre
Republicans have been high on flipping this Trump-friendly district, but failed in 2018 as Cartwright defeated Republican John Chrin by nearly 10 points. For 2020, Cartwright has a healthy $818,000 in the bank and feels comfortable enough to be sticking with his party on most votes rather than playing the maverick. (Cartwright did work with Trump on an executive order designed to boost kidney donations and improve kidney disease care.) The first Republican to enter the race is Teddy Daniels, a former police officer and wounded combat Army veteran, but a higher-profile Republican, former Rep. and U.S. Senate nominee Lou Barletta, hasn’t ruled out a run. Until the GOP field is settled, this contest remains on a lower rung than either the Fitzpatrick or Perry districts.
5. 16th District: Rep. Mike Kelly (R)
Geography: Erie and environs
Democrats are taking this seat seriously: In a surprisingly competitive race in 2018, Kelly held off Democrat Ron DiNicola by about 4 points even though Trump won it in 2016 by 20 points. Kelly remains the favorite, but he hasn’t made reelection any easier for himself. During the controversy over Trump’s remarks opposing the “Squad” of four left-wing Democrats of color, Kelly defended the president in remarks to Vice News, saying, “You know, they talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white. I’m an Anglo Saxon.” Daniel Smith Jr., a bank manager, is in the race, but a candidate with more political experience — state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro – is considering a run. With a strong candidate, this contest could move up the rankings.
6. 17th District: Rep. Conor Lamb (D)
Geography: Pittsburgh environs, including parts of Allegheny and Beaver counties
Lamb gained national attention by winning a strongly Republican district in southwestern Pennsylvania in a 2018 special election, then by ousting Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus in November. Republicans hope that Trump’s narrow edge in 2016 will repeat in 2020 and help the GOP nominee take the district back, but Lamb has proven to be an adept campaigner. Until the GOP has a credible candidate, this district will remain lower on our list.
7. 11th District: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)
Geography: Lancaster and environs
Democrat Jessica King ran an unexpectedly strong race in this heavily Republican district, but she still lost by nearly 20 points. While Smucker has just $134,000 in the bank, he remains in the driver’s seat, especially if Democrats can’t find a credible challenger.