Pennsylvania Congressional Vulnerability: July 2022 Rating

This is a busy midterm election year for the Pennsylvania House delegation: The state has thoroughly redrawn its districts after experiencing the loss of one seat, from 18 to 17, and these contests will likely be shaped by currents from the high-stakes gubernatorial and Senate races.

Here, for the seventh consecutive election cycle, PoliticsPA is assembling its list of most vulnerable House seats in the Pennsylvania congressional delegation, based on reporting with state and national analysts. As usual, we have rank-ordered the seats in descending order, from the most vulnerable to a party switch to the least vulnerable.

In general, the Democrats face a difficult midterm environment. What remains to be seen is whether the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade elevates abortion as an issue that energizes Democratic voters. To account for the changing political environment, this list will be updated and re-ordered periodically between now and Election Day.

The top three races — the seats held by Democratic Reps. Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright and the open seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb – are currently in our “highly vulnerable” category. One seat, the one held by Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, is in the next category, “vulnerable.” Finally, three seats are in the following category, “potentially vulnerable.” Districts in Pennsylvania that are not cited here are not considered vulnerable.

Here’s the full list:

HIGHLY VULNERABLE

1. 7th District

Incumbent: Rep. Susan Wild (D)
Republican nominee: Lisa Scheller

Geography: Lehigh Valley: Primarily Lehigh and Northampton counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+2
Trump 2020: 49%
Biden 2020: 50%

Wild, who won an open seat in 2018, will face Scheller this fall for the second consecutive general election. Scheller is a businesswoman and former Lehigh County Commission chair; she’s also a former heroin addict who’s been in recovery for almost four decades. In 2020, Wild won reelection, 52%-48%. But this time, Scheller will have two advantages. First, the new iteration of the district is slightly more Republican than it was in 2020. And second, parties that control the White House, like the Democrats today, usually face strong headwinds in midterm elections, especially when the president is as unpopular as Joe Biden is today. But Wild has managed to win in competitive political territory before, and she has about three times as much money in the bank as Scheller does. In addition, Scheller’s won the GOP primary this year over an underfunded rival, Kevin Dellicker, by only about 2 percentage points. Democrats have picked up a line of attack that Dellicker raised in the primary: Scheller’s history of outsourcing jobs at her company, including to China. But inflation and the incrementally tougher partisan terrain of the new district lines make this the Republicans’ strongest chance of flipping a seat in the Pennsylvania delegation.

2. 8th District

Incumbent: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)
Republican nominee: Jim Bognet

Geography: Northeastern Pennsylvania: Primarily Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Monroe counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+4
Trump 2020: 51%
Biden 2020: 48%

Like Wild, Cartwright faces a rematch in 2022: The incumbent, who was first elected to the House in 2012, will be taking on Bognet, whom he defeated in 2020, 52%-48%. Bognet is a former Trump administration official and onetime aide to former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Rep. Lou Barletta. Trump would have won this district under its new lines (even though Biden hails from Scranton), but Cartwright is well known locally and has carved out an identity of his own. Cartwright also has about five times as much in the bank as Bognet does.

3. 17th District

Open seat being vacated by Rep. Conor Lamb (D)
Democratic nominee: Chris Deluzio
Republican nominee: Jeremy Shaffer

Geography: Northern suburbs of Pittsburgh: Allegheny and Beaver counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): Even
Trump 2020: 47%
Biden 2020: 52%

Lamb vacated this highly competitive district when he decided to run (unsuccessfully) in the Democratic primary for an open U.S. Senate seat. Both parties seem to be satisfied with the candidates who won their respective primaries. Deluzio, the Democratic nominee, is an Iraq War veteran and voting rights lawyer. Shaffer, the GOP nominee, is a software company founder and former Ross town commissioner. Shaffer has outraised Deluzio, partly thanks to self-financing.

VULNERABLE

4. 6th District

Incumbent: Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D)
Republican nominee: Guy Ciarrocchi

Geography: Southeastern suburbs: Chester and Berks counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): D+5
Trump 2020: 42%
Biden 2020: 57%

The seat occupied by Houlahan, an Air Force veteran and businesswoman first elected in 2018, is not as vulnerable to a party flip as those occupied by Wild or Cartwright or the one being vacated by Lamb, largely because Houlahan’s district is substantially more Democratic. She faces Ciarrocchi, a former Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry president as well as a onetime lieutenant gubernatorial aide. Houlahan has about 30 times the money in the bank as Ciarrocchi, a sign that this race is not yet considered a top-tier pickup opportunity. But if the political environment worsens for the Democrats, seats like this could be at risk.

POTENTIALLY VULNERABLE

5. 12th District

Open seat being vacated by Rep. Mike Doyle (D)
Democratic nominee: Summer Lee
Republican nominee: Mike Doyle (no relation)

Geography: Pittsburgh

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): D+8
Trump 2020: 40%
Biden 2020: 59%

While this district is somewhat tougher now for the Democrats than it was before redistricting, it’s still a pretty Democratic-leaning seat. It makes this list only due to an odd confluence of events. The biggest is that the Republican nominee has the same name — Mike Doyle — as the long-serving Democratic incumbent, creating the possibility that voters will be confused. In addition, the Democrat who narrowly won the primary, Summer Lee, is from the party’s most progressive wing, having received the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Doyle and other establishment Democrats backed Lee’s primary opponent, and some moderate Democrats may be unenthusiastic about Lee as the nominee. Finally, this will be a tough electoral environment for Democrats overall. Still, if the Democrats can successfully educate voters that the Republican Doyle is not the longtime incumbent, they should be able to hold on.

6. 1st District

Incumbent: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)
Democratic nominee: Ashley Ehasz

Geography: Philadelphia suburbs: Bucks County

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): Even
Trump 2020: 47%
Biden 2020: 52%

Even though this is a district Biden won by about five points, Fitzpatrick has consistently been reelected while taking a relatively moderate, pro-labor approach. He’s also from a well-known local political family, having followed his brother Mike into the congressional seat. In recent years, Democrats have also been hobbled by a series of underwhelming nominees. This year’s nominee is Ehasz, a government affairs consultant and Iraq War veteran. Fitzpatrick has about seven times the amount in the bank as she does. An internal Democratic poll had Ehasz down by seven points. This is potentially a district where concerns about the legality of abortion could boost Democrats. However, the combination of Fitzpatrick’s incumbency and the midterm headwinds suggest that this seat could be a more plausible target for Democrats later in the decade.

7. 10th District

Incumbent: Scott Perry (R)
Democratic nominee: Shamaine Daniels

Geography: Harrisburg and environs: Dauphin, Cumberland, and York counties

PVI (Cook Political Report with Amy Walter): R+5
Trump 2020: 51%
Biden 2020: 47%

Perry’s hard-line conservatism — he chairs the House Freedom Caucus and has drawn scrutiny for his actions related to Jan. 6, 2021 — belies that his district is one of the more competitive in Pennsylvania, at least on paper. Trump won it by only five points in 2020, and Perry won by a relatively modest 53%-47% margin against a strong Democratic nominee, former state auditor Eugene DePasquale. Daniels, the Democratic nominee, has a profile locally from her service as a Harrisburg City council member and attorney. Unless his personal fallout from Jan. 6 worsens, Perry is favored to win a new term. Still, the district could become more competitive in a future, more favorable election cycle for the Democrats.

6 Responses

  1. Bognet is a weak candidate. Wild has a more difficult time than Cartwright. I think Wild’s seat and Lamb’s go red. The others stay as is.

  2. Let’s not dismiss a divisive campaign of Mastriano which is not helping R’s . He is toxic with Indy voters. A weak head of ticket is a bummer. You seem to think abortion is a non issue. I think you’ll be surprised how it impacts congressional races.

  3. Vulnerable seats?? Only if PA voters are crazy enough to elect MAGA Trump nutcases to Congress.

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    • May 16, 2023 (Primary Day) (51%)
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