By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
Harrisburg — Reps. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) and Charlie Dent (R-Lehigh) hadn’t spent much time in Pa. Republicans’ central caucus, which stretches from Bedford County east to Lancaster, and north to the New York border. That’s all changed with redistricting.
The two were on hand for Saturday’s regional meeting in Harrisburg, getting to know the party activists who they’ll ask to circulate nomination petitions in less than two weeks’ time
In the wake of redistricting, each of Pennsylvania’s members of Congress has been working hard to get to know his or her new constituents.
Most – including Barletta and Dent – are getting started with party leaders. The two men met with Republican committee members as they gathered Saturday in Harrisburg.
Barletta and Dent were two big winners of the redistricting process, perhaps Barletta most of all. Map-drawers stretched their districts away from Democratic bases in northeast Pa. and the Lehigh Valley, respectively, and brought them to the well of conservative voters in deep-red central Pa.
But with the gift of more Republican-rich territory comes the responsibility of new constituents and activists. Barletta is only keeping 35 percent of his previous district; Dent must introduce himself to about 30 percent of his new constituents.
That’s what brought them to Harrisburg on a Saturday morning.
“I’m here to re-introduce myself to those who may not know me, reassure them that they’re gonna have great representation. They’re going to see a lot of me – maybe more than they even want to,” Barletta joked.
His district now includes part or all of Cumberland, Dauphin, Montour, Northumberland and Perry counties. Dent picked up parts of Berks, Dauphin and Lebanon counties – all parts of the central caucus.
“As a mayor, a former mayor, I understand how important it is to get involved with local officials and the committee people.”
Dent echoed the message.
“I wanted to come over here just to make sure we get better acquainted,” he said. “I’ve got work to do to earn the trust and confidence of people out here, and I intend to do that.”
Dent said he had preliminary plans to open a constituent service office in Hershey or Palmyra.
He, along with Barletta, had earlier visited Dauphin County party members at a 4H Republican meeting.
For the most part, committee members were accepting of their new representation.
Don Ely is a committeeman from Northumberland County, which is now split between Barletta and Rep. Tom Marino.
“I’ve been to his fundraisers; his record is as good as Tom Marino’s,” Ely said of Barletta. “I volunteered to circulate his petitions.”
But there are still sore feelings about just how much the map was shuffled in order to protect the incumbents. The Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce includes Montour, Snyder and Union counties as well as Northumberland. Ely is a member.
“10 years ago, the chamber worked so hard to keep our four counties together under a single representative in Congress,” he said. “I’m a little PO’ed.”