Choices await vot­ers in Nov.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - DAILY LOCAL NEWS - By Mark Scol­foro As­so­ci­ated Press

Midterm elec­tions un­der a re­vamped con­gres­sional dis­trict map are cer­tain to help trans­form Penn­syl­va­nia’s del­e­ga­tion to Congress this fall. The gov­er­nor and a U.S. sen­a­tor, both Democrats, will learn in three months whether vot­ers think they de­serve an­other term. And the sta­tus of Re­pub­li­can ma­jori­ties in both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture, large mar­gins by his­tor­i­cal mea­sures, hangs in the bal­ance.

Penn­syl­va­nia vot­ers will have much to sort out in the gen­eral elec­tion, with ad­ver­tis­ing and cam­paign events cer­tain to ramp up once they re­turn from

the beach, fam­ily re­unions and La­bor Day pic­nick­ing.

The state’s par­ti­san di­vi­sion has made it a peren­nial elec­toral bat­tle­ground, and the run-up to the Nov. 6 gen­eral elec­tion will un­doubt­edly bring a blan­ket of tele­vi­sion ads, a for­est of yard signs and an army of can­di­dates aiming to per­suade the state’s in­scrutable in­de­pen­dents and finicky un­de­cid­eds.

Here’s a look at what the fall cam­paign sea­son will hold for vot­ers in the Key­stone State:

CON­GRES­SIONAL RACES

The state Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to throw out the con­gres­sional map Repub­li­cans drew in 2011 and re­place it with dis­trict lines ap­proved by the court’s Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity has fu­eled close con­tests to fill Penn­syl­va­nia’s 18 seats in Congress. Un­der the 2011 map, Repub­li­cans won 13 seats in three straight elec­tions, even as Democrats dom­i­nated in statewide elec­tions.

This will be the first elec­tion un­der the new map, con­sid­ered less fa­vor­able to Repub­li­cans, but still could pro­duce a Re­pub­li­can ma­jor­ity.

Even with­out changes to dis­trict bound­aries, this is a re­mark­able elec­tion be­cause the seven va­cant seats rep­re­sent Penn­syl­va­nia’s largest such num­ber in decades.

Two first-time Demo­cratic can­di­dates are fa­vored to flip Repub­li­can­held seats in sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia: Mary Gay Scanlon in a seat for­merly held by Re­pub­li­can Pa­trick Mee­han, who re­signed in April amid an ethics scan­dal; and Chrissy Houla­han in a seat cur­rently held by Re­pub­li­can Rep. Ryan Costello, who is not seek­ing re-elec­tion.

Mean­while, three other con­tests are be­ing fought in closely di­vided dis­tricts: Demo­cratic Rep. Conor Lamb and Re­pub­li­can Rep. Keith Roth­fus for a sub­ur­ban Pitts­burgh seat; Re­pub­li­can Marty Noth­stein and Demo­crat Su­san Wild for an Al­len­town-area seat; and Re­pub­li­can Rep. Brian Fitz­patrick and Demo­crat Scott Wal­lace for a sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia seat.

GOV­ER­NOR

Four years ago, Tom Wolf was com­ing off win­ning a largely self-fi­nanced Demo­cratic pri­mary and was a few months away from un­seat­ing first-term Re­pub­li­can Gov. Tom Corbett.

These days Wolf is tout­ing his record as a fresh­man gov­er­nor and hop­ing to fend off an ag­gres­sive chal­lenge from Re­pub­li­can Scott Wag­ner, who owns a waste-haul­ing busi­ness and re­signed his state Se­nate seat af­ter win­ning May’s three-way GOP gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary.

Wolf’s ap­proval rat­ings are in de­cent shape, but in Wag­ner he faces a tena­cious op­po­nent who got him­self elected to the Se­nate by do­ing what many thought was im­pos­si­ble: or­ga­niz­ing a write-in cam­paign to wrest the nom­i­na­tion away from the party’s en­dorsed can­di­date.

The two men have not agreed to a de­bate sched­ule.

Whether Wolf or Wag­ner wins, the state will get a new lieu­tenant gov­er­nor. Braddock Mayor John Fet­ter­man up­set Demo­cratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in the Demo­cratic pri­mary. Wag­ner’s run­ning mate is Jeff Bar­tos.

SE­NATE

Four-term U.S. Rep. Lou Bar­letta, a for­mer Ha­zle­ton mayor, is chal­leng­ing Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a for­mer state trea­surer and au­di­tor gen­eral.

Casey, the son of the late for­mer Gov. Robert P. Casey, has been a vo­cal critic of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, while Bar­letta is among the pres­i­dent’s most re­li­able de­fend­ers.

Casey is seek­ing a third term.

Bar­letta has badly lagged Casey in fundrais­ing, and no in­de­pen­dent poll puts him within strik­ing dis­tance. The race has hardly drawn any na­tional at­ten­tion, while the par­ties bat­tling for U.S. Se­nate con­trol in Novem­ber’s elec­tion are fo­cused on races in at least 10 other states.

Trump was in north­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia a few days ago to cam­paign for Bar­letta.

GEN­ERAL ASSEM­BLY

Repub­li­cans hold com­mand­ing mar­gins in both cham­bers — 121-82 in the House and 34-16 in the Se­nate. Demo­cratic strate­gists say flip­ping ei­ther cham­ber isn’t re­al­is­tic, but they are hop­ing for gains, and a large num­ber of Re­pub­li­can va­can­cies has given them an open­ing.

In the House, Democrats have can­di­dates in 20 of the 21 open Re­pub­li­can seats, while the GOP has chal­lengers in just 5 of the 12 Demo­cratic open­ings.

All five Se­nate va­can­cies are Repub­li­cans: Sens. John Eichel­berger, Chuck McIl­hin­ney, Ste­wart Green­leaf, Randy Vu­lakovich and Wag­ner.

SMALLER LEG­IS­LA­TURE

The House passed a bill that would shrink it­self from 203 mem­bers to 151, and cut the Se­nate from 50 to 38 mem­bers, be­fore the sen­a­tors stripped out the part that ap­plied to them and sent it back. It’s cur­rently pend­ing in the House, but it will not be on the fall bal­lot. If it passes by the end of Novem­ber, which is far from cer­tain, a ref­er­en­dum will be sched­uled for the spring pri­mary.

Sup­port­ers had said it could make the Leg­is­la­ture eas­ier to man­age, and some saw an op­por­tu­nity for mod­est cost savings. Skep­tics doubted there would be ma­jor­ity sup­port, when push came to shove, to vote to cut their own ranks.

RE­DIS­TRICT­ING AMEND­MENT

A pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to re­vamp how the state draws leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sional bound­aries gained some mo­men­tum this year af­ter the court bat­tle pro­duced a new con­gres­sional map.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans, with two Demo­cratic votes, passed a plan to have dis­trict lines drawn by a com­mis­sion. The panel would con­sist of mem­bers cho­sen by leg­isla­tive lead­ers and the gov­er­nor.

The Se­nate-passed pro­posal also would dras­ti­cally change the elec­tion of statewide ap­peals court judges, hav­ing them run in dis­tricts.

That bill is cur­rently pend­ing in the state House, where more than 600 amend­ments have been filed. It ap­pears to be stalled.

Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment ad­ver­tis­ing rules mean it’s prob­a­bly al­ready too late to have any new sys­tem in place to re­draw lines as a re­sult of the 2020

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this May 8 file photo, Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf lis­tens to state Rep. Jor­dan Har­ris (D-Phila.) dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Philadel­phia.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this May 14, file photo, Scott Wag­ner, Re­pub­li­can can­di­date for Penn­syl­va­nia gov­er­nor, ar­rives for a cam­paign stop at a diner in Im­pe­rial, Pa..

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Re­pub­li­can Se­nate can­di­date Rep. Lou Bar­letta, R-Pa., speaks as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lis­tens dur­ing a rally, Thurs­day, Aug. 2, at Mo­he­gan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks dur­ing a gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign event with Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris, D-Calif., Fri­day, July 13, in Philadel­phia.

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