Incumbent Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, left, and Republican challenger Lisa Scheller, candidates in the 7th Congressional District, shake hands after their televised debate Oct. 21, 2022, at PBS 39 studios hosted by LehighValleyNews.com (Photo by Donna Fisher/Armchair Lehigh Valley
By Robert H. Orenstein
The 2022 congressional campaign for the Lehigh Valley-based 7th District cost nearly $13.7 million, the most expensive House contest in Pennsylvania, according to an analysis of final campaign finance reports filed this week with the Federal Elections Commission.
The total reflects money spent in 2021 and 2022 by Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild and Republicans Lisa Scheller and Kevin Dellicker. Scheller defeated Dellicker in the May primary but lost the November election to Wild, who collected about 51% of the vote in winning a third term.
In 2020, Wild also won the election over Scheller, but with 52% of the vote. In 2020, the primary and general election campaign spending in the 7th District totaled $8.7 million, about $5 million less than last year’s campaign.
The state’s second most costly race was in the Scranton-based 8th Congressional District, where candidates spent nearly $10 million in the primary and general elections. Democrat Matt Cartwright was reelected to a sixth term in the House, defeating Republican Jim Bognet in a rematch of their 2020 contest.
It’s not surprising that the 7th District contest involved the most money among the Pennsylvania U.S. House contests, said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown and a professor of political science at the college
“There were certainly reasons to believe that the 7th District race would be the most expensive in PA, given its very competitive nature and its overlay with the expensive Philadelphia media market,” he said in an email response to questions from Armchair Lehigh Valley.
“Nevertheless the 13 million price tag is still eye-catching. Those are numbers that not long ago would be seen in statewide races. Given the tight balance in the House, extremely lax campaign finance laws and the makeup of this district, it’s likely campaigns in the area will have a high price tag in upcoming cycles.”
Republicans targeted the 7th and 8th districts, hoping to flip them in what they expected would be part of a red wave in gaining control of the U.S. House. The GOP did capture a majority of House districts but never gained a large majority, thanks in part to Democratic incumbents such as Wild and Cartwright fending off strong Republican challengers.
In the 7th District, Wild raised and spent more money than her opponent, despite Scheller loaning her campaign a total of $2,558,000 in four installments in the final weeks of the campaign, according to FEC data. That brought the amount of loans she made to her campaign to $3,168,000 – nearly half of the total raised by her campaign. Her campaign finance reports indicate the loans were not repaid as of Dec. 31, 2022.
Scheller of Allentown is president and CEO of Silberline Manufacturing, a global aluminum pigment company.
Nationwide, the Wild and Scheller campaigns were in the upper tier of campaign contributions and expenditures among all House races, according to the FEC. Wild was the 34th and Scheller 46th in contributions, and Wild was 34th and Scheller 42nd in spending.
Here are the next six top Pennsylvania congressional campaigns in terms of money raised and spent, according to FEC campaign finance reports. Winning candidates are listed first.
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