After several election cycles that saw the Keystone State’s most contentious congressional races unfold in the Philadelphia suburbs, all eyes may end up being on central Pennsylvania in 2020.
The new map drawn last year by the state Supreme Court threw Pennsylvania’s traditional battlegrounds into upheaval, and the result was five seats switching hands with a net gross of four for the Democrats.
Yet despite 2018’s blue wave there are still two heavily targeted GOP incumbents left standing.
First up, there’s U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Bucks County’s frequently contested 1st District. The second, two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, is in more trouble than he may realize in his new 10th District.
While Fitzpatrick and Perry each nabbed about 51.3 percent of the vote in last year’s midterm election, only Fitzpatrick has shown the ability or willingness to break with the GOP on controversial votes.
For instance, Fitzpatrick voted for aid to Puerto Rico whereas Perry voted against it. Ditto the Equality Act. Perry, on the other hand, voted against an effort to bar President Donald Trump from pulling the U.S. out of NATO.
So Perry was always going to face a battle. Recent indications, however, suggest that Auditor General Eugene DePasquale may jump into the race. Such a development would make Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District one of the nation’s most intense battlegrounds.
DePasquale vs. Perry
In 2016, when he won his second and final term as Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog, DePasquale took 50.01 percent of the vote against Republican challenger John Brown. Though he ran behind other statewide candidates that year, such as Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella, DePasquale did respectively finish 2.16 percent and 2.67 percent ahead of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and former U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty.
Here’s a look at how DePasquale’s battle with Brown breaks up in the area that’s now the current 10th Congressional District:
Now compare that map to Perry’s performance against Democratic opponent George Scott last November:
And now, a final map.
This is a partial rendering of Perry’s 2016 victory over Democrat Joshua Burkholder in the former 4th Congressional District. That seat contained all of York County, as well as ruby red Adams County. It also included a decent chunk of Harrisburg and the suburbs on the other side of the Susquehanna River in Cumberland County:
By looking at all three maps, several trends become apparent. The most prominent is the blue growth into such Cumberland County suburbs as Mechanicsburg and Camp Hill boroughs, as well as Hampden Township.
Where Burkholder was soundly beaten, DePasquale and Scott made steady gains. This further confirms a trend I found in comparing Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2014 and 2018 victories, and is also apparent when examining recent presidential races.
George Scott even ran ahead of DePasquale’s margins in such communities as Carlisle, in Cumberland County, and Hershey, in Dauphin County. The areas both west and east of Harrisburg appear home to the kinds of Romney/Clinton voters that President Donald Trump is pushing out of the GOP.
It’s clear two keys to Perry’s re-election were holding the margins in the suburbs around York and running up the score in the district’s rural areas.
Conversely, DePasquale ran well around York in his race and avoided the rural shellacking that was given to the Democrats’ two female statewide candidates in 2016.
Given these results, it’s likely that a DePasquale versus Perry matchup would be one of the major battleground battles in a year (and a commonwealth) that’s set to be rife with them.
Nick Field, of Bucks County, contributes frequent analysis to the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.