Pencil in Pa. election winner, but soon erase the district?
CANONSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pencil in Democrat Conor Lamb or Republican Rick Saccone as the next congressman in a U.S. House district in southwestern Pennsylvania. But erase their congressional district.
Even after a winner is determined in the too-close-to-call vote from Tuesday’s special election, the prize may prove fleeting.
Pennsylvania’s Democratic-majority Supreme Court has ordered the redrawing of the state’s 18 congressional districts, the result of a gerrymandering lawsuit filed last year.
Unless a federal court intervenes soon, that new electoral map with 18 districts based on new boundaries will await voters and candidates on the May 15 primary and the Nov. 6 general election.
The Pittsburgh-area district that Lamb and Saccone vied for will vanish, along with the state’s 17 others districts, when Congress begins its next term in January. That means just 10 guaranteed months in office for Lamb or Saccone, to complete the term of GOP Rep. Tim Murphy.
Murphy, a strongly anti-abortion lawmaker, resigned last fall amid revelations that he had urged the woman with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion.
So what are the options for Lamb and Saccone?
Time is short for a decision, even after an exhausting race and the outcome in doubt.
Congressional candidates who want to be on the Pennsylvania ballot in May must gather 1,000 signatures by Tuesday.
Under the new boundaries, Saccone’s home is in a Pittsburgh-based district that is heavily Democratic and home to longtime Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle. Instead of running there, Saccone is seeking signatures in a new southwestern Pennsylvania district whose boundaries are just to the south of where he lives, about 15 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
That new district is more Republican-friendly and sheds the moderate Pittsburgh suburbs that helped Lamb on Tuesday night. It retains more than half of the existing district that Saccone and Lamb competed for.
A candidate is not required to live in a district to run for the seat, but that situation is considered a significant political liability. As a result, Saccone may move south.
Lamb is expected to run in a new district west of Pittsburgh against three-term Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus.
In 2016, President Donald Trump narrowly won the communities that make up this new district, which is substantially less friendly to Republicans than Rothfus’ current one.
This new district picks up moderate territory around Pittsburgh, including Lamb’s home turf, and it is described by Republicans as a toss-up.
Lamb may have a primary contest because two other Democrats have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run against Rothfus in the new district.