Monday January 29, 2018
Berks County has portions of four congressional districts, at least for now. A new map could change those races.
WRITTEN BY READING EAGLE
The prospect of redistricting could dramatically change the 2018 congressional races in Pennsylvania.With the state Supreme Court ordering state lawmakers to create a new congressional map, some districts that tilt Republican could see an influx of Democratic voters.
Candidates face a new set of questions devising strategy and raising money. Candidates face one key question: Do I still live in the district?
Congressional candidates aren't required to live in the district they wish to represent, noted G. Terry Madonna, the political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College. But it's much harder to win if the candidate lives outside the district.
Here's a quick look at the implications of redistricting for the congressional districts that come into Berks County, at least for now.
The 7th DistrictCritics regard the 7th as one of the worst examples of gerrymandering. The district is getting a new representative. U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, a Delaware County Republican, abandoned his bid for re-election after the disclosure that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint by a former staffer. Political analysts said Meehan faced a tough road before the prospects of redistricting and his own personal drama. Some analysts say Democrats could flip the seat. The Cook Political Report moved the district from "leans Republican" to "toss up" after the revelations about Meehan (and before he dropped out of the race).
The 15th DistrictU.S. Rep. Charlie Dent is retiring and a host of Republican and Democratic candidates are vying to succeed the Lehigh County Republican. Republicans have an edge in registration but the right Democrat could win in the district even as it stands now, said Chris Borick, a political analyst at Muhlenberg College. If the district gets more Democratic voters in a new congressional map, "that absolutely increases the likelihood that it can go Democratic," Borick said.
The 6th DistrictU.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, a Chester County Republican, is seeking a third term. Madonna noted that Democrats have targeted the 6th District and could gain an edge with more Democratic households in the district. Costello won his district by 15 percentage points, but Democrats have made him a top target as they aim to retake Congress. Borick mentioned the 6th as another district that could be significantly shaken up in redistricting.
The 16th DistrictU.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker sits in a heavily Republican district controlled by the GOP for a century. The district does include the city of Reading and some surrounding Berks communities. Reading could be removed from the district, but it could still end up tilted to the GOP. Smucker, a Lancaster County resident, was elected in November 2016 and succeeded former U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, a Republican who retired from Congress.
How redistricting could affect Berks County's districts