A failed attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislative Reapportionment Commission to gerrymander the state House of Representatives seat in Carbon County has resulted in the 122nd Legislative District remaining the same as the 2012 Primary Election nears.
Earlier this year, the commission attempted to cut Summit Hill Borough out of the district by placing it in the Republican-controlled 124th District headed by Rep. Jerry Knowles, but an order issued by the Pa. Supreme Court on Jan. 25 dealt a severe blow to that strategy. The court ruled the commission's redistricting plans violated the state Constitution and ordered the 2001 boundary lines to remain in place until a suitable reapportionment plan is submitted.
Faced with an early election this year, April 24, the commission simply did not have enough time to redraw the lines in a way that would satisfy the high court. The commission is comprised of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R), House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R), Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D) and former state Superior Court President Judge Stephen McEwen (R).
As a result of the court ruling, all of Carbon County will remain in the 122nd District of the state House, where Rep. Doyle Heffley, a Republican, is currently serving his first two-year term. He is unopposed in the Primary Election and will face the winner of a Democratic race between Ronald Rabenold of Lehighton and Gerald Strubinger of Jim Thorpe.
Heffley, from Lower Towamensing Township, serves on the House Tourism and Recreational Development, Game and Fisheries, Human Services and Transportation committees.
Rabenold, a resident of Franklin Township, is a 21-year veteran teacher who had served on the State Professional Standards and Practices Commission and in various leadership capacities for the Lehighton Area teachers.
Strubinger resides in Jim Thorpe where he has served many years on the school district's Board of Education.
29th Senate seat
Meanwhile, the redistricting commission also attempted, unsuccessfully, to change the boundaries of the 29th Senatorial District, where Sen. David Argall, a Republican, is the incumbent. If allowed, the plan would have cut parts of Carbon out of the 29th District to allow Argall to represent only East Penn and Mahoning townships in Carbon.
Since the plan was aborted by the court, the district will remain the same as the 2001 plan, meaning it will include the townships of East Penn, Franklin, Lower Towamensing, Penn Forest and Towamensing and the boroughs of Bowmanstown, Palmerton and Parryville in the county.
Other areas of Carbon County not mentioned above will continue to be a part of the 14th Senatorial District, where Sen. John Yudichak is the officeholder.
The 29th District also includes parts of Berks County; part of Lehigh County, including Heidelberg, Lynn and Washington townships and Slatington Borough; parts of Monroe County, including Eldred, Jackson, Polk and Tunkhannock townships; parts of Northampton County, including including Lehigh Township and Walnutport Borough; as well as all of Schuylkill County.
Argall, a resident of Rush Township, was elected to the Senate seat in a special election in 2009 after the untimely death of longtime Sen. James J. Rhoades. The following year, 2010, he was soundly defeated in a run against Congressman Tim Holden of the 17th Congressional District.
Before his election to the Senate, Argall represented the 124th Legislative District in the Pa. House since 1984, including having served as the Republican Whip from 2004-08.
The senator is facing a huge challenge on the Republican ticket from Brian Rich of Pottsville, the current president of Reading Anthracite Company who has spent 29 years in the energy industry and who was instrumental in the construction of two power plants, Gilberton Power and Schuylkill Energy Resources, as well as numerous other energy related projects.
The winner of that race will face Democrat Tim Seip of Washington Township, Schuylkill County, who is unopposed on his party's ticket. Seip, a licensed social worker, is employed at Kutztown University and previously served in the state House, 2007-1010.