New Congressional boundaries set stage for Primary contests
So, if you live in Carbon County, the question is: who's your congressman?
Right now, regardless of which municipality you reside, it is Rep. Lou Barletta, the current House member from Hazleton who represents the 11th Congressional District.
But, for voting purposes, starting with the April 24 Primary Election, that will change, or at least part of it, and when the new Congressional members take their oaths in 2013, Carbon County will be represented by two congressmen.
Every 10 years, following the federal decennial census, Congressional redistricting takes place, meaning the boundaries are redrawn. But unlike the Pennsylvania House and Senate districts, which are redrawn by a Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the boundaries of Congressional seats in Pennsylvania are redrawn by legislative action.
That happened earlier this year when legislation proceeded through the two chambers of the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, officially putting Carbon County in two districts instead of the one that it had been in for the last two decades.
Those districts are the 11th and 17th Congressional Districts. Here's how they are comprised.
The 11th District, where Carbon previously belonged as a whole, is changed dramatically, but still includes the townships of Banks, Kidder, Lausanne, Lehigh, Packer and Penn Forest and the boroughs of Beaver Meadows, East Side and Weatherly in Carbon County.
The district also includes parts of Cumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, Northumberland and Perry counties and all of Columbia, Montour and Wyoming counties.
Rep. Barletta, a Republican, is running for re-election to a two-year term. The former mayor of Hazleton, he won his first term two years ago when he defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski.
On the Democratic side aspiring to the nomination to face Barletta in November are attorney Bill Vinsko of Wilkes-Barre and Gene Stilp of Middle Paxton, Dauphin County. Vinsko is a former Wilkes-Barre City assistant attorney who founded Vinsko and Associates, a firm that specializes in real estate transactions, estate planning, litigation and other legal needs. Stilp, a graduate of George Mason School of Law in Virginia, is a former legislative aide in the Pa. House of Representatives and served for six years as the House's designee on the state Environmental Quality Board.
Meanwhile, the reshaping of the congressional boundaries moved the remainder of Carbon County into the 17th District, where the dean of the Pennsylvania delegation, Congressman Tim Holden of St. Clair, Schuylkill County, is the standard-bearer.
The district includes the Carbon townships of East Penn, Franklin, Lower Towamensing, Mahoning and Towamensing and the boroughs of Bowmanstown, Jim Thorpe, Lansford, Nesquehoning, Palmerton, Parryville, Summit Hill and Weissport.
It also includes parts of Lackawanna County, including the City of Scranton, Luzerne County, including the City of Wilkes-Barre, Monroe County and Northampton County, including the City of Easton, as well as all of Schuylkill County.
Holden is Pennsylvania's longest serving congressman, having been elected in 1992 and re-elected nine times after that. He has been a member of the Agriculture Committee since 1993. He was appointed Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture committee in the 110th Congress and was recently selected to serve as the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, a subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research, and continues to serve on the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee.
He is also the senior Pa. member serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and serves on the Subcommittee of Highways and Transit as well as the Subcommittee on Aviation.
Holden is being challenged in the Primary by Matt Cartwright, an attorney from Scranton and a member of the law firm Munley, Munley & Cartwright.
On the Republican side is Laureen Cummings of Old Forge, Lackawanna County. A Tea Party activist, she initially launched a campaign to run for the U.S. Senate before entering the race for Congress.
A nurse by profession, she is the owner of Lorimar Home Care & Staffing Services, Inc., Old Forge.