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Opinion: Congressional candidates spent a bundle last election

Going into the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans believed that they had a real shot at knocking off incumbent Democrats U.S. Reps. Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright.

They looked at the numbers, strategized that if they played their cards right that they could take down these two vulnerable local candidates. They were willing to spend a lot of money to make the vision a reality.

After the dust had settled from last Nov. 8’s General Election, Wild, who represents the 7th District of Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and several municipalities in the West End of Monroe County, and Cartwright, whose northeastern Pennsylvania’s 8th District includes the remainder of Monroe County, were still standing and are now back in Congress to serve additional two-year terms.

Republican strategists to whom I spoke said Republican challenger Lisa Scheller was seen as a more likely winner, although they also felt that Cartwright’s Republican opponent, Jim Bognet, had a good chance, too. These were rematches since Scheller and Bognet had challenged their incumbent rivals two years earlier.

After all, this was a midterm election where the Democratic president’s opposition party was predicted to make big gains. Republicans were secretly celebrating the prospects of taking not only the House of Representatives but also the Senate where the Democrats had a razor-thin edge.

The Republicans did capture the House but much less emphatically than they had hoped, so they are now in control with a 222-213 edge. Some of the euphoria that the GOP may have gained from flipping the House was dampened by the embarrassing battle over who would be speaker.

After 15 ballots, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., prevailed, but insiders said that he had to make numerous significant concessions to the extreme right wing of the party to get its support. What this will mean in the long run is anyone’s guess. If the early going is any indication, it looks as if the operative words will be “obstruction” and “revenge.”

In the U.S. Senate, Democrats flipped Pennsylvania with John Fetterman defeating Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz. Although Republicans lead Democrats, 49-48, three independents caucus with the Democrats to give them a 51-49 edge, one better than in the last Congress.

With Wild and Cartwright holding on to their respective seats, the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation favors the Democrats 8-7. Before the election, it was 8-8. Because of the 2020 decennial census reapportionment, Pennsylvania lost one Congressional seat.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, $13.7 million was spent in the 7th District contest, while nearly $10 million was spent in the 8th District. Both are the highest amounts among the 15 contests in the state.

While Scheller, president and board chair of Silberline Inc., performed extremely well in both Carbon and Monroe, she could not compensate for Wild’s success in Lehigh and Northampton counties where she polled better than two years ago when she beat Scheller by about 14,000. This year the margin of victory was considerably smaller at about 4,700 votes out of about 295,000 ballots cast.

Several Republican insiders to whom I spoke said they believe that if someone much stronger than Doug Mastriano were the Republican nominee for governor in 2022, Scheller might have been able to knock off Wild. They said that Mastriano’s weakness cost down-ballot candidates “many, many votes.”

Another rematch occurred in the 8th Congressional District where Cartwright defeated Bognet just as he had two years ago, this time by about 7,600 votes.

The local Congressional district where there was no drama or uncertainty and much less money spent was the 9th where incumbent Dan Meuser cruised to victory over token opposition from Democrat Amanda Waldman. Meuser had nearly 70% of the vote to Waldman’s 30%. The huge 9th District includes all or parts of 12 counties, including Schuylkill, and stretches from the New York state border in the north to almost the city of Lancaster in the south.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.