Fewer than 500 days left until Election Day 2020
When I was a rookie radio reporter in 1962, the late U.S. Rep. Francis E. Walter, D-Pennsylvania, told me that he never stopped running for office even though he was re-elected 14 times after first winning in 1933.
Times have not changed; if anything, the emphasis on getting re-elected starts the day after a candidate has won election. Since U.S. House terms are just two years, fundraising and the other necessary evils associated with hanging on to the job are never far from an officeholder’s top of mind awareness.
That is certainly true with the three members of Congress who represent the five-county Times News region. Two of them — Susan Wild and Dan Meuser — are freshmen; the third, Matt Cartwright, will be seeking his fourth term but just the second time in a redrawn district.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has listed Wild and Cartwright as vulnerable, although they do not use that forbidden word. Since both are in what is considered swing districts, the national organization wants to be sure that Democrats hold or improve on the 9-9 split in the state’s congressional delegation.
A third Democrat similarly identified is Conor Lamb, who represents Pittsburgh’s western suburbs and who won a special election in 2018 despite President Donald Trump stumping for his Republican opponent, Rick Saccone. The difference in the largely Republican district was just four-tenths of a percentage point.
Unless Meuser does something stupid, he should have clear sailing in the heavily Republican district which includes all of Carbon and Schuylkill counties. Schuylkill has been a Republican stronghold for a long time, but Carbon flipped about a year ago, and the once reliable Democratic county is becoming redder with each passing day.
The sprawling district — one of the state’s largest geographically — also includes all of Columbia, Lebanon and Montour counties and parts of Berks, Luzerne and Northumberland. Meuser must travel more than 100 miles to cover the north-south extremities of his district.
Dean Browning, former Lehigh County commissioner and unsuccessful candidate in the Republican primary in 2018, announced in January that he is seeking Wild’s seat.
A tea party businessman who retired from an executive position in 2018 at New World Aviation in Lehigh County, Browning is an avid Trump supporter who has also run unsuccessful campaigns for county commissioner re-election and Lehigh County Executive.
Several prominent Republicans, including a Tamaqua native, have shown interest in going after Wild, although neither has committed so far. They are Lisa Scheller, now living in South Whitehall Township, who is former chair of the Lehigh County Commissioners. She is chief executive officer and president of Silberline Manufacturing Inc., headquartered in Tamaqua.
Scheller decided not to run for re-election to the board of commissioners in 2015, but she has remained active in GOP politics and has financially supported local and national Republican candidates. Among them were Lehigh County Commissioner Chair Marty Nothstein, who lost to Wild in the 2018 general election; U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who were unsuccessful candidates for president in 2016.
Also reportedly exploring a possible Wild challenge is Matt Connolly, a former race car driver from Bethlehem, who had run unsuccessfully for the Congressional seat formerly held by Cartwright before redistricting.
Republicans are looking for a strong candidate to take on Cartwright in an effort to flip the 8th District, which includes part of Monroe County, including Polk and Chestnuthill townships, along with part of Luzerne County and all of Lackawanna, Pike and Wayne.
Cartwright handily defeated largely self-funded Republican businessman John Chrin, originally from Northampton County who moved to Monroe to take on Cartwright, but his campaign never gained traction as he lost to Cartwright 55-45%.
To try to unseat Cartwright, who is considered the more vulnerable of the two Democrats, Republicans need to cast their sights on the Scranton area for a “big gun” with name recognition.
By Bruce Frassinelli | firstname.lastname@example.org