How Vulnerable are House Districts Clinton Won? Preliminary Analysis of Pennsylvania By Paul Joyce
The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research has analyzed GOP controlled House districts in Texas, California, and Florida that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. These seats are considered among the most competitive in 2018, but our analysis thus far has found mixed results. We now turn to Pennsylvania’s 6th and 7th districts. They are currently held by Ryan Costello and Patrick Meehan, respectively.
PA-6 is located just outside of Philadelphia and includes parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties. The district was held by Democrats from 1959 to 2003, but redistricting prior to the 2002 election changed that. A Republican, Jim Gerlach, has held the seat since. Gerlach survived the wave election of 2006 and served as the district’s representative until retiring in 2015.
Ryan Costello was elected in 2016 by 15 points, while Hillary Clinton won the district by less than one percent. Costello, a young moderate Republican, has not been afraid to distance himself from Donald Trump on occasion, whom he did not endorse during the campaign, particularly on the issues of healthcare and climate change. Although Costello initially supported the repeal of Obamacare, he voted against the The American Healthcare Act (AHCA) and helped create the Republican Climate Resolution, an effort among Republicans to address climate change.
Congressman Costello has also been vocal about recent challenges facing the Trump presidency. Costello found Trump’s explanation for firing of James Comey insufficient and supported the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel. Costello’s moderate stance in a suburban district may be enough to help him win reelection again in 2018.
PA-7 is quite similar to PA-6. The district, also found in the Philadelphia suburbs, consists of most of Delaware County and parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lancaster counties. Hillary Clinton won by 2.3 percent in 2016.
PA-7 has flipped frequently between Republicans and Democrats. Curt Weldon (R) was the representative from 1987 to 2007, but lost in the 2006 wave election to Joe Sestak (D). Sestak was then defeated by current representative Pat Meehan in 2010, who has won reelection three times with 60 percent of the vote or higher.
Congressman Meehan is another moderate Republican who selectively opposes to Trump. Meehan did not vote for the President, instead writing in Mike Pence. Like Costello, Meehan is a supporter of the Republican Climate Resolution, and voted against the AHCA. Meehan was less critical than Costello of the Comey firing, but also supported the Mueller appointment.
Congressmen Costello and Meehan appear well-equipped to handle the electoral challenges surrounding the Trump presidency. Neither supported him during the campaign and have selectively distanced themselves from the White House since taking office. Their approach could provide the GOP with a potential blueprint for how moderate Republicans survive the 2018 midterm.
Paul Joyce is an MPA Candidate at the University of Albany.