On Thursday evening, GOP Rep. Pat Meehan announced he would not seek re-election in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. It’s a dramatic end for someone who had enjoyed a long and prominent career in local and national politics, but one that he very much brought upon himself.
We’ll start with a look at the battle for Meehan’s House seat, where the GOP has quite the headache on their hands. The current version of Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, located in the Philadelphia suburbs, narrowly backed Mitt Romney in 2012 before flipping to narrowly back Hillary Clinton in 2016, and it’ll be tough for Republicans to defend as an open seat in what’s shaping up to be a very difficult political environment.
But to complicate things further, the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s Republican-drawn congressional map on Monday as an unlawful partisan gerrymander. And indeed, this inkblot of a district, likened to “Goofy kicking Donald Duck,” is the most emblematic example of just how badly the GOP tortured the lines to produce the outcome they wanted. Unless Republicans succeed with their long-shot bid to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the current map in place, whatever district replaces the current 7th is likely to be more Democratic.
However, while we can make an educated guess, no one can say for sure what the new district will look like, nor how blue it will be. It’s also not certain who will be crafting the new boundaries. The GOP-controlled legislature has until Feb. 15 to pass a new map, but Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto anything he views as a gerrymander. If a stalemate comes to pass, the court will draw up its own seats. For now, we have what we’ve coined a Schrödinger’s seat, where candidates are considering running for a district that may not—in this case, almost certainly will not—exist by Election Day.
And it’s a particularly sticky situation for national Republicans, who still want to find a credible candidate rather than just cede a seat. An unnamed local GOP operative told Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman that the party wants to recruit “a woman with a prosecutorial background,” though this source didn’t offer up any names that might match the description of this unicorn candidate. A different Republican name-dropped state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, former Delaware County Council Chairman Mario Civera, and state Reps. Alex Charlton and Nick Miccarelli as potential candidates, but there’s no word on how interested any of them are.
Meanwhile, a few Democrats had been running before Meehan’s collapse, but others may now be interested. Indeed, state Rep. Greg Vitali filed with the FEC on Friday, though he has not said anything publicly. Vitali has been in the legislature since 1993, but he doesn’t seem to have a good relationship with the party leadership. Last year, Vitali said he very much wanted to be the top Democrat on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, which he called “my focus since I came up here.” State House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, however, picked someone else, and while Dermody’s team said they just felt Vitali would be a bigger asset on a different committee, Vitali insisted he may have paid a price for “being outspoken.”
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