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2012 elections preview: While most primaries in Pennsylvania will be uncontested races, a few stand out

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April 23, 2012

By Amanda Carey and Tyler Millhouse

See also: For Pennsylvania's state executive races, see the preview story here

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania: A total of 246 congressional and state legislative districts will hold primaries tomorrow in Pennsylvania. There are Pennsylvania|228 state legislative and 18 U.S House seats up for election in 2012. Polls will be open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time.[1]

Due to sluggish 3.5% growth since 2000, Pennsylvania was forced to cut one of its 19 U.S. House seats. Overall, population trends made the districts in southwestern Pennsylvania likely targets. In the end, the Republican-controlled General Assembly drew Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into the same district, while drawing six Republican incumbents safer districts. State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burns called the plan "partisan and gerrymandered."[2] However, Republican leaders argued that shrinking populations in western Pennsylvania motivated the changes and that the plan favors incumbents since incumbents have already been approved by voters. The plan easily passed in both chambers and was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on December 22, 2011.[3][4][5][6]

Meanwhile, the state legislative redistricting process was not so straight-forward. On January 25, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned new state legislative maps drawn by a state commission. As a result, races for the Pennsylvania General Assembly will take place in the existing legislative districts, drawn using the 2000 census.[7]

Ballotpedia will post results once polls close.

Here's a selection of what to watch tomorrow.



Following 2010 Census reapportionment, Pennsylvania lost one of its 19 U.S. House seats. In 9 of the 18 seats up for election in 2012, at least one primary will be contested. Of the 36 possible major party primaries (2 parties, 18 seats), only 10 (28%) will be contested. Of those 10 contested primaries, 3 are Republican and 7 are Democratic. The remaining 18 party primaries contain only one candidate (or none at all).

In this election cycle, the state of Pennsylvania has three distinct primary races worth watching in the 12th, 17th, and 18th districts. All three primaries have at-risk, moderate incumbents.

Members of the U.S. House from Pennsylvania-- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 6 5
     Republican Party 13 13
Total 19 18

District 12

See also: Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District elections, 2012

In the 12th Congressional District, a new legislative map forced Blue Dog Democrat Jason Altmire into a primary race with the moderate two-term incumbent Rep. Mark Critz. At the outset, Critz challenged Altmire’s petition signatures and sought to have him thrown off the ballot. A judge ruled against the Critz campaign, however, and ever since, Altmire has consistently led in the polls. But Critz has secured key labor endorsements which have helped close the once-large polling gap.

District 17

See also: Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District elections, 2012

In Pennsylvania's 17th District, another Blue Dog Democrat - Rep. Tim Holden - is facing a fierce primary challenge. After the last redistricting cycle, Holden narrowly beat a Republican incumbent in 2002. Since then, he has consistently fended off Republican challenges in a right-leaning district. In 2012, however, his new district became much more Democrat-heavy and as a result, he is facing a stiff challenge from the left in Matt Cartwright - a wealthy and well-known attorney. In March, the Washington Post labeled Holden one of the top-10 incumbents most likely to lose their primary elections this year.[8]

District 18

See also: Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District elections, 2012

In Pennsylvania's 18th District, moderate Republican Rep. Tim Murphy is facing primary challenge from the right in Evan Feinberg - a former Congressional aide to Sens. Rand Paul and Tom Coburn. Though Murphy has consistently led in the polls, Feinberg has secured endorsements from big names in conservative circles like FreedomWorks and his two former Hill bosses. Feinberg has campaigned to paint Murphy as an out-of-touch moderate who is too liberal for the district.

General Assembly

2012 badge.jpg

In the General Assembly, a total of 228 seats are up for election. Of the 456 major-party primaries (228 seats, two parties), only 63 (13.8%) have more than one candidate on ballot. Of these 63 contested primaries, 28 are Republican and 35 are Democratic. In 26 of the contested primaries, the winner will face no general election opposition. PoliticsPA has released a list of the "top 10 most interesting" legislative primaries in Pennsylvania. These primaries will take place in the following districts: SD 15, SD 29, SD 31, SD 37, HD 24, HD 31, HD 92, HD 104, HD 182, and HD 188.[9]

Pennsylvania State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 20 23
     Republican Party 29 27
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 50 50
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 91 93
     Republican Party 110 110
     Vacancy 2 0
Total 203 203

See also

External links