Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Delco takes the 5th

For weeks now voters in the 7th Congressional district have known that they would have a new representative in Washington, D.C.

That's because incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, decided not to seek re-election after becoming mired in the fallout from using taxpayer money to settle a sex harassment complaint filed by a former staffer.

What voters didn't realize is that they also would be saying goodbye to the 7th District altogether.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Monday released the much-awaited new map of the state's Congressional districts in the wake of court rulings that the 2011 redistricting was unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering.

The 7th District - at least as far as Delaware County is concerned - is now gone. Kicked all the way up to Bucks County. Delaware County now will reside in the 5th District.

One of the biggest complaints about the 2011 redistricting process was that it split so many counties, spitting in the face of the constitutional mandate that districts be "compact and contiguous" whenever possible.

In this new plan, many of those splits are remedied. For the most part, each suburban county now has its own district, although the new numbering of the districts is wildly different than the past.

The number of split districts under this plan is slashed to just 13; back in 2011 that number was 28.

Earlier fears spurred by a map set up by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that left Delco on the outside looking in - without its own district - did not pan out.

The high court has placed all of Delaware County in the 5th, along with a sliver of Montgomery County on the Main Line, and a chunk of southwest and South Philly.

The interesting part about the Philly section is that it basically flips the representation of what had been the 1st District turf of Dem power broker U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, D-1.

The 1st extended out into Delaware County in a sliver that basically followed the Delaware River and included the city of Chester.

In effect, folks in Delco who resided in the 1st always basically played second fiddle to the people who lived in the city. That situation is now reversed. The Philly folks will most likely be represented by someone from Delaware County. No doubt the fact the Brady, who also is the city's Democratic Party chairman, is not seeking re-election played a part in that process.

As far as Delco is concerned, the key factor is that the entire county is now included in one district. The people in Chadds Ford will vote for the same representative as the people in Chester, Upper Darby and Haverford.

The high court wants this map to be in place for the primary election on May 15. Candidates can start to gather signatures on their petitions in a few days.

For weeks now they have wondered what the district boundaries were going to look like.

Now they know.

But Republicans are vowing to mount a new legal challenge the the court's map, saying that one gerrymander has been replaced by another, claiming that the 5-2 Democratic majority on the court has overstepped its bounds, taking on duties that the state Constitution reserves for the Legislature.

At least the "Goofy Kicking Donald Duck" shape of the 7th District, which bent the district into two distinct land masses that touched parts of five different suburban counties, has been kicked to the curb.

Whether or not this actually holds up, well, we'll leave that to the lawyers.

Most of the experts who have weighed in are predicting the court's map will pave the way for Democratic gains in Congress. Right now Republicans hold 13 of Pennsylvania's 18 seats in Congress.

That likely will change. And battles for this new 5th District seat, along with the Sixth District seat held by Republican Rep. Ryan Costello in Chester County, will be in the forefront.

Brace yourself. The eyes of the nation will be riveted on these congressional battles.


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