WASHINGTON – In three local House districts currently held by the GOP, registered Democrats actually outnumber registered Republicans. Two are in South Jersey and the other is in a Bucks County-based district.
Those numbers help explain why Democrats are once again targeting Republican seats in the Philadelphia area, trying to take advantage of some of the country’s most competitive districts and two retirements that will deprive the GOP of the power of incumbency.
But which seats are actually within reach? Voter registration numbers below give one clue.
Of course, so much of the races will depend not only on numbers, but also on the individual candidates, the overall political environment and the ability to reach unaffiliated voters. Despite the closely-divided districts, Republicans have done well in recent years, beating back Democratic challenges. And at the moment, most analysts see a strong 2014 for the GOP. Voter counts are just one factor among many.
Still, the numbers give us a sense of the playing field as the hopefuls warm up for their races.
Below is a look at the Philadelphia region races where there are either open seats or closely-balanced districts, now that both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have passed their filing deadlines.
Voter registration stats are from March 21 in Pennsylvania and March 30 in New Jersey. They were supplied by both states governments’ elections divisions. Election results from 2012 are via the Cook Political Report, as is another key indicator of party strength within each district, the Cook PVI (Partisan Voter Index), which measures how far each district leans Democratic or Republican in presidential races.
PA-6 – Parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties
Incumbent: Jim Gerlach (R) is retiring.
Registered Democrats: 183,294 (39%)
Registered Republicans: 203,317(44%)
2012 Winner: Romney, 51-48
Cook PVI: R+2
Notes: Democrats didn’t have a lot of hope here before Gerlach’s retirement, but an open seat makes for a more competitive environment. Still, the district has been tilted to the right by redistricting and Mitt Romney did better here than in any other district around Philadelphia. The GOP is still favored. Democrats will need to catch some breaks to win.
Candidates: Republican Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello is running against physician Manan Trivedi, a Democrat who has twice lost to Gerlach.
PA-7 – Parts of Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties
Incumbent: Pat Meehan (R)
Registered Democrats: 170,194 (36%)
Registered Republicans: 240,154 (50%)
2012 Winner: Romney, 50-49
Cook PVI: R+2
Notes: By registration numbers, Meehan has the most heavily Republican district in the region. He’s heavily favored.
Candidates: Meehan faces a Democratic challenge from LaSalle political science professor Mary Ellen Balchunis.
PA-8 – Parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties
Incumbent: Mike Fitzpatrick (R)
Registered Democrats: 203,343 (42%)
Registered Republicans: 199,761 (42%)
2012 Winner: Romney, 49-49 (Romney won by decimal points)
Cook PVI: R+1
Notes: It’s the region’s most closely-divided district. Democrats have a slight edge by the numbers. But Fitzpatrick has been resilient -- how else to explain how he coasted to an impressive 13 point victory in 2012, well ahead of Romney.
Candidates: Fitzpatrick says this will be his last run for Congress. Democrats have a primary between ex-Army Ranger Kevin Strouse and businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton.
PA-13 – Parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia
Incumbent: Allyson Schwartz (D) is running for governor, leaving the House contest open.
Registered Democrats: 294,322 (60%)
Registered Republicans: 133,726 (27%)
2012 Winner: Obama, 66-33
Cook PVI: D+13
Notes: In this heavily Democratic district the biggest contest is expected to be the Democratic primary, which features four contenders.
Candidates: Physician Val Arkoosh, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, state Sen. Daylin Leach and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies (mother-in-law to Chelsea Clinton). Republicans have two candidates running: Dee Adcock, a businessman who ran against Schwartz in 2010, and Beverly Plosa-Bowser, a retired Air Force colonel.
NJ-1 – Parts of Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties
Incumbent: None. Rob Andrews (D) resigned in February.
Registered Democrats: 198,135 (40%)
Registered Republicans: 69,793 (14%)
2012 Winner: Obama, 66-34
Cook PVI: D+13
Notes: The open seat has drawn seven(!) candidates, even though this has historically been one of the least competitive districts in the region. After the two House districts in Philadelphia, this is the most Democratic territory in the area (by voter counts),
Candidates: The most powerful Democrats in this district have uniformly lined up behind state state Sen. Donald Norcross, brother of South Jersey power broker George Norcross. (George Norcross is also majority owner of the company that publishes the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com). Norcross faces a primary fight from Logan Township Mayor Frank Minor and former Marine Frank Broomell Jr. The Camden County Republican organization has pinned its hopes on ex-Eagles linebacker Garry Cobb. He faces GOP competition from Lee Lucas, Claire Gustafson and Gerard McManus.
NJ-2 – Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem counties. Parts of Gloucester, Burlington, Camden, Ocean counties.
Incumbent: Frank LoBiondo (R)
Registered Democrats: 127,436 (27%)
Registered Republicans: 117,841 (25%)
2012 Winner: Obama, 54-46
Cook PVI: D+1
Notes: This is one of just 17 districts in the country that elected a Republican to Congress but went for Obama in 2012. Democrats have a slight edge in overall voters, but the race will likely be decided by the huge swath of nearly 223,000 unaffiliated voters - who have historically helped LoBiondo to big wins.
Candidates: LoBiondo is being challenged in the GOP primary by Mike Assad, who also tried to unseat the incumbent in 2012. National Democrats are behind William Hughes Jr., whose father held the seat for 20 years before LoBiondo’s election. Dave Cole, a former Obama administration aide, is running against Hughes.
NJ-3 – Parts of Burlington and Ocean counties.
Incumbent: Jon Runyan (R) is retiring.
Registered Democrats: 131,418 (27%)
Registered Republicans: 122,152 (25%)
2012 Winner: Obama, 52-48
Cook PVI: R+1
Notes: This is another of the 17 seats where Obama and a House Republican both won in 2012. Democrats see Runyan’s retirement as an opportunity. Still, the district has been in GOP hands for all but two years in recent memory, and redistricting in 2010 took out Democratic stronghold Cherry Hill. Democrats have more registered voters, but many of the 235,000 unaffiliated voters have traditionally ended up in the Republican column on Election Day.
Candidates: Tom MacArthur, the former mayor of Randolph, is the pick of the GOP establishment and is campaigning as a moderate, but he faces a primary against conservative activist Steve Lonegan, who has a long history of stirring up grassroots support. National Democrats are behind Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, though she has primary competition from Howard Kleinhendler, who ran in the fourth district in 2010, before new district maps took effect.