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Potential Pennsylvania Congressional Remapping Spells Uncertainty For The 12th

Keystone Crossroads
A map showing Pennsylvania's Congressional districts, including the 12th, pictured in dark green.

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision to toss out the commonwealth’s Republican-created congressional boundaries has thrown a wrench in some campaigns.

The court ruled that the map was so gerrymandered that it “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state constitution. Now, Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District are considering what a redrawing of the boundaries could mean for their potential race against incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus.

The four challengers all agree that the State Supreme Court made the correct ruling, and that a new map could mean more fair representation for Pennsylvanians. They disagree, however, on how to move forward with their campaigns.

Attorney Beth Tarasi from Sewickley said no matter how the lines are redrawn, she’s ready to serve.

“I’m just going to sit tight and wait, continue to campaign, and do what’s necessary to be a successful candidate,” said Tarasi. She said she’s certain, as a matter of fate, that a redraw will include her living in the 12th.

But right now, the 12th extends through parts of Beaver, Allegheny, Cambria and Somerset counties. Challenger Aaron Anthony, an educator from Shaler Township, acknowledges the possibility that he could be drawn out of his own district. Although candidates aren’t legally required to live in the districts they would represent, he doesn’t know if it would be reasonable to live near Pittsburgh, but only represent communities centered around Johnstown, for instance.

“So going forward I don’t know what it’s going to look like, and I don’t know what my options are going to be if it’s an hour and a half to reach the nearest part of the district, I don’t know how reasonable it is,” said Anthony. “There’s so much up in the air. And it’s wild times for sure.”

But until a new map happens, he said it will mostly be business as usual.

“We have to look at the big picture of this is great for Pennsylvania representation writ large, but hard to map out a specific game plan for what it means for our specific campaign,” said Anthony.

While Anthony can imagine a scenario in which he drops out of the race, challenger Tom Prigg of McCandless said there’s no way he would do that.

“I will personally continue on,” said Prigg. “I’ve been running since last year. There’s no way I’m going to throw my hands up and quit. I will worry about where my home address is after I win.”

Prigg, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, said a new map would put the Democratic candidate on an even playing field with incumbent Rothfus.

The most recent candidate to jump into the race, businessman Ray Linsenmeyer of McCandless, said “this ruling will ensure that Pennsylvanians will not be disenfranchised in 2018 and beyond. I look forward to a vibrant primary that addresses the needs of the new district.”

Rothfus was unable to be reached for comment.

PA 12 for Progress is still planning on having a congressional candidate forum in Allegheny County on February 22nd. Democratic committees around the region are scheduled to announce their endorsements within the coming weeks.

The court has ordered the redraw be complete by February 9 and approved by Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, by February 15. Republican lawmakers however said they’ll ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the decision. 

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.