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Does it matter if candidates for Congress live in the district they seek to represent?

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
A map shows Pennsylvania's 14th Congressional District (purple) in relation to the addresses of the candidates seeking to represent its residents. Only Democrats Bibiana Boerio and Adam Sedlock live within the new boundaries.

Most of the candidates who intend to run in Pennsylvania’s newly drawn 14th Congressional District to the south and east of Pittsburgh don’t actually live there.

Candidates Tom Prigg (D-McCandless), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Jefferson Hills), Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) and Bob Solomon (D-North Fayette) currently live outside the district, which covers Fayette, Greene and Washington counties, plus the western portion of Westmoreland County. All four reside in neighboring Allegheny County.

Candidates Bibiana Boerio (D-Unity) of Westmoreland County and Adam Sedlock (D-Wharton) of Fayette County already live in the 14th, with Boerio about 1,000 feet from its eastern boundary.

Democratic strategist Mike Mikus said during the typical redistricting process, it’s not unusual for candidates to run outside their home district. That process takes place every 10 years, after each U.S. Census is completed, and can shift district lines based on changes in population.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to issue a new map last month came a few years before the next redistricting was set to take place.

“Obviously this is an extenuating circumstance where the districts were redrawn in the middle of the redistricting cycle, so it did create some confusion,” Mikus said.

Republican consultant Dennis Roddy said residency shouldn’t be much of an issue for candidates such as Reschenthaler, Saccone and Solomon, who live just outside the district. Politically and culturally, they’re residents of the 14th, Roddy said.

“I don’t think voters are going to find it that odd,” Roddy said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to run against anybody else accusing them of being a carpetbagger.”

Reschenthaler is a client of Roddy’s campaign consulting firm, ColdSpark.

Nationally, about 5 percent of U.S. House members are registered to vote outside of the district they represent, according to an analysis published by The Washington Post last year. Under the U.S. Constitution, members of Congress must reside in the same state as their constituents.

Still, Saccone said he plans to move to the 14th before the election is over, according to campaign advisor Bob Branstetter. Prigg said he’ll relocate if he wins in November. Solomon didn’t commit either way, but said if elected, he’ll honor his constituents’ wishes. Reschenthaler has not yet confirmed his plans.

Roddy and Mikus agree that it’s not unheard of for candidates to live outside the district they seek to represent. If candidates prevail at the polls, however, the operatives said it would be unusual for them not to relocate to the district that elected them.

“It would be expected by almost every voter that they would move and actually take up residency in district they’re looking to represent,” Mikus said.