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State GOP Leader Contesting District Map, Urges Republicans To Stop Fighting Each Other

Pennsylvania Supreme Court
The state Republican Party is requesting records of any communications between Democrats and the Supreme Court justices who mandated the state's new Congressional map

Val DiGiorgio, the chair of the state Republican Party, said Republicans–including those running in the newly drawn 14th Congressional District–should refrain from attacking each other. But his party hasn't given up the fight against a new Congressional district map, even as voters prepare to cast ballots in those races next month.

This week, the state GOP filed a records request for any communications between Democratic politicians and the state Supreme Court. During a stop in Pittsburgh on Thursday, DiGiorgio said the party is looking for evidence that Gov. Tom Wolf and national Democrats influenced the court's map drawing process earlier this year.

A Democratic majority on the court ruled that the old Congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. But DiGiorgio objects that "this was a process that was done in the dark, with no transparency, and we think we have a right to know, and the voters have a right to know, what really went into these decisions.”

Asked whether he had evidence of such communications, DiGiorgio cited the map itself, which pundits say should boost Democrats' chances this fall.

"The map in every way benefited Democrats," he said. "Every decision that was made by the so-called experts of the Supreme Court was one that benefited the Democrat party.”

He also flagged a $250,000 political contribution Wolf received from a national Democratic redistricting initiative.

Wolf's office said it had no interaction with Supreme Court justices outside of legal proceedings. Spokesman J.J. Abbott said that the records, which have previously been requested by media outlets, would prove the administration acted alone. Republicans, he added, were accusing Democrats of doing what they themselves had done in drawing their own maps: Republicans in Harrisburg worked with a national initiative to draw highly favorable state legislative boundaries in 2012.

For DiGiorgio, meanwhile, there are more urgent disputes at hand, including a fractious gubernatorial primary between state Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) and consultant Paul Mango. Mango has aired highly personal attacks on Wagner, who party leaders endorsed earlier this year.

“I don’t mind a spirited debate on issues,” DiGiorgio said. “But when you get in the realm of personal attacks, like we’ve seen in the governor’s race, that troubled me.”

Another Republican primary fight is also turning ugly. In the newly drawn 14th Congressional District, state Senator Guy Reschenthaler’s campaign has thrown barbs at Rick Saccone, calling his losing special-election bid a “debacle” and questioning his record in the military and in a Korean diplomatic effort.

“I haven’t followed that as closely” as the gubernatorial race, DiGiorgio said, “but I would just urge candidates to stick to the issues: why you would be better in Congress, why you’re more representative of the district, rather than attacking each other.”

DiGiorgio agreed that “[Republicans] should have won that district” last month and laments “we didn’t have the party unity that we need to win a race like that.” Still, “I’m not going to engage in the finger pointing blame game at this point. I’m looking forward.”

Echoing numerous pundits, DiGiorgio said the new 14th is “much more Republican” than the old 18th,  “so I think we win with either of those candidates."

"They both have their strengths," he said. "Guy is a more prolific fundraiser, and he would have more establishment and donor support. Rick seems to have the support of the base.”

DiGiorgio acknowledges “this is going to be a tough election” for Republicans, and that controversies surrounding President Donald J. Trump were a problem, especially in the Philadelphia region.

What Republicans expected to be a top selling point in last month’s special election–an end-of-year tax cut–appear to have little availed Saccone. DiGiorgio said that’s because the impact of the cuts “hadn’t hit yet. … We think it will be much more popular as the year goes on.”

Once again, a race involving Conor Lamb, who beat Saccone, may test that theory. Lamb is running in the new 17th district against Keith Rothfus, who represents Beaver County and many of the suburban Allegheny County areas that make up the old 12th district.

“There’s going to be a lot of money into this race," DiGiorgio said, "and I think it’s going to be a good bellwether for what’s going to happen nationally.” 

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.