Power balance in Congress on ballot for Pennsylvania voters

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three races among Pennsylvania's congressional delegation have taken shape as some of the closer contests in the country this year as voters decide whether to shift majority control in the U.S. House from Democrats to Republicans.

Pennsylvania's delegation has been redistricted twice in recent years — first because of a court challenge and again as a result of the 2020 census — and the state has lost one seat in Congress this year because of its anemic population growth.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright in the Scranton area and Susan Wild in the Lehigh Valley both find themselves in rematches with Republican candidates they narrowly beat two years ago.

A third competitive seat, just north of Pittsburgh, consists largely of the voters who elected Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb to Congress for the past couple terms. It became vacant for this year's election when Lamb chose not to seek reelection in what was an ultimately failed attempt to get his party's nomination for U.S. Senate.

Pennsylvania polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As is happening across the country, Pennsylvania's competitive congressional races have Democrats emphasizing support for abortion rights and Republicans reminding voters how inflation and other economic problems are affecting their lives.

In northeastern Pennsylvania, Republicans hope conservative activist and former Trump administration official Jim Bognet will reverse his 3.6 percentage point loss to Cartwright in 2020. A flip of that seat in a region where the GOP has been making gains in recent years would resonate in Washington, given President Joe Biden spent his early childhood in Scranton.

“It's a referendum on Biden,” Bognet campaign manager Joe Desilets said. “Especially because Cartwright is so close to him.”

Cartwright's campaign director, Kunal Atit, calls Cartwright “the only Democrat who could hold this district,” with “cross-party appeal that has been demonstrated time and again through actual election results.”

Wild's quest for a third term has her facing off against former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller, head of a manufacturing business. Wild, a former Allentown city lawyer, edged Scheller by 3.7 percentage points two years ago. Redistricting added GOP-friendly Carbon County to the map.

Wild's campaign argues Scheller has cut her U.S. workforce and sent jobs overseas, while Scheller blames Wild's support for spending bills under Biden for voters' economic problems.

The third competitive district, in the suburbs north of Pittsburgh and encompassing all of Beaver County, pits election lawyer Chris Deluzio, a Democrat, against Republican businessperson and former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, a Republican who lost a 2018 state Senate race.

Shaffer said he would position himself in Congress as “a pragmatic, common sense problem solver” and wants term limits and nonpartisan redistricting policies. Deluzio's campaign biography notes his involvement in the effort to establish a faculty union at the University of Pittsburgh last year.

“The union way of life is a huge thing here in western Pennsylvania," Deluzio campaign manager Matt Koos said. “And there's no doubt that the Dobbs decision has put abortion access at the front of voters' minds.”

Elsewhere in the state, two Republican incumbents face no opposition this fall: Reps. Guy Reschenthaler south of Pittsburgh and John Joyce in a sprawling district that runs from Gettysburg to Johnstown.

In Pittsburgh, Democrats are concerned about potential voter confusion because the Republican running against Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee is named Mike Doyle, the same name as the city's longtime Democratic congressman, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The version of the state’s congressional district map that was drawn after the 2010 census had been particularly friendly to Republicans, producing a durable 13-5 GOP majority until it was thrown out by the state’s Democratic-majority Supreme Court in 2018. Since then, the delegation has been evenly split between the two parties.

After the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf deadlocked on talks to produce new districts using 2020 census numbers, the state Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote in February chose a map that had been proposed by a group of Democratic Party-aligned voters who had sued in 2021.

Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press