Complicated by Redistricting, Vacant PA House Seats to be Filled on Election Day

May 2, 2018

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the special election to fill the vacancy in the state's 7th congressional district will take place on Tuesday, November 6th. This is the same day as the general election. The incumbent, Republican Pat Meehan, resigned last Friday.

Wolf said he will handle any subsequent openings the same way, unless they occur within 60 days of the general election. This will cover an upcoming vacancy in the 15th congressional district. That incumbent, Republican Charlie Dent, has announced his intention to resign at some point in the next few weeks.

Complicating matters is a new congressional map imposed by the state Supreme Court that will be effective - for representation - beginning with the new Congress in January. Voters in all of the state's 18 congressional districts will choose party nominees based on the new district lines in the May 15 primary, with the vote for a two-year term on Election Day, November 6th. However, any special election will take place based on the existing boundaries, with the winner serving out the final two months of the current congressional term. The respective parties will choose the nominees for any special election.

This sets up the possibility that the nominees and/or winner of any special election might be different than for the general election. The court ruling has made both successor districts more Democratic. The existing 7th congressional district voted for Clinton over Trump by 2% in 2016. The new 5th district voted for Clinton by 28%. It is rated safe Democratic for the general election.

Meanwhile, the existing 15th district voted for Trump by about 8% in 2016. The new 7th district - not to be confused with the existing one discussed in the prior paragraph - voted for Clinton by 1%. It is rated toss-up for the general election.

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