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New districting cuts county in two

by on February 22, 2018 8:18 AM

The map released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Feb. 19 showing the state's new congressional lines will cause some big changes for voters and their representatives in Centre County.

Centre County, formerly completely part of the 5th District, now will be split in two according to the ruling. The line separating the 12th and 15th districts cuts through the county on the new map.

Specific splits in the Centre region were not yet entirely clear, as the court did not fully delineate specific municipalities by district. It appears, however, that along with State College Borough, Harris, Ferguson and College townships will be in the 12th, Halfmoon Township will split between the 12th and 15th and Patton Township will be in the 15th, joining Bellefonte, Pleasant Gap, Milesburg, Snow Shoe, Philipsburg and other municipalities in the north and west parts of the county.

This change puts some politicians in new districts during the middle of a campaign. Ferguson Township Democrat Marc Friedenberg, who had been running to challenge U.S. Rep. Glenn "G.T." Thompson, R-Howard Township, for the 5th District seat, has decided to continue his campaign in the new 12th District.

Friedenberg had spent much of his run up to the campaign rallying against Thompson, but now will face Lycoming County Republican Tom Marino if he advances past the May primary.

“It is a challenge, but more of a great opportunity,” said Friedenberg. “We had spent this time preparing to challenge G.T., but Marino is cut of the same cloth as Thompson — a politician who is not assessable to voters — so I look forward to potentially challenging him.”
Friedenburg said he is proud of the Supreme Court decision to change the districts and make fair political lines that eliminates the gerrymandering of the past.

The change has left many voters in the county confused about their place on the map and who is representing them. Friedenberg said he has received many calls from voters since the map came out, concerned about what district will represent them.

The change left Centre County Commissioner Steve Dersham a little dismayed about how fast the changes will occur.

“I think this is a half-baked effort on the Supreme Court’s part to fix a problem that is not timely. I think this would have been better served if the middle of the game,” said Dersham. “How do they expect candidates and voter to understand the issues and everything that needs to be understood between now and May? It is not reasonable. I hope that, at some point in the future, we find cooler heads to find a more reasonable way to get this done, because this is disappointing to me.”

Friendberg said he feels the change will not be detrimental to him because he has enough time to campaign in his new district. He said voters typically wait until the last few weeks to make a decision, so the change will not affect them either.

The change is projected to boost the presence of Democratic representatives in the state, and Friendberg said he expects the ruling to be challenged at the federal level. But, he said he feels the new districts will stand and he will be running for the 12th District in May.

In addition to part of Centre County, the 15th District now will include all or part of Clearfield, Cambria, Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Warren, Forest, Venango, Clarion, Armstrong, Butler and Indiana counties.

Aside from Friedenberg, two other Democrats were seeking to challenge Thompson in November, but only one remains in his district — Jefferson County attorney Kerith Strano-Taylor, whom Thompson previously defeated twice. The other candidate, Wade Jodun, resides in Mill Hall, Clinton County, which moves to the 12th District.

The new districts potentially add another wrinkle to the primary. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed announced in January he was running for the (now former) 9th District seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster. But, the Indiana County Republican now lives in Thompson's district. It wasn't yet clear if Reed would now challenge Thompson in the 15th District primary.

 

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