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New Congressional Map Means Changes for Democrats Who Were Looking to Challenge Thompson

by on February 25, 2018 12:05 AM

The new Pennsylvania congressional map issued by the state Supreme Court on Monday has caused a change in plans -- and in one case a change in residence -- for Democrats who were seeking the nomination to run against incumbent Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, in the former 5th District.

Though she remains in the same district as Thompson -- the new 15th District -- Kerith Strano Taylor of Brookville, Jefferson County, announced on Saturday that she is suspending her congressional campaign and instead will run for a state House seat.

Soon after the new map was released on Monday, Ferguson Township Democrat Marc Friedenberg, who also was looking to challenge Thompson, announced he would now run against Republican incumbent Rep. Tom Marino in the new 12th District. Ferguson Township, along with State College, Harris Township, College Township, part of Halfmoon Township and the Penns Valley Area were moved to the 12th District and split off from the rest of Centre County, which is in the 15th.

The third Democrat in the former 5th District race, Wade Jodun, saw his hometown of Mill Hall moved to the 12th as well. A statement from his campaign on Friday said "he has moved his residence and is now seeking the Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district." It was not clear to where Jodun moved his residence and he could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

Strano Taylor, an attorney who previously ran against Thompson in 2014 and 2016, said the new congressional map "is a good map because it is a fair map," but that she does not see a path to victory in the newly configured 15th District.

"While it may look similar, this is a very different landscape from the district I have run in before," she said in an announcement. "There was a narrow pathway to victory for me in 2018 in the old fifth district. I do not see that pathway in the new fifteenth district."

The new 15th District has some key differences from the old 5th. In addition to losing the State College area, the half of Erie County formerly in the 5th moves to another district and it drops Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties. They are replaced with Armstrong, Indiana and Cambria counties and half of Butler County.

Strano Taylor will now run for the state House in the 66th Legislative District, where she'll hope to challenge Republican incumbent Cris Dush, who called for the impeachment of state Supreme Court justices who ordered a new congressional map to be put in place before this year's primary.

In a 4-3 decision on Jan. 22, the court ruled that the existing map Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011, "clearly, plainly and palpably violates" the state Constitution. The ruling came in a lawsuit by 18 citizens and the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters who argued that the map was a product of partisan gerrymandering.

After Gov. Tom Wolf did not approve the new map submitted by the legislature earlier in February, the court issued its own. Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are seeking an emergency stay in federal court.

"I know that some of my supporters will be disappointed that I am not running for U.S. Congress in 2018," Strano Taylor said. "This was not an easy decision, but I am confident that it is the right decision."

She said her campaign staff will remain in place and the balance of her Congressional campaign funds will transfer to the state House race, which is permissible under election law.

In moving his campaign to the 12th District, Friedenberg said taking on Marino is just as important to him as looking to unseat Thompson.

Marino, of Lycoming County, will be seeking his fifth term. He was President Donald Trump's pick for drug czar, but withdrew from consideration after reports that he sponsored legislation, embraced by the pharmaceutical industry and opposed by the Drug Enforcement Agency, that hindered federal efforts to combat opioid abuse. According to the Washington Post, Marino received $100,000 in campaign contributions from political action committees representing the pharmaceutical industry. 

"I first decided to run for Congress because my family, my friends, and my neighbors deserve better representation in government, and I felt called to act," Friedenberg said. "That hasn’t changed just because the map has.

"Even though I was looking forward to winning the fight against Glenn Thompson, the incumbent in the redrawn 12th is Tom Marino, who is every bit the swamp-dwelling sellout that Thompson is. ...No matter where you live, you deserve a representative who will hold town hall meetings and actually listen to your concerns. No matter who you are, you deserve a representative who will fight the opioid crisis, not one who created it."



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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