State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map Splits Centre County

by on February 19, 2018 9:48 PM

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released the state's new congressional map on Monday, and if it stands, Centre County is in for a change starting with the May primary.

Centre County is split into the newly drawn 15th and 12th districts. The majority the county's area will be in the 15th, which comprises much of the former 5th District represented by Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township. Thompson will run for re-election in the 15th District.

The southeastern part of the county, including State College and the Penns Valley area, will move to the 12th district. In the redrawn map, that district includes north-central counties with parts or all of Clinton, Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Snyder, Northumberland, Union, Lycoming, Sullivan, Bradford, Susquehanna, Tioga and Potter counties.

The incumbent in the 12th district is now Lycoming County Republican Tom Marino, who will be seeking his fifth term. Marino was President Donald Trump's pick for drug czar, but withdrew from consideration after reports that he sponsored legislation, embraced by the pharmaceutical industry, that hindered federal efforts to combat opioid abuse.

Ferguson Township Democrat Marc Friedenberg, who had been running for the nomination to challenge Thompson in the 5th District, announced on Monday night that he will now challenge Marino in the 12th district. 

"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," he said in a statement. "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."

Here's what the 12th District looks like in the new map

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

In addition to part of Centre County, the 15th District will now 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, who Thompson has previously defeated twice. The other, Wade Jodun, resides in Mill Hall, Clinton County, which moves to the 12th District.

The new districts potentially add another new wrinkle to the primary. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed announced in January that he was running for the (now former) 9th District seat held by retiring 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.

Here's the 15th District on the new map:

Republican leaders in the state legislature said on Monday that they will challenge the map in federal court.

"Implementation of this map would create a constitutional crisis where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is usurping the authority of the Legislative and Executive branches," House Speaker Mike Turzai said in a statement. "We anticipate further action in federal court."

In January, the state Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that the congressional map created by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011 was the result of partisan gerrymandering. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by 18 voters and the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters.

The legislature was ordered to submit a new map to Wolf, who then had until last week to approve it and if they could not reach a consensus the court would issue the new map.

Wolf did not approve the map submitted to him, saying it continued to gerrymander the state's 18 congressional districts. 

Republicans hold 12 of Pennsylvania's seats in Congress, with Democrats holding five and another currently vacant but formerly held by a Republican.

The new map straightens many of the borders between districts and splits fewer counties. Political experts agree that Democrats stand to gain seats in the House under the revised map, especially in the southeastern part of the state where districts previously had strangely-drawn boundaries but now join urban and moderate suburban areas.

Republican leaders believe that the court's new map is simply a gerrymander by the Democratic majority justices.

The court brought in Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford law professor who has worked on other congressional maps currently in use, to advise on drawing Pennsylvania's new map.

The new map is at the top of this page. The map that had been in use since 2011 looked like this:

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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