Franklin still with Blair & Bedford counties in court's redistricting

Written by Jim Hook/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Feb 19, 2018 5:39 PM

The Supreme Court on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, redrew the congressional district surrounding Franklin County. (Photo: Courtesy)

(Harrisburg) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the Mondday deadline unveiled a congressional district map for the state's 2018 elections.

The new boundaries may weed out some contenders for the local congressional seat in the May 15 Primary.

Under the court's redistricting, all of Franklin County is part of the 13th Congressional District. The district includes Adams, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Somerset counties and parts of Cumberland and Westmoreland counties.

Indiana County is part of the 15th District to the north. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, in 2001 had welcomed the more-Democratic county into the Republican-dominated 9th District.

Subtract Indiana County and add Adams County, and the new 13th District is similar to the old 9th.

Three Indiana County residents who have announced they are running for the seat currently held by Shuster could be affected:

  • State Rep. David Reed, a Republican and House majority leader from Indiana County.
  • Adam Sedlock, a Democrat and Uniontown psychologist.
  • Susan Boser, a Democrat and sociology professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Shuster is not seeking re-election. The race for his seat has included seven Republicans and two Democrats.

Candidates running for Congress have not yet been allowed to circulate nominating petitions because of the uncertainty, according to Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers. They are expected to have three weeks to circulate their petitions. A petition must include the district seat sought by candidates.

Renumbering districts isn't new. In 1962, the 9th District was centered around Lancaster, and Franklin County was in the 12th District. At the next reapportionment in 1972, the 9th jumped to the west to include Franklin County.

Republicans are expected to challenge the map in federal court and argue that legislatures and governors, not courts, have the constitutional responsibility to draw congressional maps.

If it stands, the revised map is almost certain to improve Democrats' chances in more seats this year, but not in the district currently represented by Shuster. If the three candidates from Indiana County give up the quest for the 13th District seat, the field narrows to six Republicans and zero Democrats.

The remaining Republicans would be:

  • Retired Col. Doug Mastriano of Fayetteville, Franklin County.  
  • Travis Schooley, an alpaca farmer and official with Quincy Township, Franklin County.
  • State Sen. John Eichelberger Jr. of Hollidaysburg, Blair County.
  • Art Halvorson, a retired Coast Guard captain and real estate entrepreneur from Manns Choice, Bedford County.
  • Ben Hornberger, a political newcomer from Shippensburg, Cumberland County.
  • Max Merrill, a farmer from Meyersdale, Somerset County.

The Democratic-majority state high court ruled last month that Pennsylvania's district boundaries were unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and ordered the legislature and governor to approve new ones. Republicans have won 13 of Pennsylvania's 18 seats in three elections under the invalidated map, although statewide elections are often closely contested.

The court's plan splits 13 counties, according to the state Supreme Court majority opinion. The invaidated 2011 map split 28 counties. The map that GOP legislators submitted to the court split 15. Gov. Tom Wolf's submission split 16.

The court's map is "superior or comparable" to maps submitted to the court in consideration of the redistricting criteria -- compactness, contiguity, equality of population and respect for the integrity of political subdivisions, according to the majority opinion. The map was based on the record developed in the Commonwealth Court and submissions to the court. 

The court vote was 4-3 for the new map.

The court majority defended the court's action to draw the map: "Neither the General Assembly nor the governor sought an extension of the dates set forth in our Jan. 22 Order. The General Assembly failed to pass legislation for the governor's approval, thereby making it impossible for our sister branches to meet the court's deadline. As a result, it has become the judiciary's duty to fashion an appropriate remedial districting plan, and this court has proceeded to prepare such a plan, a role which our court has full constitutional authority and responsibility to assume."

Monday's order means a new map is to take effect in the May 15 primary, but does not apply to March's special election in southwestern Pennsylvania's 18th District.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 


This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinon

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