By Tom Barnes
HARRISBURG -- A top senator says he still hopes to get a revised map of Pennsylvania's 18 new Congressional districts unveiled to the public Tuesday morning, after he failed to get the map completed today.
However, bickering and infighting -- among Legislative leaders and incumbent congressmen -- is slowing the process.
Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks and chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, said he plans to hold a public meeting Tuesday morning with counterparts from the House State Government Committee, headed by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry. If the meeting is held, the new map of the state's 18 congressional districts will be released to the public, the senator said.
The state now has 19 seats in the U.S House, but because the state's population has grown at a much slower rate than many states in the west, Pennsylvania is losing one seat.
Mr. McIlhinney said some of the newly drawn districts will be heavily Democratic, such as ones wholly contained in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where Democratic voters predominate. Some districts in the central and northern parts of the state will favor Republican candidates because of heavy GOP registration there. But there will be competitive districts in some Philadelphia and Pittsburgh suburbs and northeast Pennsylvania.
He confirmed media reports that two incumbent Democratic congressman, Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz, will be lumped together into one of the new districts and will have to run against each other in an April 2012 primary. He said that is necessary because the southwestern part of the state has lost population. Also, since Republican leaders in the House and Senate, along with Gov. Tom Corbett, are playing major roles in designing the new districts, the seat that is lost will be one held by a Democrat.
Mr. McIlhinney declined to comment on unconfirmed reports that state House Republican leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, may run for Congress and wants a district designed in northern Allegheny County and Beaver County that would favor his election to Congress. "Ask Mike Turzai about that,'' Mr. McIlhinney said. Mr. Turzai has been unavailable for comment.
Mr. McIlhinney said he's getting considerable "input'' from incumbent Congressmen about where the district lines of their new districts should go, but declined to call it pressure. He insisted that the new map is being drawn by Legislative leaders, and not Congressmen, who, he said, had much influence over the last redistricting process 10 years ago.
He also denied rumors that incumbent GOP congressmen who criticized a change in the way Pennsylvania's electoral votes are counted -- proposed by Sen. Dominic Pileggi and Gov. Corbett -- would face new district lines they didn't like. "No punishment (of incumbents) is going on,'' he said. "We are drawing the (new congressional) map as fairly as possible."