The new Pa congressional districts released yesterday will make it a lot tougher for a Democrat to unseat freshman Republican Mike Kelly in PA3 in the state's northwest. Just ask former congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper.
Kelly beat the incumbent Democrat from Erie during the midterm Republican surge last year 56-44 percent. But she still won the Democratic stronghold of Erie County by more than 20 points (collecting twice as many total votes there than Kelly did in any of the six other counties within the district). Now the new PA3 district cuts Erie in half -- the city and its many Democratic votes are still in Kelly's district but much of the eastern half of the county (including much of the growing Mill Creek suburb) is now in the PA5 seat held by Glenn Thompson, who lives in State College.
Erie is the fourth largest city in the state after Philly, Pittsburgh and Allentown.
"They have taken one of our larger population centers and divided it politically between two legislators with no strong pull to listen to our concerns and needs and address them," Dahlkemper said this morning.
At the same time the new district has moved closer to Pittsburgh to take in all of Republican-rich Butler county (Kelly's home base). Does she have plans to take on Kelly again in 2012? "I don't at this point," she said, mostly because of the diminished Erie role in the district.
It would be hard for anybody in the county -- even former GOP congressman Tom Ridge and Phil English -- to win it now, she said.
"For a Democrat or a Republican, it would be hard for someone from Erie County to take this seat. The power has shifted to the south," she said.