By Tom Barnes
HARRISBURG -- State Rep. Dave Reed, the leader of the state House Republican Campaign Committee, is thinking big this election season.
The Indiana County Republican said Thursday that the GOP challenger to the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Todd Eachus of scandal-wracked Luzerne County, could pull off a major upset.
Lawyer Tarah Toohil is a newcomer who, Mr. Reed admits, didn't have much of a chance a few months ago, but she's been closing the gap lately, he said.
"We were down by 20 or 25 points a few weeks ago, but within four points a week ago,'' he said during a phone interview. "Then two nights ago, in a poll amont 800 voters, Tarah was up 49 to 44 percent.''
In articles in local newspapers, Mr. Eachus has insisted he will retain his seat. He replaced Rep. Bill DeWeese as majority leader after Mr. DeWeese was arrested on corruption charges by Attorney General Tom Corbett. Luzerne County has also faced several scandals related to its judiciary.
Ms. Toohil had criticized Mr. Eachus for refusing to debate her, but they have now held one debate.
The top-ranking House Democrat, Speaker Keith McCall of Carbon, is leaving at the end of the year, but through retirement. Mr. Reed said the GOP is mounting a strong efforts in that district, along with several other northeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania House districts.
In the southwest, House Democrats facing challenges include Rep. David Levdansky of Forward, Democratic Whip Frank Dermody of Oakmont, Reps. John Pallone and James Casorio of Westmoreland, and Jesse White of Washington County.
Currently, Democrats control the House by a 104-99 margin, but a net switch of only three seats would throw power to the GOP. The next two-year term is especially important because legislators will redraw district lines for their own districts and for congressional districts.