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Congressional races set for Pennsylvania

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

Anti-Washington sentiment in national polls won't hurt Pennsylvania's members of Congress this election year, experts say.

“None of the Democrat or Republican congressional members in the region are facing strong opposition in their primaries or general elections,” said Dave Wasserman, an expert on House races at the Cook Political Report in Washington.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll last week found 68 percent of voters want to replace their House members and only 22 percent plan to vote to re-elect their members of Congress, the lowest numbers in 25 years.

Tuesday was the deadline to file for the May 20 primary election.

Of the 13 House Republican seats in Pennsylvania, 11 are ranked “safe” by the Crystal Ball, a publication of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. It rates the 8th District, represented by Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, as “likely Republican” and the 6th District as a “toss-up” for a seat that Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach of Chester County is vacating.

Western Pennsylvania's GOP representatives — Mike Kelly of Butler, Keith Rothfus of Sewickley and Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair — aren't likely to lose their seats. Murphy is running unopposed in May and November. Neither Kelly nor Rothfus has primary challengers, but Kelly will confront Democrat Dan LaVallee this fall and Rothfus will take on the winner of the Democrat primary race between John Hugya of Somerset County and political newcomer Erin McClelland of New Kensington.

Kelly thinks the delegation's work ethic keeps voters content.

“Democrat or Republican, all of us are cut from the same cloth in this region,” Kelly said. “We work hard for our constituents, and we listen.”

Good constituent services help an incumbent hold a seat, said Wasserman, but so does a district's boundaries.

“All of those seats, Republican and Democrat alike, were redrawn to make each member safe,” he said. “They would all be more of a ‘swing district' if they were less packed with partisans.”

Pennsylvania's five Democrats in Congress are rated “safe” as well. The party is likely to keep the 13th District seat in Montgomery County, opened by Rep. Allyson Schwartz's gubernatorial run.

Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills, who represents Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley, has a primary opponent — Janis C. Brooks, who runs a North Verailles social service agency. She lost to him, 80 to 20 percent, in 2012. No Republican is running in Doyle's 14th District.

“You always approach a challenge with respect to the person running against you,” Doyle said.

The situation is far different from 2006, when Democrats swept across the state to take House seats from Republicans, Wasserman said. And in 2008, the Erie-based 3rd District seat held by Republican Phil English flipped Democrat to Kathy Dalhkemper, who lost to Kelly in 2011.

“By 2010, everything turned upside down for the Democrats, and the majority of the delegation was held by Republicans,” Wasserman said. That GOP trend continued in 2012 when Rothfus unseated Democrat Mark Critz in the 12th District.

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at

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