United States House Elections Primer: Pennsylvania (Districts 1-9)

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As we prepare for the 2020 elections, Yesh Ginsburg and Steen Kirby will give a general overview of all 435 United States House of Representatives races. This is a basic overview to introduce you to the major candidates. All Partisan Lean numbers are taken from the Cook Partisan Voting Index. We will update this page as the races progress if anything noteworthy arises.

Pennsylvania has 18 Congressional Districts. Currently the delegation is split right down the middle––nine Republicans and nine Democrats. We’re also splitting the state between two articles. We’re discussing the first nine districts––including the Democratic heavy Philadelphia areas––in this article. The other nine districts––including seven of the nine Republican districts––are in the second article.

Note that Pennsylvania underwent serious redistricting in 2018. While we usually provide the last two elections for each district to create a trend, we will not be doing so for Pennsylvania, because that doesn’t give any real insight into trends for the district. Also note that we will refer to the number of terms an incumbent has served based on them, not based on their district. So someone who has been in office since 2014 will be a third-term Representative, even if they have only represented their technical current district (which d

Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District

Incumbent: Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican, first term)

Partisan Lean: R+1

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Brian Fitzpatrick (R) 169,053 51.26
Scott Wallace (D) 160,745 48.74

Republican Candidate:

Brian Fitzpatrick (campaign website)

Fitzpatrick took this district in 2018 after redistricting made it possible. He’s a very moderate Republican who focuses on free market solutions to healthcare, fighting climate change, and advocates for LGBT issues. Nevertheless, he is supported by the NRCC and Republican leadership across the country.

Democratic Candidate:

Christina Finello (campaign website)

Finello is a somewhat liberal Democrat, advocating for increasing college tuition grants, minimum wage, and paid family leave. Mostly, she is focusing on attacking President Trump’s agenda and his Republican support.

Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District

Incumbent: Brendan Boyle (Democratic, third term)

Partisan Lean: D+25

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Brendan Boyle (D) 159,600 79.02
David Torres (R) 42,382 20.98

Republican Candidate:

David Torres (campaign website)

Torres isn’t spending much and isn’t actively campaigning too much. Don’t expect this to be much closer than 2018.

Democratic Candidate:

Brendan Boyle (campaign website)

Boyle isn’t campaigning particularly hard, nor does he have to. He is focused more on increasing the Blue Collar Caucus, the Democratic group he founded to reach out to blue collar workers.

Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District

Incumbent: Dwight Evans (Democratic, second term)

Partisan Lean: D+41

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Dwight Evans (D) 287,610 93.38
Bryan Leib (R) 20,387 6.62

Republican Candidate:

Michael Harvey (campaign website)

Harvey is not spending money, but he is campaigning like a talk radio host. He supports President Trump on a wide variety, including (and most prominent) his handling of COVID-19.

Democratic Candidate:

Dwight Evans (campaign website)

Evans is campaigning on a unique slate of proposals, all in some way related to issues addressing Philadelphia. He is a liberal Democrat who focuses on city-building and society.

Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District

Incumbent: Madeleine Dean (Democratic, first term)

Partisan Lean: D+7

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Madeleine Dean (D) 211,524 63.52
Dan David (R) 121,467 36.48

Republican Candidate:

Kathy Barnette (campaign website)

Barnette is running on a standard conservative platform, focusing a large part of her campaign on attacking Democratic support for protests that have turned violet. Other than that, it’s a standard mid-right conservative platform. She is focusing a large part of her campaign on her backstory, calling herself the American Dream.

Democratic Candidate:

Madeleine Dean (campaign website)

Dean is not running on particular policy positions, though she does promote a generally liberal stance on a wide variety of issues from healthcare to guns to women’s issues.

Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District

Incumbent: Mary Gay Scanlon (Democratic, first term)

Partisan Lean: D+13

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Mary Gay Scanlon (D) 198,639 65.19
Pearl Kim (R) 106,075 34.81

Republican Candidate:

Dasha Pruitt (campaign website)

Pruitt is a former refugee from the Soviet Union who views herself as a Reagan-esque conservative. She advocates for lower taxes and fighting Socialism. She is not spending heavily in this race.

Democratic Candidate:

Mary Gay Scanlon (campaign website)

Scanlon is a somewhat moderate Democrat on several issues, though she takes a very strong liberal stance on certain issues, most notably guns. She is expected to be comfortably reelected here.

Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District

Incumbent: Chrissy Houlahan (Democratic, first term)

Partisan Lean: D+2

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Chrissy Houlahan (D) 177,704 58.88
Greg McCauley (R) 124,124 41.12

Republican Candidate:

John Emmons (campaign website)

Emmons is a small-government conservative, running to lower taxes and business regulations, as well as on a free market solution to healthcare. He is spending somewhat heavily and not focusing on President Trump too much in his campaign, a tactical choice in this potentially close district.

Democratic Candidate:

Chrissy Houlahan (campaign website)

Houlahan is a liberal Democrat, mostly running on pushing back against the policies of President Trump and the Republicans in Congress.

Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District

Incumbent: Susan Wild (Democratic, first term)

Partisan Lean: D+1

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Susan Wild (D) 140,813 53.49
Marty Nothstein (R) 114,437 43.47
Tim Silfies (L) 8,011 3.04

Republican Candidate:

Lisa Scheller (campaign website)

Scheller is mostly negatively campaigning against left-wing ideas. She is focusing on entitlement reform as an actual policy position, but mostly she is arguing against things like the Green New Deal, sanctuary cities, and more. She also wants to reform disability spending to prioritize helping people get back to work instead of remaining on disability.

Democratic Candidate:

Susan Wild (campaign website)

Wild is a somewhat moderate Democrat, campaigning to restore the Affordable Care Act, fight climate change, and other general Democratic ideas.

Yesh’s notes: Both candidates are spending heavily in this race, as Republicans see this as a potential seat they can flip. While fighting off Scheller, Wild also potentially has to worry about Independent Anthony Sayegh, a progressive candidate who will be on the November ballot. Sayegh doesn’t seem to be campaigning heavily right now, which is good for Wild. If that changes, it probably opens the door more for Scheller––both by making Scheller’s campaign seem more pointed and by potentially leaching some votes from Wild.

Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District

Incumbent: Matt Cartwright (Democratic, fourth term)

Partisan Lean: R+1

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Matt Cartwright (D) 135,603 54.64
John Chrin (R) 112,563 45.36

Republican Candidate:

Jim Bognet (campaign website)

Bognet won a tight Republican primary by supporting President Trump’s stances on immigration. Bognet also takes a very hard-line position on drugs and fighting the opioid epidemic, and wants to cut regulations on small businesses.

Democratic Candidate:

Matt Cartwright (campaign website)

Cartwright is a generally somewhat moderate Democrat, though he does support raising the minimum wage to $15 per year within the next five years. He is also focusing on expanding internet access into the more rural areas of his northeastern Pennsylvania district.

Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District

Incumbent: Dan Meuser (Republican, first term)

Partisan Lean: R+14

2018 Results:

Candidate Votes %
Dan Meuser (R) 148,723 59.75
Denny Wolff (D) 100,204 40.25

Republican Candidate:

Dan Meuser (campaign website)

Meuser is a conservative Republican who mainly campaigns against what he sees as abuses by Democratic politicians. He takes a standard Republican position on most issues, a safe play in a very red district.

Democratic Candidate:

Gary Wegman (campaign website)

Wegman is a liberal Democrat. His main campaign focus is a single-payer healthcare system. He also supports a $12 minimum wage and banning fracking––a potentially-unpopular position in this section of Pennsylvania.


You might be surprised with so many of these districts in the Philadelphia area, but there are plenty of battlegrounds here. The 1st District is a major battleground, and the 7th isn’t far behind. The 8th is also a potentially close race, and it wouldn’t be too shocking if the 6th was close as well.

Interested in the rest of our primers for other House races? We have them all listed on our primer home page.


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