Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
No one seems to be quite sure why Pennsylvania is holding an election today, just weeks before November, but, regardless, voters -- or at least a few of them -- will pick a new state senator in a district North of Philadelphia. The seat was previously held by a Republican, who left to take a Chamber of Commerce position. Republicans, from the looks of it, should be favored in the special election.
The 24th District includes parts of four counties. Two of these are Bucks County and Montgomery County -- two of Philadelphia's big suburban counties. The two others are Lehigh County and Northampton County, further North in the Lehigh Valley.
All four of those counties went for President Obama last fall, but don't let that fool you. The parts of these counties in the 24th District are more Republican than the counties as a whole. While Pennsylvania has a sizable Democratic registration edge, the 24th has slightly more Republicans than Democrats, as the Allentown Morning Call reports.
Equally importantly, Republicans have a more established candidate. Republican Bob Mensch is a two-term state representative. Anne Scheuring wasn't the first choice for Democrats, as the Morning Call notes (in the article linked above):
Democrats, however, stalled in making a selection. Experienced
politicians, including state Rep. Bob Freeman of Easton and former Northampton County Executive Glenn Reibman, declined to run, leaving party bosses about a week to field a candidate.
They settled on Scheuring, a 64-year-old whose political experience totals 21 months on Lansdale council. She touts that inexperience as an asset, not a liability.
Nonetheless, Democrats must think Scheuring at least has a chance for an upset. While Mensch is better funded, Democrats also have spent heavily on the race.
The backdrop for the campaign is the Pennsylvania state budget stalemate. While Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have a handshake agreement over the budget, they're still ironing out the details three months after the new fiscal year began. Whether those negotiations will weigh on voters' minds isn't clear (to me anyway).
I'd expect the battle for control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a narrow edge, will be more competitive than the Senate next year. In the Senate, Republicans have a 29-20 advantage, plus the one vacancy that is being filled today. If Scheuring were to win, perhaps Democrats would start to believe they can take the Senate.
While Mench and Scheuring are the leading candidates, Libertarian Barbara Steever is also on the ballot, emphasizing her opposition to a federal registration of farm animals. Plus, perhaps voters in the 24th will take the advice of the Express-Times, a newspaper in the district, and elect Jerry Mander.
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