Meadville Tribune

Breaking News

State News

January 4, 2014

Redistricting: County changes, retirements get races going early

HARRISBURG — Democratic state Reps. Frank Burns and Gary Haluska jointly organized a food drive three months ago to help needy residents in Cambria County. Now they are preparing to run against each other in the May 20 primary for the same seat in the Legislature.

Haluska resorted to a sports metaphor, saying that he hopes they can wage a competitive campaign without hard feelings.

“You play the game and shake hands when you’re done,” he said. “May the best man win.”

Burns and Haluska are one of four pairs of Democrats thrust into contested races matching incumbents versus incumbents. The others are in Scranton, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Redistricting and vacancies created by retirements stand to make the 2014 election more competitive than most. They also could affect the balance of power in the General Assembly where Republicans control both chambers — by a margin of 27 to 23 seats in the Senate, and 110 to 92 seats, with a vacancy, in the House.

Redistricting means the northwestern Pennsylvania district now served by Republican Rep. Michele Brooks will cover portions of four western Pennsylvania counties — Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Lawrence.

Brooks announced Wednesday that she will seek the nomination to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Robbins. He is one of five Senators who’ve announced they will not seek re-election.

That means the races for two of the three legislative districts in Mercer County will be wide open — as Brooks runs for Senate and Republican Rep. Dick Stevenson retires at the end of the year, as well. Stevenson is one of 11 pending retirements in the House.

Also running for Robbins’ seat is Republican Rep. Greg Lucas of Crawford and Erie counties, who announced his intentions Tuesday. Redistricting eliminated Lucas’ district; he would have faced Democrat Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie County, to stay in the state House.

Shifts in population are driving many district boundary changes, as rural and inner-city areas lose residents while suburban portions of eastern Pennsylvania grow rapidly. The Cambria County boundary shift comes as the 74th District was moved to Chester County in suburban Philadelphia.

The consolidation of Democratic districts comes despite a growing gap between the number of Democrats and Republicans in the state. A decade ago, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by about 500,000. By 2012, that advantage was more than 1 million.

Democrats likely will do well in areas where the population is growing and new districts are created, said Bill Patton, spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus. So while the redistricting may be bad for individual lawmakers, it does not stand to harm either major party, he said.

“The process is more bipartisan than most people think,” Patton said. Legislative districts are drawn by a commission of four legislative leaders from the two major parties, plus a chairman appointed by the courts.

That hasn’t stopped critics from trying to reform the process. Late last year, House Democrats introduced language to create a non-partisan commission for drawing legislative maps. Their effort failed on a party-line vote.

Shifting boundaries and candidates moving to capitalize on vacancies are liable to make the coming days confusing for voters who pay only passing attention to politics, Haluska said.

Lawmakers can use legislative dollars to pay for mailings to introduce themselves to residents who are added to their districts, he said. That means some people could get introductions to both Haluska and Burns.

“They could get a mailing from me one day and one from Frank on the next day,” Haluska said.

Haluska has been a state representative in the 73rd Legislative District since 1995. Burns began representing the neighboring 72nd District in 2009.

Burns said he has not made a final decision about whether to run against Haluska or move into a neighboring district to challenge someone else. He said he's leaning toward staying put and challenging a colleague he considers a “good friend.”

John Finnerty reports from the CNHI Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Text Only
State News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Gov. Corbett pressures lawmakers in pension fight

    Gov. Tom Corbett is ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to reform the state’s pension system by focusing on how often school districts use tax increases to offset costs.

    July 22, 2014

  • Experts: Expanding coverage fuels doc shortage

    Pennsylvania’s health care system absorbed more than 300,000 new patients who signed up for insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges. But experts worry the system can’t handle another wave of patients, twice as large, should the state expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    July 13, 2014

  • Jerry Sandusky’s son tells story to Oprah Winfrey

    Jerry Sandusky’s adult son is speaking out about what he says was sexual abuse by his father.

    July 8, 2014

  • Environmentalists criticize drilling-for-dollars plan in state forests and parks

    Pennsylvania’s just finished budget calls for raising almost $100 million by expanding leases for gas development in state forests — even though leases the state has already issued are far from tapped out.

    July 3, 2014

  • Pennsylvania House approves Republicans' $29.1B budget

    The Legislature voted late Monday to put a looming, $1.5 billion shortfall in its rearview mirror, with a deal to pass a $29.1 billion budget that increases state spending by 1.8 percent but doesn’t hike taxes.

    June 30, 2014

  • Food safety delivery concerns rise with fuel prices

    A few weeks ago state agriculture inspectors forced a trucker to toss 2,000 pounds of food in the garbage after finding the cargo had not been kept at safe temperatures.

    June 15, 2014

  • Tow truckers hope to put brakes on dispatch system

    Some tow truck operators are boycotting a computerized dispatch system put in place by state police, complaining that it’s confusing and leads to longer response times than when troopers and dispatchers manage a call.

    June 1, 2014

  • 'Economics' of state gubernatorial campaigns

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign hailed April’s jobs numbers. Pennsylvania’s unemployment dipped to 5.7 percent — its lowest since 2008 and well below the national average of 6.3 percent.
    “The people of Pennsylvania elected me to Harrisburg on my promise of less taxes and more jobs, and we continue to see that promise ringing tr

    May 25, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide