By MARC LEVY, Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — In the shadow of Pennsylvania’s status as a battleground state in the presidential election, Democrats will fight to defend their gains in Congress two years ago and, possibly, add another seat or two as the state’s suburbs continue to turn against President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to defend their survivors in more evenly divided districts, while hoping to knock off some of the Democrats’ freshmen and one veteran congressman who keeps winning a district where Trump is popular.
Elections in 2018 were fruitful for Democrats: Aided by redrawn districts and anti-Trump fervor, they picked up four seats in Pennsylvania, evening the state’s partisan balance in the U.S. House and helping the party recapture the House majority overall.
There may be room for more districts to flip. Two incumbent Republicans won by fewer than 3 percentage points in 2018, while Democrats represent two districts that Trump won in 2016.
Here is a look at key races:
Second-term Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick in Bucks County, just north of Philadelphia, is a top target again for Democrats: He is one of just three House Republicans in the entire country running for reelection in a district won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016′s presidential contest.
But Fitzpatrick, a mild-mannered former FBI agent who took over the seat from his late brother, has a potent winning formula and is being challenged by a relative political unknown nominated by Democrats.
Fitzpatrick has his family’s name recognition and inroads into traditional Democratic voting districts. He is endorsed by top-tier labor unions and persistently uses the theme of being independent; a digital ad calls him the “No. 1 most independent congressman.”
He is the only Republican congressman in Pennsylvania who routinely votes against Trump or Republican leadership; he voted with Democrats last summer to condemn Trump for telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to the country they came from.
He also said he has not decided whether to vote for Biden or Trump this November.
Even so, Fitzpatrick voted for Trump’s tax-cut legislation and opposed his impeachment. His opponent, Democrat Christina Finello, attacks Fitzpatrick as too weak to stand up to Trump and silent in the face of Trump’s worst transgressions.
Democrats have a 19,000-voter registration advantage in the district, which Clinton won by 2 percentage points.
But, going into July, Fitzpatrick had six times the campaign cash as Finello. And no outside groups have heavily spent to help Finello.
That’s a good sign for Fitzpatrick: He won by 2.5 points in 2018, when he was outspent nearly four-to-one by his wealthy Democratic rival and millions flowed in from outside groups.
Freshman Democrat U.S. Rep. Susan Wild is defending her Allentown-area seat against Republican nominee Lisa Scheller, a former Lehigh County commissioner who started a pigment manufacturer for paints, coatings and inks and touts her background as a recovered addict who advocates for people in recovery.
Wild, a prominent lawyer in Allentown, scored