New district map will have local impact

The new United States Congressional Redistricting Map issued in February by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will have a big -- and possibly very confusing -- impact on the North Boroughs.

The state’s highest court ruled that the current district map is unconstitutionally gerrymandered, with districts contorted into illogical shapes, dividing counties and even municipalities in order to provide an advantage to Republican candidates. That plan was produced and approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature. The state has more Democratic voters than it does Republicans registered to vote, yet of the 17 members of Congress from Pennsylvania, only five are Democrats.

Most of the North Boroughs has fallen within the 14th Congressional District for many years. Democratic U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle has easily retained the seat since 2003, and before that as the representative for the 18th Congressional District starting in 1995. He is the senior member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation.

With congressional elections this year, area voters will not be able to wait until next January to adjust to their new districts.The new map will be in effect for the primary election in May.

Doyle will go back to representing the 18th Congressional District, but the North Boroughs will not be a part of it. With the new map setting a district boundary right at the border of the City of Pittsburgh, the entire North Boroughs and the rest of northern Allegheny County falls into the new 17th Congressional District, which also will include all of Beaver County.

Much of that area currently is part of the 12th Congressional District and represented by Republican U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus, who may find it hard to retain his seat with the influx of Democratic voters.

Most local voters have been able to watch from the sidelines the special election race in the current 18th District, where Democrat Connor Lamb is running against Republican Rick Saccone. The special election falls under the current district map, not the new map, and the winner of next month’s election will serve in the U.S. Congress until the end of the year representing the 18th District. If the winner wants to keep a seat in Congress in January, however, he will have to run in the May primary election under the new district map. This puts Lamb into the 17th District, and Saccone into the 18th District.