Monday, March 24, 2008

Keystone State Tour--Stop 2

For our second stop in Pennsylvania, we'll focus on the congressional district in which this story takes place. Pennsylvania’s 17th is a mixed rural/industrial district which is centered in the state capital, Harrisburg. Currently represented by Democrat Tim Holden, the 17th’s voting behavior, in recent elections, has been mixed. While having Holden maintain the seat for the Democrats, the district gave Bush 58% in 2004. Prior to redistricting after the 2000 census, the current district was divided between the old 6th and 17th. The area gave Bush 55% against Al Gore. Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann also did well in the district in 2006.

Demographically, the district is fairly typical of the state. It is slightly less African American (mostly concentrated in Harrisburg)—7% versus 10% statewide. The median income is right at the state average, as is the proportion of senior citizens in the district, while its population with a college degree lags the state average by about five points (17% vs. 22%). CQ’s "Politics in America" describes the district thusly:

“Anchored in the eastern part of south-central Pennsylvania, the 17th is home to Harrisburg, the sate capital, which sits 100 miles west of Philadelphia and 200 miles east of Pittsburgh. The 17th has two distinct zones: a stretch of agricultural lands along the Susquehanna River in the west, and industrial areas in Schuylkill and Berks counties in the east. Here, in GOP-minded central Pennsylvania, state government and manufacturing remain key sources of employment…The proliferation of service jobs has helped mitigate the impact of other losses…The 17th has a distinct Republican lean, but moderate Democrats can play here due to the district’s mix of agrarian and industrial communities. The GOP is strong in Lebanon County and in the areas of Dauphin outside of Harrisburg. Democrats are competitive in Schuylkill County, long a coal mining powerhouse, with comfortable margins in Shenandoah, Pottsville, and Mahanoy.”

Congressman Holden, who has yet to announce his endorsement, is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and is one of the most likely Democrats in the House to support President Bush on any given vote. In the 109th Congress, he supported the president’s position 54% of the time. He is pro-life, against same-sex marriage, and has voted against numerous gun control measures. He has also taken strong stands against illegal immigration.

Given this profile we would expect that this would be another area of strong support for Senator Clinton. In many ways the district mirrors the parts of Ohio that went overwhelmingly for her. Holden is a close friend of Congressman Murtha so it wouldn’t surprise me to see an endorsement of Clinton in the near future.

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