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GOP Wary of Repeating Redraw Overreach in Pa.

New Map Months Away, But Behind-the-Scenes Jockeying Is Already Well Under Way

File Photo
Rep. Jason Altmire said he’s not preparing to run against fellow Democratic Rep. Mark Critz, even though they are likely to end up in the same district.

Republicans know they can't afford to get greedy when they redraw the Pennsylvania Congressional map this time around.

The Keystone State GOP stretched the boundaries of its House districts beyond their limits a decade ago, producing a handful of competitive seats that have traded party hands in the wave elections of recent cycles.

Even though the Pennsylvania Legislature is not expected to consider a new Congressional map until the first couple of weeks of 2012, Members of Congress are already tussling over and lobbying for the shape of their preferred districts.

Republicans' foremost goal is to shore up the 12 House seats that they already control and to use the state's single-seat loss to shrink the number of Democrats in the delegation from seven to six.

But at least one Member in a safe Republican district has already shown he's stingy when it comes to helping out his newer colleagues in more competitive districts.

Rep. Joe Pitts has been stubborn about giving up some of the Republican voters in his district so the competitive suburban Philadelphia districts to his east can be bolstered, according to multiple Pennsylvania sources familiar with the situation. One GOP source close to the process said Pitts is reluctant to give up voters in the southern part of Chester County.

"It's a problem. He's got to give," another Republican source said.

Pitts, the longest-serving GOP Member in the delegation, won re-election by more than 30 points in November — although President Barack Obama came within 3 points of carrying the district in 2008.

Republican Reps. Jim Gerlach and Patrick Meehan occupy competitive districts directly east of Pitts' district. Obama carried both of their suburban Philadelphia districts by double digits.

Pitts would not say whether he was willing to shed some Republicans to his colleagues when questioned about it Thursday at the Capitol.

"All of us will have some minor changes," Pitts told Roll Call.

Meehan, the GOP Member who stands to suffer most from Pitts' frugality, set expectations low for potential changes to his district. He said he expects "marginally a better district for a Republican candidate."

While Republicans battle over scarce GOP votes in southeastern Pennsylvania, they are mostly in agreement about what will happen on the other side of the state. Southwestern Pennsylvania will lose one House seat in 2012 by moving two Democrats into the same district — most likely Reps. Jason Altmire and Mark Critz.

Republicans have not determined the exact geography of the hybrid district yet. Rep. Bill Shuster (R) is playing an influential role by working closely with state lawmakers on the new map. He has a special interest in the area because it borders his staunchly GOP southern Pennsylvania district.

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