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Updated Oct. 14, 2010
The race to replace Sestak will be among the closest watched this fall.
Never mind the profile of the candidates, the contest has already attracted a flood of money from independent groups that see this suburban district west of Philadelphia as a symbolic and high-profile battleground. The conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Job Security plan to spend nearly $450,000 combined before November.
Pat Meehan is considered one of the GOP's top candidates this cycle. He is a former U.S. attorney and prolific fundraiser. He faces Bryan Lentz, an Iraq War veteran and state Representative from Swarthmore who flashed his political prowess in 2006 by unseating a longtime incumbent.
Republicans are quietly confident in Meehan's prospects, who has consistently outraised his opponent and who they say has strong appeal to the independents and moderate Democrats expected to vote in this district. President Barack Obama earned 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, slightly more than the 53 percent for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.
But internal polling released by the Meehan camp over the summer suggested he has the edge. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as of early October, had yet to commit to spending here, while its Republican counterpart has already committed.
Democrats, meanwhile, say the composition of the district will help Lentz, as will a competitive Senate race that features hometown favorite Sestak at the top of the ticket.
District Profile from Politics in America
Anchored in the suburbs south and west of Philadelphia, the politically competitive 7th takes in heavily populated unincorporated townships in vast tracts of middle-class suburbia. It includes most of Delaware County, the district's population center, as well as southwestern Montgomery and eastern Chester counties.
Older suburbs in Delaware County are mostly white and working-class. Oil refineries and chemical facilities drive the economy around the Delaware River communities of Marcus Hook and Trainer, but several years of job cuts at these mainstays have hurt the workforce. Areas in Upper Merion Township in Montgomery County have grown since the 1990s opening of the Blue Route (Interstate 476), which links Interstate 95 along the Delaware River with the Schuylkill Expressway near King of Prussia, home of a gigantic shopping mall complex.
A Boeing helicopter facility in Ridley Park and Lockheed Martin's plant in King of Prussia provide jobs, as do the district's pharmaceutical and technology sectors. The growth of white-collar jobs gave the 7th the state's most educated workforce, but layoffs have hurt some sectors. New residential developments, many of which have sprung up in less-populated areas of Chester County, are attracting city residents.
Either major party can win in federal elections here. Overall, Democrat Barack Obama took 56 percent of the district's vote in the 2008 presidential election.
Pharmaceuticals, defense, health care
Drexel Hill (unincorporated), 28,043; King of Prussia (unincorporated), 19,936
Villanova University hosts the largest student-organized Special Olympics festival.
|2010||general||Patrick Meehan (R)||137,825||54.9%|
|Bryan Lentz (D)||110,314||44%|
|Jim Schneller (I)||2,708||1.1%|
|2008||general||Joe Sestak (D)||209,955||59.6%|
|W. Williams (R)||142,362||40.4%|
|2006||general||Joe Sestak (D)||147,898||56.4%|
|Curt Weldon (R)||114,426||43.6%|
|2004||general||Curt Weldon (R)||196,556||58.8%|
|Paul Scoles (D)||134,932||40.3%|
|David Jahn (LIBERT)||3,039||0.9%|
|2002||general||Curt Weldon (R)||146,296||66.1%|
|Peter Lennon (D)||75,055||33.9%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 56%||John McCain: 43%|
|2004||John Kerry: 53%||George W. Bush: 47%|
|2000||Al Gore: 50%||George W. Bush: 47%|