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Updated May 20, 2010
Murphy's 2006 ouster of one-term Republican Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick made him the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress. After winning that race by the razor-thin margin of six-tenths of 1 percentage point, Murphy was re-elected in 2008 by 15 points over Republican challenger Manion, a retired Marine Corps colonel whose son died in 2007 while serving in Iraq.
That second term win appeared to confirm a Democratic trend in the suburban 8th, the most affluent district by median income in Pennsylvania, where Barack Obama took 54 percent of the vote as the party's 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. It also burnished the image of Murphy, just 36 years old, as a Democratic rising star who could expect a relatively easy contest in 2010.
That, however, has turned out to be wishful thinking, with Fitzpatrick's decision to try to get his old job back. Fitzpatrick was the runaway winner of a four-candidate Republican primary May 18 and will face Murphy in November.
District Profile from Politics in America
North of Philadelphia, the 8th District takes in all of Bucks County, a small part of Montgomery County and a slice of Northeast Philadelphia. Founded in 1682 as one of the state's three original counties, Bucks' stately mansions, scenery and charm have attracted wealthy, white-collar residents. At more than $73,000, the 8th has the highest median household income in the state. Development here began in the 1950s with the opening of Levittown, one of the earliest planned U.S. suburbs.
Steel, once a major employer in Bucks, has suffered long-term decline and sustained loss of blue-collar jobs. A shuttered U.S. Steel plant in Fairless Hills, however, was redeveloped to lure varied heavy industry. The site now hosts a factory that manufactures parts for wind turbines and employs roughly 800 people. Local officials hope to bring new manufacturing jobs to industrial sites along the Delaware River.
Propping up the economy are small businesses and several hospitals. A deep-water port that was built during the district's steel-production heyday makes the 8th something of a distribution and warehouse center. One of the state's first racetrack and casino enterprises opened in the county in 2006, and Parx Racing and Casino draws visitors and revenue. But that economic diversity has not insulated the county from rising unemployment rates and cutbacks in social services.
Voters in the 8th tend to be fiscally conservative but support environmentalism and hold moderate stances on some social issues. In 2008, the district gave Democrat Barack Obama 54 percent of its presidential vote and backed Democratic Rep. Patrick J. Murphy for re-election to the U.S. House. But after several years of support for Democratic candidates at the federal level, the district reinstated former Republican Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick in 2010, and Republicans Pat Toomey and Tom Corbett easily won Bucks County in their U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. The area is represented by Republicans in the state legislature.
Health care, wholesale and retail trade
Levittown (unincorporated), 52,983; Philadelphia (pt.), 31,218
George Washington's Delaware River crossing is re-enacted at Washington Crossing each Christmas Day.
|2010||general||Michael Fitzpatrick (R)||130,759||53.5%|
|Patrick Murphy (D)||113,547||46.5%|
|2008||general||Patrick Murphy (D)||197,869||56.8%|
|Tom Manion (R)||145,103||41.6%|
|Tom Lingenfelter (I)||5,543||1.6%|
|2006||general||Patrick Murphy (D)||125,656||50.3%|
|Michael Fitzpatrick (R)||124,138||49.7%|
|2004||general||Michael Fitzpatrick (R)||183,229||55.3%|
|Virginia Schrader (D)||143,427||43.3%|
|Arthur Farnsworth (LIBERT)||3,710||1.1%|
|Erich Lukas (CNSTP)||898||0.3%|
|2002||general||James Greenwood (R)||127,475||62.6%|
|Timothy Reece (D)||76,178||37.4%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 54%||John McCain: 45%|
|2004||John Kerry: 51%||George W. Bush: 48%|
|2000||Al Gore: 51%||George W. Bush: 46%|