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Pennsylvania - 17th District

Incumbent -- Tim Holden (D) ; Defeated by Matt Cartwright, D, in a primary on April 24, 2012

Likely Democratic
Race Ratings Key

Updated Oct. 14, 2010

Republican plans to target Holden this year appear to have fizzled.

Having represented this district for nearly two decades, he has largely cruised to victory over relatively little-known challengers in recent cycles. He faces state Sen. Dave Argall in November, a Republican who survived a competitive May primary.

But Democrats are quietly confident about this seat, and they cite a weak early fundraising performance by Argall. Further, they think Holden's Blue Dog credentials have earned him the respect of the electorate in the conservative district.

Through late September, the race hadn't attracted any independent spending by outside groups -- not a great sign for the underfunded Argall. But Republicans maintain that this seat could flip if the anti-establishment wave is large enough.


District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

Anchored in the eastern part of south-central Pennsylvania, the 17th is home to Harrisburg, the state capital, which sits 100 miles west of Philadelphia and 200 miles east of Pittsburgh. The 17th has two distinct zones: a stretch of agricultural land 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.

Harrisburg's skyline is dominated by the Capitol, with a dome inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. With many government employees and a black plurality, the city typically votes Democratic. Visitors wanting a real taste of Dauphin County skip Harrisburg and go to Hershey, where even the streetlights are shaped like Hershey's Kisses. All of the company's chocolate production is expected to move to western Hershey in 2012, out of the center of town where the original chocolate factory stood emitting the most pleasant of industrial odors for a century.

The economy in Dauphin and Lebanon counties relies on health care, education and government jobs. Municipal and statewide budget shortfalls have caused concern. Harrisburg, in Dauphin, is a key distribution hub for metropolitan markets in the mid-Atlantic region, and it hosts the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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, but the city's concentration of Democratic voters outweighs the county's conservative areas. Democrats are competitive in Schuylkill County, long a coal mining powerhouse, with comfortable margins at the state and U.S. House levels in Shenandoah, Pottsville and Mahanoy. Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, won every county wholly or partly in the district in 2010 even as Democratic Rep. Tim Holden held on in Schuylkill and Dauphin.

Major Industry

Government, service, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, biotech


Harrisburg, 49,528; Lebanon, 25,477; Pottsville, 14,324


Pottsville is home to Yuengling, America's oldest active brewery.




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