MID-ATLANTIC: Democrats Net One House Seat in Liberal Region

Posted November 3, 2004 at 3:36pm

The Mid-Atlantic region produced no major surprises on Tuesday. There were few competitive races in the region, and those few almost all broke the way they were expected to. In the end, it looks as though the Democrats will net one House seat from the area.

The closest race in Pennsylvania, by far, was Rep. Jim Gerlach’s (R) re-election bid. Lois Murphy (D) put up a strong fight, but with most of the precincts reporting, Gerlach appears to have won, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Murphy was certainly helped by Sen. John Kerry’s constant campaigning in the state and by her ties to Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who is popular in the district. In the end, however, Gerlach appears to have retained his seat by the narrowest of margins.

The three races with open seats in the state all went to the party that held them in the previous Congress.

In the 8th district, Michael Fitzpatrick (R) handily defeated Democratic nominee Ginny Schrader, 55 percent to 44 percent. Schrader faced an uphill battle in her bid to beat the county commissioner, having raised little money and being hampered by possessing little name recognition.

In the 13th district, where Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) retired to run against Sen. Arlen Specter (R), the Democrats held the seat. Allyson Schwartz (D) defeated Melissa Brown (R), by the comfortable margin of 56 percent to 41 percent.

The 15th district also stuck with the incumbent party: state Sen. Charlie Dent (R) beat businessman Joe Driscoll (D), 59 percent to 39 percent. The seat was vacated when Rep. Pat Toomey (R) ran for the Senate.

As expected, Rep. Tim Holden (D) defeated the son of Penn State University legend Joe Paterno, Scott Paterno (R), 59 percent to 39 percent. The district leans Republican, but Holden’s political skills, moderate views and incumbent status won him another term.

In a race that was tighter than expected through most of Election Night, Hoeffel lost to Specter, 53 percent to 42 percent. Ballot returns from Philadelphia showed an early advantage for Hoeffel, but once all votes were counted, Specter won a fifth term by a convincing margin.

With the exception of one House race that remained a tossup until the end, New York proved to be just as predictable as Pennsylvania was. Sen. Charles Schumer (D) won a second term in a landslide against state Assemblyman Howard Mills III (R), 71 percent to 25 percent.

In the 1st district, incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D) held on to his seat by a comfortable margin, defeating challenger Bill Manger (R) 56 percent to 44 percent.

The story was the same in the 4th district, as incumbent Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D) trounced challenger James Garner (R), 63 percent to 37 percent. Early in the campaign cycle, the race had looked as if it might become competitive, but later it became clear that Garner had no chance.

GOP Rep. Amo Houghton’s retirement in the 29th district gave the Democrats some hope of taking the seat. Republicans kept control, however, with state Sen. Randy Kuhl defeating Democratic party operative Samara Barend.

The Democrats did pick up a seat in the Buffalo-area 27th district, which was being vacated by GOP Rep. Jack Quinn. State Assemblyman Brian Higgins (D) defeated Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples (R), 51 percent to 49 percent. The two had squared off in a 1993 election for comptroller, which Naples won.

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) handled a feisty challenge from Republican E.J. Pipkin with ease, beating the state Senator 65 percent to 34 percent. The challenger spent more than $1 million of his own money in the race. As expected, none of Maryland’s House races was competitive.

The only House race of note in New Jersey was the 7th district, which featured a retired Marine running on an anti-Bush platform. But Ret. Lt. Col. Steve Brozak (D) ended up being defeated by incumbent Rep. Mike Ferguson (R) 57 percent to 41 percent.

In West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) fought off a challenge from television news anchor Erik Wells (D). In a district that was hotly contested in 2000 and 2002 but little-noticed in 2004, Capito won, 58 percent to 41 percent.