New Castle News

May 11, 2013

John K. Manna: New legislative districts give advantage to local lawmakers

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — We finally have a map, and area state legislators have to be gushing with joy.

The map, which reshapes state House and Senate districts in Pennsylvania, gained the approval of the state Supreme Court this week.

A five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission made up of four legislative leaders and a judge drew up the plan. The court rejected the commission’s first plan, and then a revision was drafted in June 2012. And that’s the plan that takes effect in 2014.

There are some disgruntled legislators in other parts of the state because they either don’t like the shape of their districts or the new boundaries possibly pit them against fellow legislators in next year’s elections.

That’s definitely not the case for legislators who represent Lawrence County.

For starters, state Sen. Elder Vogel, a Republican, will begin representing all of Lawrence County next year. He now represents about half of the county and a large portion of Beaver County.

Not only does Vogel gain the rest of Lawrence County, but he picks up more Republican voters in the process.

Even though Democrats hold a large advantage over Republicans countywide, the expansion of Vogel’s district reduces that advantage by about 2,200 voters. That certainly should be to his benefit if he decides to seek re-election in 2016 since he’s won rather easily twice before against bigger odds.

State Rep. Chris Sainato, a Democrat, has always had a politically favorable district when it comes to registration. The Reapportionment Commission made it even more favorable.

He now has a healthy voter registration advantage of around 8,000, but it will grow to about 9,000 next year, primarily with the addition of Shenango Township. Furthermore, his district no longer extends into Beaver County, but lies entirely within Lawrence County.

Sainato’s gain is state Rep. Jaret Gibbons’ loss. Gibbons, a Democrat, represents Shenango Township now, a big reason why he enjoys a registration advantage of about 2,400 voters in the county. Losing the township reduces that margin to about 1,300.

However, and it’s a big however, Gibbons more than makes up for it by taking on some Democratic areas in Beaver County, including Beaver Falls and New Brighton. Gibbons notes that he hasn’t looked at the exact numbers, but figures the Beaver County addition enhances his advantage by a few thousand more voters.

State Rep. Michele Brooks, by the way, ends up representing only New Wilmington borough and Wilmington Township in the county.

Anything is possible when it comes to elections, but registration plays a significant role, particularly in local legislative races. And right now, Vogel, Sainato and Gibbons shouldn’t be losing any sleep worrying about the next election.