New Castle News

May 9, 2013

Court decision means redrawn maps will be used for elections in 2014

John Finnerty
CNHI

HARRISBURG — Freshman Rep. Greg Lucas, R-Erie County, learned about a Supreme Court decision upholding redistricting maps through a phone call from fellow Erie County lawmaker Ryan Bizzarro.

That’s significant because under the new maps, Lucas lives in Bizzarro’s district.

If Lucas wants a second term, he will have to beat the Democrat Bizzarro in an incumbent versus incumbent matchup in a district that heavily leans Democratic.

Because of the court decision, the redrawn legislative maps will be used for the 2014 election. The maps were created to reflect the changing population patterns found in the 2010 census. The new legislative boundaries were challenged by Democrats and others on the grounds the districts were gerrymandered.

“The approval of the redistricting plan by the state Supreme Court is disappointing. We believe that we successfully argued that a fair map, one that includes far fewer municipality, county and community splits, could be created,” said Jay Costa, D-Allegheny County, the Senate minority leader.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, said the Democrats’ complaints are overblown. Only 2.37 percent of the state’s 2,567 municipalities are split in the new maps, he said.

Lucas said he is not sure he wants to challenge Bizzarro, a race that would undoubtedly “be ugly” and expensive.

Lucas’ 5th District — which had been represented by the now-retired John Evans — is moved across the state under the redrawn maps. With that district shuffle, Rep. Michele Brooks’ 17th District will expand and she will gain more of Crawford County and a piece of Erie County.

With that shift, Greenville — which had been the hometown of three of the last four 17th District representatives — has been moved into the 7th District, now represented by Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County.

While the redistricting is causing ripples across northwestern Pennsylvania, Brooks said she is glad the process is finally completed.

She said she is excited about representing Erie County so she will be able to work to promote the port in Erie. Brooks noted she has been a member of a caucus of lawmakers focused on international trade.

Lucas said that just days ago, he had heard rumblings the Supreme Court was going to wait as much as two years before deciding the redistricting question. That would have allowed Lucas, a former Edinboro mayor, to complete a full term in office. Then, Wednesday, came the bad news from Bizzarro, he said.

In the meantime, Lucas said, he is focusing on serving his constituents and his political future will become clearer as time goes by.

As one of just a handful of incumbents who must run against peers, Lucas is one of the biggest losers in the redistricting. But he was not the only one displeased by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“This whole redistricting process has been very disappointing,” said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County. “The plan upheld today never represented the best interests of Pennsylvania citizens. It is a convoluted map that includes far too many municipality, county and community splits that in the long run will only leave some communities and their citizens underrepresented.”

Wozniak’s new district stretches 150 miles.

Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County, said that because of population shifts, his district needed to add 4,000 people. To accomplish that, his district was given a chunk of Columbia County, as well as additional portions of Northumberland County.

As a former Northumberland County commissioner, business owner and long-time resident, making contacts in that county will be less of a challenge, he said.

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)