Here’s Another Reason Pennsylvania’s New Congressional Map Is Bad News for Donald Trump

And great news for Conor Lamb.

Donald Trump

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Democrats got some good news over the long weekend when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new map for the state’s 18 congressional districts. If it survives a federal lawsuit from Republicans, the court-drawn map will replace what had been one of the most lopsided GOP gerrymanders in the country with a system that more closely reflects Pennsylvania’s swing-state nature. The court’s actions also bumped Democrats past a symbolic threshold: The number of Republicans around the country representing seats carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 went from 23 to 25—one more than the number of seats Democrats need to win to take back the House. The significance of the court decision wasn’t lost on President Donald Trump.

But the map also has ramifications for next month’s special election to replace former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned last October after allegedly pressuring a woman he had an affair with to get an abortion. Although the 18th district went to Trump by a large margin, polls have placed Democrat Conor Lamb, a Marine and former prosecutor, just a few points back of Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone. Lamb has been boosted by an unusual frenzy of progressive activism from both inside and outside the district.

The 18th district race was awkward, by special election standards, in part because the looming redistricting decision threatened to immediately make the winner into a lame duck. But the new map takes care of that problem for Democrats. The old gerrymandered map had just one reliably Democratic seat—held by Pittsburgh Rep. Mike Doyle—in all of western Pennsylvania. Doyle’s district is surrounded by a sea of Trump-loving districts like the 18th.

The new map adds a swing district to the mix. The new district, which includes portions of Pittsburgh and the northern suburbs, isn’t deep blue like Doyle’s, but it’s very winnable for Democrats—Trump carried it by just 3 points. Notably, it also includes Conor Lamb’s residence. So if Lamb wins in March, he’d likely have to face off against Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus if he wants to keep his job—but in a district that’s 18 points more Democratic than the one Lamb is running in now. And even if Lamb loses in March, he might have a better shot in November.

That’s a lot of variables, but Democrats need a lot of things to go right in their bid to retake the House. In Pennsylvania, they’ll take the small victories for now.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend