Suburban, Swing-Seat Republican Congressman Retires

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 6 2014 3:46 PM

Suburban, Swing-Seat Republican Congressman Retires

For most of the last decade, Pennsylvania Rep. Jim Gerlach was the state Democratic party's great white whale. Gerlach was a lawyer-turned-politician who helped draw a grotesquely gerrymandered seat just outside of Philadelphia, a collection of suburbs that looked for all the world like a pterodactyl. In 2002, a good Republican year, he won with 51 percent of the vote. In 2004, as John Kerry continued Democratic dominance of the 'burbs, he won with 51 percent. In 2006 and 2008, good years for the Democrats, he won with ... 51 percent and 52 percent. That last election saw Gerlach running 5 points ahead of the McCain-Palin ticket.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

And so, in 2011, the Republican state legislature made Gerlach's life easier and gave him a still-ridiculous-looking but safer seat. Gerlach's new turf voted 51–48 for the Romney-Ryan ticket; the congressman won by 14 points. A Republican moderate was safe to explore his alternative lifestyle,* unless for some reason he retired.

Oh.

PA-6 Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-Chester) will not seek reelection in 2014.
“Nearing the end of my sixth term in the House and following 12 years of public service in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, it is simply time for me to move on to new challenges and to spend more time with my wife and family,” Gerlach said.
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Like Iowa's retiring Rep. Tom Latham, Gerlach's a mostly conservative congressman who has no time for the into-the-breach tactics of the post-Bush, Tea Party GOP. He can cash out now; his seat is going to be open during, probably, a decent year for his party. Pennsylvania Republicans might be in a weaker position than their colleagues in, say, Ohio, because at the top of their ticket will be hideously unpopular Gov. Tom Corbett. If that factor balances out the district map, this will be one of the half-dozen seats where Democrats try to overcome the backlash to the ACA and recover turf in the suburbs.

*i.e., moderation! I hope everyone gets the joke.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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