- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania’s midterm elections for Congress, overshadowed by the statewide race for governor and mostly robbed of suspense by partisan redistricting, are expected by many observers to simply reaffirm the status quo.

But Election Day surprises can never be ruled out.

All but two of the state’s 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking re-election. Three of them - two Republicans and one Democrat - won new terms in the May primary because they are unopposed in the Nov. 4 general election.

Overall, thanks in part to a GOP-crafted redistricting map that the Republican-controlled Legislature approved in 2011, Republicans currently hold 13 seats and Democrats hold five.

“I think every incumbent wins. I think the 13 stay Republican and the five stay Democratic,” said Terry Madonna, the professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “I haven’t seen anything to suggest that they’re competitive.”

Among the contested seats, spirited races in two suburban Philadelphia districts have attracted the most attention.

North of the city in the 8th District, whose eastern boundary abuts the New Jersey border, third-term Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick faces an aggressive challenge from Kevin Strouse, a former Army Ranger and first-time candidate for public office.

Fitzpatrick, a lawyer and former Bucks County commissioner, was ousted after his first term in 2006 but reclaimed the seat in 2011. He has a huge financial edge, reporting more than $2 million on hand at the end of September. Strouse, who had less than $175,000, has attacked the incumbent’s voting record in cable TV ads and accused him of ducking face-to-face discussions of the issues, which Fitzpatrick has denied.

Next door, in the sprawling 6th District, Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello, a Republican, is competing against Democrat Dr. Manan Trivedi, a physician and Iraq war veteran, for the seat that GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach is vacating after serving six terms.

Costello, a lawyer who would be the youngest member of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation if elected, stresses his county government experience and his desire to take on partisan gridlock in Congress. Trivedi, who unsuccessfully campaigned to unseat Gerlach in 2010 and 2012, is emphasizing his unique experience as a combat surgeon in the Iraq war and his work as a part-time primary physician.

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to keep Democratic incumbents in Congress and helps promising Democratic candidates, is supporting Trivedi and Strouse. But it recently canceled a reservation for broadcast TV time in the expensive Philadelphia media market that could have helped them in the final weeks of the campaign.

“Ad reservations are changing every week, and both (candidates) are running aggressive campaigns in a tough climate,” committee spokesman Marc Brumer said this week.

Ian Prior, a spokesman for the DCCC’s GOP counterpart, the National Republican Campaign Committee, said the move signaled that national Democratic leaders have “lost all faith in winning those seats and have pulled out all their support.”

The candidates shrugged off the development.

“You don’t depend on the cavalry coming in,” said Will Block, Strouse’s spokesman.

The other open seat is in the 13th District, where state Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat, faces Republican businessman Carson Dee Adcock, who owns a swimming pool equipment company. The solidly Democratic district includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who represented the 13th District for five terms, is stepping down after losing a four-way gubernatorial primary. Boyle was nominated to succeed her in the congressional primary, defeating three opponents who included former Rep. Marjorie Margolies, who is Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law.

In the 10th District, which stretches from the state’s northeastern corner to central Pennsylvania, second-term Republican Rep. Tom Marino faces two challengers: businessman Scott Brion, a Democrat, and independent Nicholas Troiano.

Unopposed are Republican Reps. Charles Dent in the 15th District and Tim Murphy in the 18th District and Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle in the 14th District.

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