- Associated Press - Monday, February 26, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The first day for congressional candidates in Pennsylvania to circulate petitions will arrive amid legal challenges to week-old court-ordered boundaries of the state’s 18 U.S. House districts.

The map of districts continued Monday to spur more would-be candidates to reconsider whether - and where - to run, as Republican challenges to new U.S. House district boundaries awaited action in federal courts.

Perhaps the most prominent name, Pennsylvania’s auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale, said he would not run for Congress, after spending several days considering a shot at a more competitive district in south-central Pennsylvania.

Tuesday is the first day under a delayed schedule to gather signatures to qualify for May 15 primary election ballots. The deadline to submit them is March 20.

More than 70 people had been considering running for Congress in Pennsylvania before a gerrymandering lawsuit prompted the state Supreme Court to redraw the congressional district boundaries last week.

Meanwhile, five incumbent members of Congress from Pennsylvania are not seeking another term this year and a sixth resigned last year, creating the state’s largest number of open seats in four decades and fueling interest in running.

DePasquale now lives in a more competitive district around his York County home that the court-ordered boundaries had created by adding heavily Democratic areas surrounding the city of Harrisburg.

The area had held a solidly Republican York-based district represented by three-term Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry under boundaries drawn in 2011 by Republicans who controlled the Legislature and the governor’s office.

Longtime liberal activist and one-time congressional candidate Gene Stilp said he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Perry.

A state lawmaker, Rep. Steve Bloom of Cumberland County, said he will seek the Republican nomination in his new congressional district, this time to replace U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, who is not running again. Before the boundaries changed, Bloom had sought to succeed U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who is leaving to run for U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, Democrat Nina Ahmad, a former Philadelphia city official who had prepared to seek U.S. Rep. Bob Brady’s Philadelphia-based seat, said she will run instead for lieutenant governor after the court-ordered map effectively sent one of three Philadelphia-based districts to Montgomery County.

Now, Ahmad will challenge the re-election bid of Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in the party’s primary.

Democratic state Rep. Greg Vitali of Delaware County, a leading environmental advocate in the state Legislature, said he will not seek the party’s nomination to run for Congress, and will instead run for his state House seat.

Vitali had declared his candidacy last month to succeed Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, who is not running again after a Jan. 20 New York Times report disclosed that Meehan had used taxpayer money to settle a former aide’s sexual harassment allegation.

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