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The effect of redistricting on local elections won’t be tested until voters go to the polls and the results of the next race are tallied.

But, despite changes to voting districts throughout Pennsylvania, some Republicans and Democrats in Lebanon County are convinced the new maps will work in their favor — or, at the very least, won’t hurt them much, while others are content to wait and see what happens in the next election. LebTown asked several local elected officials and candidates for their views on the local impact of the revised maps.

“We’re just going to go out and win anyway,” state Rep. Russ Diamond, a Republican representing the 102nd House District, told LebTown.

“My take on the maps, if these are the maps we’re going to have, is it’s really not going to have a whole lot of impact on Lebanon County,” Diamond said. “If anything, it would make our district slightly more conservative. Instead of sharing the district with Dauphin County, we’ll be sharing the district with Lancaster County.”

Statewide, Diamond said, the effect of redistricting “remains to be seen.”

“I can’t tell you that I’m intimately familiar with the makeup of every single district. I know Lebanon County,” he said. “But my philosophy is this: We tried really hard to get good maps in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court decided to give us bad maps.”

Republican state Senator Chris Gebhard, representing the 48th Senate District, said he does “not see a big impact” on Lebanon County.

“Lebanon County stayed whole in the Congressional Map and is still in CD9 which is currently represented by Congressman Dan Meuser who is seeking re-election. So not much change there,” he said in an email. “If the General Assembly maps hold; State Senate District 48 is still Lebanon centric but is losing its portions of southern Dauphin and northern York counties. Now SD48 will contain all of Lebanon County, northern Berks and a small portion of northeastern Lancaster counties. I think that will be a net positive due to the cultural and historical similarities of Lebanon, Lancaster and Berks. The state house keeps Lebanon County with 2 wholly Lebanon districts (101st, 102nd) and one minority district (98th). The municipalities in those districts have altered some but I do not believe the political outcome will alter at all.”

As for the bigger picture, Gebhard said he has some concerns for Pennsylvania.

“The slower than average population growth in Pennsylvania has caused the Commonwealth to lose yet another Congressman to fight for us in DC,” he wrote. “This trend should be of great concern for all Pennsylvanians as it is even more evidence of our young, educated citizens fleeing the state for high paying jobs elsewhere. We have got to get that turned around asap.

“Obviously, losing an entire seat alters the look of all the districts and the overall outcomes in those elections could have a significant change. I do not expect to see a big difference in the general makeup of the Senate. The House is a different story. It certainly appears the LRC had an interest in cracking some of the urban populations up and I would anticipate the democratic party to pick up a few seats here and there.”

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Calvin “Doc” Clements, a Democrat who in recent years has run unsuccessful campaigns for the 101st House and the 48th Senate seats, said he sees “some equity in the new districts,” while others, “like Lebanon County have become ridiculously one-sided.”

Dan Sidelnick, chairman of the Lebanon County Democratic Committee, noted that Congressional House District 9 “has changed very little for Lebanon County.”

“While the geographic area is larger, the number of registered Republicans still outnumber Democrats,” he said in an email. “However, I believe that voters should look closely at the candidates and vote on their qualities and character when going to the polls and not just the political party. This is also true at the local levels.”

This year the Democrats are fielding candidates to offer a challenge to Republicans if most if not all voting districts, Sidelnick said. In particular, “House District 101 has been restructured in a way that is a bit more open for Democrats and Independents to win elections,” he wrote, “with more growth and voters moving into Lebanon County which is one of the fastest growing counties in PA.”

“At this time, I feel that it is too early to make a determination on the extent in which the new state legislative and congressional maps will have for the future political landscape in Pennsylvania,” Lebanon County Republican Committee chairman Ed Lynch said in an email to LebTown. “Obviously, the PA State Senate and House maps approved by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission and the new Pennsylvania Congressional Districts selected by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, will have future political ramifications but I anticipate that to materialize more clearly after the 2024 election cycle.”

Lynch said he is “confident that the GOP will retain the Lebanon County State Legislative Districts and the 9th Congressional District.”

“Just my two cents,” he added. “I have closely monitored the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission hearings with great interest and have reviewed the preliminary and final maps submitted for our local State Senate and State House districts. My number one concern during the reapportionment commission hearings was that Lebanon County be kept whole with respect to the 48th State Senatorial District. Fortunately for all of Lebanon County, that objective was met and I believe the interests of Lebanon County and its residents will be well represented by our State Senator and State House members in Harrisburg. The final state legislative maps approved by the reapportionment commission was a positive outcome for all of Lebanon County.”

Republican state Reps. Frank Ryan, representing the 101st District, and Susan Helm, representing the 104th, did not respond to requests for comment on redistricting. Neither did John Schlegel, a Republican campaigning for Ryan’s seat.

Democrat Catherine “Cavi” Miller, who recently announced her candidacy for the 101st House District, said that, because of redistricting, “it seems as though a Democrat would stand a better chance of winning” than they had previously.

Miller is glad to see the process completed.

“These maps are redrawn every ten years, and for good reason,” she wrote in an email. “Populations change, demographics change, and people need change. I think the new maps have the potential to change the political landscape across our state.

“That being said, I would like to think that regardless of who is elected, the voters would be choosing someone based on their merit, honestly, intelligence, and willingness to work across the aisle. I firmly believe that part of the reason we have issues in government is because many people vote based on what letter comes after the candidate’s name. It’s time we rethink how we approach the polls, so that we can ensure that well-rounded intelligent people who want to get work done are elected to these higher offices.”

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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.