All Politics is Now
I guess the telling point may be the explanation from the victor Randy Vulakovich who said he wanted "Right now, my focus is on winning and bringing some normalcy back to the 40th District.". It would seem a strange comment. What lack of normalcy is there? But of course it is telling comment. The Rosetta Stone is Jeff Habay.
Jeff Habay, whose mixing of political and official business led to his own conviction and set a precedent for a series of similar criminal prosecutions of politicians to follow. Once the rising star of Allegheny County Republican politics was elected to the state house at a very young age. Was considered on the short list of folks who might run for Melissa Hart's State Senate Seat only to lose out to one Jane Orie who was herself at the time holding the seat in the state house once held by Melissa Hart. Once convicted and dumped out of office Habay's brief successor (one Shawn Flaherty) was displaced quickly by Vulakovich who has now beat out Melissa Hart for the seat Jane Orie was evicted upon her convictions of charges similar to that which did Jeff Habay in. If you can keep all that straight, there is a certain circular firing squad aspect to it all.
Of course it all leads to the postscript of what may be the best post-political (let alone post-conviction) makeover of a local politician ever: Movie voiceovers and Brazilian real estate. Darth Bernardo all in one.
ok... ok... moving on.
So the story is that while there is some very odd renumbering going on, the district of Jane Orie's tenure has been morphed to stretch into the city of Pittsburgh in order to cover the residence of the Jim Ferlo. Thus a fiction to say that Ferlo's district was not eliminated. Jim Ferlo's district, for the longest time held by one Len Bodack Sr. (Jr last we heard is working for the PWSA) stretched out along the Allegheny River Valley is pretty much kaput. So there is a special election coming up for the remaining term of Jane Orie which will be based on the geography of the existing district... but then the redistricting kicks in and then what is going to happen? The North Hills of Allegheny County is pretty much the core of the county's Republican Base and the new district pretty much covers it all. Thus the early prognostication that it is a Republican seat to lose. Yet it also sticks into the city and adds some core Democratic Party votes that were not part of the district before.
So a map might help. So it may not be the best starting point, but for something to benchmark below I will put a map of the 2008 General election for President just in what will be the new district as proposed (still may change given the history... this is attempt #3 by the state to draw this map.. let's take a bet it is not the last). You see the sharp divide in the map. There is not a lot of middle ground. Like the national red/blue map it has a bit of spatial bias in that the Red areas are all a lot less dense with population than the Blue areas.
What I get when you add up past votes explicitly for the proposed new district (albeit a bit quickly.. if anyone wants to correct me?) works out to:
Obama 67,652 (47.9%)
McCain 71,914 (50.9%)
So at the starting point there is indeed a palpable R margin. Not enormous as these things go for very local races, but comfortable. The wildcard here is how much has changed in 4 years. For a region like this it is not a question so much of how much the nation or state has shifted R or D, but the movement of people within the region which has a quicker impact. Generally speaking you have seen a suburban R shift in the Pittsburgh region reflecting, I speculate, mostly from the self-selection of folks moving out of Allegheny County. So if a chunk of R's have continued to move out of the county it is likely from a lot of this district and could have an impact if the margins are very close.
but the map.... the map...