Race is on in Pennsylvania 6th Congressional

    This fall voters in Philadelphia’s western suburbs will choose a new congressman to replace Republican Jim Gerlach, who’s leaving the seat after six terms in office.

    It’s a crazy quilt of a district (aren’t they all?) which includes parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lebanon Counties.

    Democrat and Berks County physician Manan Trivedi tried twice to unseat Gerlach, and wasn’t planning to try again. But when Gerlach suddenly announced he was leaving Congress, Trivedi decided this was a new opportunity.

    “Being an open seat, I really feel we’re going to get a fair look and an equal shot in my opinion for the first time,” Trivedi said in an interview. He said it was always too much of an uphill climb trying to take on the incumbent.

    Instead of Gerlach, Trivedi will face Ryan Costello, an attorney and Republican Chester County Commissioner.

    When I asked Costello what he says to a voter when he has 30 seconds on her front porch, his pitch sounded like that of a mainstream Republican.

    “I don’t believe that higher taxes or more regulation in the marketplace is going to achieve the economic growth that we need,” he said.

    Costello has also described himself as a problem-solver, a conservative who wants to get things done in Washington. He said he doesn’t think repealing Obamacare is realistic, and that Congress should work on incremental changes in the law that Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

    That position earned him mention in an Associated Press piece about how the national politics of Obamacare are evolving.

    Trivedi said he’ll draw a sharp contrast between himself and Costello, and that he’ll focus on improving education, investing in infrastructure, protecting social security and raising the minimum wage.

    “I think the public really wants us to talk about these issues,” Trivedi said. “If you ask me what are the big issues that are facing America, it’s making sure we have a middle class for the future.”

    While the two have policy differences, both campaigns have also traded hard shots on matters of personal integrity.

    The Costello campaign charges Trivedi lives and works in Washington (Trivedi says no, he does consulting in Pennsylvania with a firm based in Washington). The Trivedi campaign accuses Costello of giving public contracts to campaign donors (Costello says that’s bogus – he’s gotten contributions from qualified vendors that worked for Chester County before he got there with Democratic and Republican support).

    I haven’t probed these accusations carefully, but I expect it will be unavoidable as the race proceeds. If you’re ready for an early dive, here’s a wallop from the Trivedi campaign on Costello and those county contracts, and here’s one from Costello’s campaign on Trivedi’s alleged residency issue.

    Is the race competitive? Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, and national analysts say it leans Republican (Romney won it by 3 points in 2012). But Trivedi has a poll that says its a dead heat.

    Both candidates say they’re prepared to engage in a series of debates. Game on.

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