Meehan Says He’ll Tend County

Tom Murse
Lancaster New Era/Intelligencer Journal

Pat Meehan knows that.

The Republican congressman, whose 7th district will include part of eastern Lancaster County beginning in 2013, once worked as a professional hockey ref. Years ago, you may have seen him on the ice in Hershey.

It was brutal.

After his first game, Meehan was about to head home when he noticed a few fans waiting for autographs.

“I had never given an autograph before. Never been asked to give one,” he recalled in Lancaster Thursday. “So it was kind of a significant moment, and I’m walking down this long hallway … and this young kid about 8 years old gets my eye, and I’m trying to think about what I’m going to write.

“And I get right up next to him, and he looks up to me like this and goes, ‘You stink!’ ” Meehan laughed. “I think about that every day when I walk out to the House floor.”

Meehan’s reception here was much warmer.

In his first meeting with municipal officials and donors to the Republican Committee of Lancaster County, the first-term congressman from suburban Philadelphia addressed the resistance among local officials to splitting the area into two congressional districts.

“I want you to know how delighted I am — legitimately — to come back here and have an opportunity to represent what is a little more than 30,000 people in Lancaster County,” Meehan told members of the GOP’s Lincoln Club at Lancaster Country Club Thursday afternoon.

“But I’m also very aware that there was and is, and quite understandably, an interest in the county remaining whole, maintaining a singular representation of the congressman.

He added: “I want people to be assured and feel confident … and I’m hoping people see that you’ve got two congressmen that will care about the issues associated with your district.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts has represented the entire county for the past decade, and won re-election every two years by substantial margins.

But the Legislature, in redrawing the new congressional boundaries late last year, carved parts of Chester and Lancaster County out of Pitts’ 16th District and placed them in the 7th, a move critics say was an attempt to shore up the number of reliable Republican voters in Meehan’s volatile suburban Philadelphia district.

Pitts and the county’s Republican legislative delegation voiced opposition to the move, but several voted in favor of it regardless, saying it was the better of two bad plans.

The erratically drawn boundaries of Meehan’s 7th District have drawn national scrutiny and claims of gerrymandering. It is one of several in which Democratic-leaning voters were shoved out of swing districts and into new districts where they are less likely to defeat a Republican incumbent.

Meehan’s district now covers most of Delaware County, but will expand in jagged fashion to cover parts of Chester and Berks counties, in addition to seven municipalities in Lancaster County.

The 7th Congressional district will include Christiana Borough and Bart, Colerain, Leacock, Paradise, Sadsbury and Salisbury townships — roughly 30,000 voters. He met with leaders of the six townships Thursday morning and discussed federal environmental regulations and other issues facing the agricultural communities.

“People comment, ‘Well, how are you going to be able to deal with a district that goes from Horsham all the way out to Berks County,’ and I look and say, ‘You know, the issues are the same for all Americans in the sense of having a desire for opportunity, freedom and standing by the principles we believe in.’ ”

It is unclear whether Meehan will face a Democratic challenger this year, though published reports have suggested former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak might be looking to get his old seat back.

Meehan’s appearance here was before members of the Republican Committee of Lancaster County’s Lincoln Club, made up of about 80 contributors who have given $1,000 to the party.

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