In the Philadelphia area’s “who’s who” of stars, athletes, and politicians, it’s out with the old, and in with the new for the 2011 year. And Eagles pro bowl quarterback, Michael Vick, is not the only new face for the city. On the political front, there are quite a few new faces, as well as new issues arising in the “days old” 2011 year.
While the city welcomes back returning Congressmen Bob Brady (D- District 1), Chaka Fattah (D- District 2), and Allyson Schwartz (D- District 13), two new faces emerge to represent the 7th and 8th districts. Former Delaware County District Attorney and U.S. Attorney General, Pat Meehan (R) will now represent the people of the 7th. As District Attorney from 1996 to 2001, Meehan prosecuted several high profile cases, including the much publicized John DuPont trial for the murder of Olympic wrestler David Schultz. Meehan states his focus to be improving the economy in the area and creating jobs.
Pat Meehan has also been named the Chairman on the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. Congressman Meehan represents areas of Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.
Pat Meehan’s opportunity to run for the 7th District seat became much more apparent when his predecessor, retired Navy Admiral Joe Sestak (D), left the seat to run for U.S. Senate. Sestak, a Delaware County native and Cardinal O’Hara High School graduate, had served in the seat for almost four years before deciding to run against long time incumbent and Philadelphian, Senator Arlen Specter (D), and Republican challenger Pat Toomey. Sestak defeated Specter in the much heated May 2010 primary. Specter’s defeat essentially ended his long political career, which had begun in the 1960’s when he served as Philadelphia’s District Attorney from 1966 to 1974. Joe Sestak, however, would fall to his challenger, Lehigh County resident Pat Toomey (R), in November’s general election, thus ending Sestak’s stint in politics for the time being.
Mike Fitzpatrick’s name may ring a bell. That’s because this is not the first go-around for the newly sworn in Congressman of the 8th District. Fitzpatrick (R), who represented the 8th District from 2005 to 2007, has reclaimed the seat, defeating his once successor Patrick Murphy (D). Congressman Fitzpatrick represents areas of Bucks, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. His victory, along with Pat Meehan and other Republicans across the country, has given the party a 57-seat edge over Democrats in the house, though Democrats still hold the edge in the senate, 51-47.
In Pennsylvania’s state government, Philadelphia native Tom Corbett (R) is preparing to take the reigns as the next governor of the state. After serving just over a year as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Corbett will succeed Ed Rendell (D) and preside over a newly-flipped Republican State House.
As attorney general, Corbett was one of 12 other state attorneys general to file a lawsuit against the mandates in the federal healthcare bill in March of 2010, claiming it is unconstitutional. In Novemeber of 2010, Corbett handily defeated his opponent, Dan Onorato (D), in the gubernatorial election, and will be sworn in on January 18th.
The Pennsylvania State House, currently a Democratic majority by a razor-thin edge, will become a Republican majority on January 18th, with a 21-seat majority in the state house, and a 10-seat lead in the state senate. This switch in majority could prove to be crucial with issues such as redistricting on the horizon. The Marcellus shale gas indutry issue will continue to loom over the state into the 2011 year as well, with Corbett planning to get tough on the gas industry.
Philadelphia and the rest of the state can expect changes with laws on cell phone use while driving, tighter restrictions on public smoking, and more heated debate over the state’s economy. These are just some of the issues facing Philadelphia and its surrounding area, and these are just some of the new faces that will be taking them on in this new year.