Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Pennsylvania 6th – Rep. Jim Gerlach is seeking a 5th term
Primary: May 18, 2010
Location: Philadelphia suburbs
Days until Election Day: 92
Even though Democrats may have their hands full this year defending dozens of vulnerable House incumbents, they still have high hopes of knocking off several Republican members in districts that President Obama carried in 2008. One such GOP incumbent is Rep. Jim Gerlach, who is no stranger to the Democratic target list.
Gerlach was first elected in 2002 and has never had the luxury of winning with comfortable margins. He won his first three terms with just 51 percent of the vote. In 2008, he outspent his Democratic opponent by more than 3-to-1 and slightly improved his winning percentage to 52 percent.
In Congress, Gerlach has stuck with his party on the big votes of the last two years. He voted against the Democratic plans on health care, economic stimulus, financial reform, and the "cap and trade" energy proposals. Nonetheless, Gerlach has not necessarily voted in lock-step with Republicans. In 2009, he voted against a majority of his party on key votes 27 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly. What may be more telling is that he supported President Obama's position 51 percent of the time on key votes, more than he supported President Bush's position in his final two years in office.
The Democratic nominee who will face Gerlach in November is Manan Trivedi, an Indian-American physician and Iraq War veteran. He is a native of Berks County, which makes up the northwestern half of the district. Trivendi also served as a health policy adviser to the Obama presidential campaign and now is a primary care physician in the Reading area.
Trivedi's opponent for the Democratic nomination was Doug Pike, a former journalist with the Philadelphia Inquirer and son of a former New York congressman. He also was an aide to the late Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. Pike poured $1.1 million of his own money into the race and outspent Trivedi by more than double. But Trivedi had the better grassroots operation and outraised Pike in contributions from individuals. In the end, Trivedi edged Pike in the May primary, winning with 50.8 percent of the vote to 49.2 percent for Pike.
Gerlach began the general election phase of the campaign with $541,000 in the bank as of June 30, which is less than the $762,000 he had at this point two years ago. Trivedi had $329,000 in the bank.
Pennsylvania's 6th district is located in the southeastern corner of the state. It includes some Philadelphia suburbs and surrounding countryside, including well-to-do areas in the Main Line and Chester County and blue-collar areas such as Pottstown and parts of Reading. Obama carried the district with 58 percent of the vote in 2008, outperforming the 54 percent he received statewide. Democrat John Kerry won the district by a closer margin in 2004, 51 percent to 48 percent.
Gerlach originally planned to retire from Congress this year and instead run for governor, which would have given Democrats the advantage in picking up this seat in November. Now that he's back in, they still have a competitive shot at winning this seat, especially given the district's Democratic-friendly demographics, but they now have a higher hurdle to clear. Gerlach is certainly one of the more vulnerable GOP incumbents this year, but he did manage to squeak through in 2006 and 2008, which were very tough years for Republicans in Democratic districts. Nonetheless, Gerlach has shown in previous elections that he has difficulty in posting big numbers on Election Night regardless of which party happens to benefit from national moods or trends in any given year, whether it was House Republicans in 2002 and 2004 or House Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Win or lose, this year should be no different.
(Updated at 10:45 a.m.)