Pennsylvania 8th District
Bucks County was one of founding father William Penn’s three original settlements and the launching point for George Washington’s crossing of the frigid Delaware River to surprise English and Hessian forces on Christmas Day 1776. But it has had a split personality from the start. Upper Bucks County was at once a bucolic paradise of rolling hills and creeks running into the Delaware River and, after Penn’s secretary, James Logan, built the Durham Furnace iron works in 1727, it became one of the nation’s major industrial sites. In the 1920s, Bucks County’s well-settled farmland, old fieldstone houses and covered bridges captured the imagination of writers and artists, attracting the New York theatrical crowd—Oscar Hammerstein, Moss Hart, Dorothy Parker, S. J. Perelman. New Hope remains a popular weekend spot with hip boutiques and restaurants. After World War II, its location between Philadelphia and Trenton, N.J., brought industrial Lower Bucks County to the forefront. The ocean-navigable Delaware River and several rail lines resulted in huge new developments: U.S. Steel’s Fairless Works, one of the few big postwar steel plants, and the Levitt organization’s second Levittown, in what had been a swamp between U.S. 13 and U.S. 1. Most of the steel mill closed in 1991, and today, Bucks County’s largest employers are in the health care field.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Bucks County’s politics were heavily Republican, but more recently, it has been marginally Democratic. This was the home of Republican Sen. Joseph Grundy, longtime head of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, who opposed the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff as insufficiently protectionist. Development in Bucks came after the New Deal, unlike other suburban Philadelphia counties where most blue-collar immigration occurred years earlier. Lower Bucks around the Fairless Works and Levittown, with its tightly-packed homes filled with blue collar workers, became Democratic. Upper Bucks, faster-growing and attracting trendy New Yorkers, has favored Democratic policies such as green space programs to keep developers away.
The 8th Congressional District of Pennsylvania includes all of Bucks County, a tiny finger of Montgomery County and parts of two wards in Northeast Philadelphia. Bucks has a small minority population and the third highest income of any county in the state. The 8th was marginal in elections during the 1980s. Since then, it has moved with other Philadelphia suburban areas toward the Democrats and has voted for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992. It also joined the rest of southeastern Pennsylvania in voting decisively for Democrat Ed Rendell for governor in 2002 and 2006. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won the district 54%-45% in 2008.