Pennsylvania 18th District
Pittsburgh was built on the unlikeliest terrain of any major U.S. city. Just about the only level places in the city or its suburbs are the bottomlands along the rivers. Everything else is hills that approach the magnitude of mountains. Only a propitious location, where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio, and the confluence of economically valuable natural resources—coal from the mountains and iron ore from the Great Lakes—can explain why a large metropolitan area sprang up on such land. The great cities of California were built around and over mountains, but they are vast expanses of contiguous communities, most of them little distinguishable from the next. The cities and towns of greater Pittsburgh, in contrast, are discontinuous, separated from each other not just by miles but by altitude. So the region’s high-income suburbs and its gritty factory towns are not concentrated in one quarter, but are scattered all around. This is long-settled country, with many more old towns than sparkling new suburbs. Since 2000, the population in the area has been declining, but with some increase in high-wage jobs to counter an ongoing loss of blue-collar jobs.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania covers an irregularly shaped swath of the southern part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and was designed by Republican redistricters in Harrisburg to maximize the GOP vote. It includes most of southern Allegheny County, most of Westmoreland County and most of Washington County. It stretches from the Pittsburgh city limit to the West Virginia border. It contains the Pittsburgh International Airport and the towns of Monroeville, Greensburg and Ligonier. The area is dotted with the vast estates of Mellons and other scions of Pittsburgh’s industrial elite. The district’s backbone is comprised of middle- to upper-middle-class bedroom suburbs, like Mount Lebanon and Upper St. Clair in Allegheny County and Penn Township and Greensburg in Westmoreland County. These areas lean Republican, but not overwhelmingly so. Although Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has an estate in Fox Chapel, the Democratic ticket did not do well here. Republican George W. Bush carried the district with 54% in 2004. Republican presidential nominee John McCain won the district with 55% in 2008.