Rep. Jim Gerlach (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Feb. 25, 1955, Ellwood City .
Home: Chester Springs.
Education: Dickinson Col., B.A. 1977, J.D. 1980.
Family: Married (Karen); 6 children.
Elected office: PA House of Reps., 1990-94; PA Senate, 1994-2002.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1980-2002.
The congressman from the 6th District is Jim Gerlach, a Republican elected in 2002. He grew up in Ellwood City, Penn., midway between Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio. He graduated from Dickinson College and its law school, just west of Harrisburg. He continued moving east, settled in Chester County and practiced law. He was elected to the state House in 1990 and to the state Senate in 1994. When Republicans in 2002 created a new district in suburban Philadelphia, Gerlach was the obvious intended beneficiary. He had spirited competition from Democrat Dan Wofford, a former adviser to Democratic Gov. Robert Casey. Wofford had not previously run for office, but his name was well known; his father, Harris Wofford, was elected to the Senate in a 1991 special election. Gerlach ran on his legislative accomplishments, including votes to expand Pennsylvania’s prescription drug program for low-income seniors. Wofford attacked Gerlach as a career politician. They disagreed on abortion and Medicare. Polls showed the race close, and national Republicans spent more than $1.5 million on ads for Gerlach. The outcome was not clear until the early morning hours. Gerlach won 51%-49%.
|Jim Gerlach (R)||179,423||(52%)||($2,310,342)|
|Bob Roggio (D)||164,952||(48%)||($663,236)|
|Jim Gerlach (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (51%), 2004 (51%), 2002 (51%)
In the House, Gerlach’s voting record is mostly moderate though more conservative on foreign policy. He was a strong supporter of Bush-era tax cuts and eliminating the marriage penalty in the tax code, but he opposed the Bush administration’s proposal to create personal retirement accounts in Social Security.
In October 2005, his late vote helped Republican leaders to win narrow passage of a bill to facilitate construction of new oil refineries. When anti-war activists targeted his support for Bush’s troop surge in Iraq in 2007, Gerlach said that the Democrats’ withdrawal timetable sent the wrong message to enemies. In 2009, he termed President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill “massive, wasteful government spending,” and he called for Pennsylvania to create a bipartisan oversight board to monitor the state’s share of the money. But Gerlach bucked his party in 2007 by supporting a Democratic plan to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. In April 2005, the House passed his bill to improve access to services for non-members, as well as members, of federal credit unions.
Gerlach has been a prime Democratic target in recent elections. In 2004, he faced Democratic attorney Lois Murphy, who managed Rendell’s 2002 campaign in Montgomery County. A former staffer for NARAL ProChoice America, she received strong support from the women’s fundraising group EMILY’s List and criticized Gerlach for a lack of leadership in Congress. The well-financed Murphy made it an unexpectedly close contest, but Gerlach won, again by 51%-49%. Two years later, Murphy ran again with strong encouragement from EMILY’s List and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She was better-known and the issues were similar, but the campaign rhetoric was harsher. Gerlach may have benefited from more aggressive attacks by his campaign on alleged inconsistencies in Murphy’s agenda. And he accused her of supporting a tax increase on the wealthy. For the third consecutive election, Gerlach won by 51%-49%. In 2008, Gerlach had a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over Democrat Robert Roggio, a retired corporate executive. But he still managed only a 52%-48% win. Republicans could be hard-pressed to hold this district now that Gerlach has announced plans to run for governor in 2010.