Welcome to my diary series titled Majority Savers! I will run a new article every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. The goal of this series is to highlight races that may make or break our current slender majorities in Congress. That means I will start more with incumbent Senators and House members until some primary elections are settled. If I have time, I will expand it to governors as well in critical swing states.
If you want to find my previous entries in this series, I recommend following me or searching for Majority Savers as a tag!
I have six ground rules behind the philosophy of this series. I’d ask you all to respect them as best you can, because these are taking me quite a long time to write. Here are my ground rules.
This incumbent was originally given a Democratic vote sink when he won it over in 2012. Court mandated redistricting gave him a marginal seat in 2018, and he has been fighting hard to keep it ever since. Now, he has likely the third worst defendable district of any Democratic incumbent. Today Majority Savers travels to Pennsylvania to help Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania’s 8th district!
If you want a full biography of Rep. Matt Cartwright, here is the place to find it. Otherwise, I am going to skip the full biography and give a synopsis of what makes him a stellar representative for the district.
- Before joining Congress, Cartwright was a renowned trial attorney in northeastern Pennsylvania and parts of Upstate New York. He made partner in his father-in-law’s practice and helped accident victims and small businesses for over 25 years.
- He also made countless television appearances on a local station in order to do a segment that answers legal questions that people submitted. Never discount people voting for someone they saw on TV!
- To gain his seat in the House, he won a primary election over a Blue Dog Democrat, and one that voted against the ACA on top of that.
Rep. Matt Cartwright has a DW nominate score of -0.361, which indicates a liberal voting record. He’s right in the middle of the entire Democratic caucus, with him being just a tad more conservative than the median (more conservative than 58% of the Democratic caucus). He is more liberal than 70% of the entire House membership! This is outstanding for a person who is in great danger in the fall of losing his seat. He’s the absolute best we can get out of this seat!
Health Care: Cartwright supports Medicare for All, as well as a public option for the ACA if that is what is politically feasible. He has been fighting to get attention to the opioid crisis which has struck much of his district. He is pro-choice in a district that voted for TFG twice! Amazing!
Climate Change: Cartwright supports Build Back Better and comprehensive climate change legislation. He is constantly looking to regulate fracking (which he has to support due to the district) and to clean up abandoned mines, which are a problem in the area as coal production shut down.
Education: Cartwright has consistently fought for better funded schools and is looking for ways to responsibly cancel student debt and make college more affordable. He is a proponent of more Title I funding and for Head Start funding for disadvantaged areas such as northeastern Pennsylvania.
Recent Elections —
2020 President: TFG (R-inc) 50.9%, Joe Biden (D) 48.0%
2020 House: Matt Cartwright (D-inc) 51.8%, Jim Bognet (R) 48.2%
2022 Race Rating: Tossup
2022 PVI: R+4
This district has a complicated electoral history, starting with the fact that it is a Rust Belt blue collar district. This is the type of district that is currently trending away from us, and thus counts as probably one of the most vulnerable districts we can realistically defend. Rep. Paul Kanjorski held the district for nearly 30 years, mainly on the strength of the Democratic presidential margins being so strong in the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area.
2010 changed the calculus of the district, as extreme xenophobe and bigot Rep. Lou Barletta upset Kanjorski in a district Obama easily carried. Map makers wanted to draw out an incumbent Blue Dog in Rep. Tim Holden by giving him a very safe and blue district after 2010 redistricting. The plan worked, and Rep. Matt Cartwright won the primary election in 2012 to represent this area in Congress.
The blue vote sink was ground zero for a rapid shift to the right in Pennsylvania in 2016. TFG won what was then the 17th district, and Rep. Cartwright had the first of many close races in his career. 2018 brought a change in number to the 8th district, and also a much more marginal district for Cartwright to defend. He has been able to do so in spite of TFG winning the district again in 2020. However, it is important to note that his winning margins keep dropping with each contest.
Political Tour of the District
The 8th district of Pennsylvania covers the aforementioned Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area, which has been shrinking in population for nearly 100 years. It is a Rust Belt district that is of a populist bent instead of a liberal bent. The rest of the district contains more rural portions of northeastern Pennsylvania which have turned against us and now heavily support Republicans.
Here’s where this race will be won in the 8th district.
- Scranton: This is the Democratic anchor of the entire district, and it is where Joe Biden grew up. The city has remained blue in spite of the trend of the rest of the district, and it is vitally important that Cartwright scrounge up every possible vote from this still blue city to win.
- Wilkes-Barre: This city also has so far resisted the siren song of the GOP pretending to be populist. The city is a smaller version of Scranton, and it is also less Democratic in nature. Cartwright needs to overperform Biden in this city if he wants to return to Congress next year.
- Monroe County: This more rural county is a swing county that Biden carried in 2020 after Clinton barely carried it in 2016. It is critical that once again Cartwright outperforms Biden in an area that is still hospitable to voting for Democratic candidates. Matching Biden is no longer enough in this district.
Here’s where we need to keep the margins down, or we lose.
- Wayne and Pike Counties: These more rural counties have sharply turned against Democratic candidates in the era of TFG. High turnout in these two counties will doom Cartwright, as he has no shot of winning either one of them. Hold down the margins as much as possible here.
- Areas Surrounding Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: Except for some close by suburbs, the areas surrounding both Wilkes-Barre and Scranton are now GOP leaning to heavily Republican in nature. It is up to Cartwright to figure out how to win over a couple of these former blue voters or risk them turning out for Jim Bognet in November.
Activism — Help How You Can!
In Quarter 1, Rep. Matt Cartwright raised $591k, which is decent but frankly not enough in an era where our best fundraisers can pull down over a million dollars a quarter. The only saving grace is that Jim Bognet, his opponent in the fall, only pulled in $297k for the quarter. The problem will be the flood of dark money that will come against Cartwright. He needs to be better prepared.
Thankfully, Cartwright has a better amount of cash on hand from previous runs than you’d otherwise think. He has $2.01 MILLION in the bank, which should go far in northeastern Pennsylvania. Trump alumnus Jim Bognet only has $672k in the bank, meaning Cartwright has the advantage there so far. However, dark money will easily wipe that advantage out. I recommend a small donation to Cartwright because he needs a kick in the rear to get higher fundraising numbers.
DONATE TO REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT HERE
He’s going to need volunteers if you live in eastern Pennsylvania or in nearby New York. The best way to sign up to volunteer for the Cartwright campaign is to visit https://cartwrightcongress.com/. You can text to join or send an e-mail to join the campaign for the third toughest House seat to save.
If social media is more your thing, you can follow him on Twitter. He stays WELL under the radar with only 3793 followers. Let’s try to change that.
He’s also on Facebook at cartwrightpa, if that social media platform is more your style.
Thank you for reading the latest article from the Majority Savers series. I really do enjoy writing them! Rep. Matt Cartwright is an incumbent definitely worth helping and saving, especially since he is as progressive as Pennsylvania’s 8th district will ever get. The next Majority Savers diary will have the changes and feedback gathered from May 31st.
Until then, my next diary on Tuesday will be about supporting GOTV organizations. Don’t miss out on it!