With Pennsylvania set to lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, will state Republicans redraw district boundaries with an eye to eliminate or weaken one of Philadelphia's Democratic seats?
That depends on who you ask.
The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released the first set of data from the 2010 Census count - the national and state population totals, and the new congressional apportionment counts by state.
Pennsylvania will lose one seat from its current 19.
The three congressional districts that cover the city "could be redrawn to move more of Philadelphia" into U.S. Reps. Bob Brady's and Chaka Fattah's districts "and move more Republicans into" the district represented by Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat who represents parts of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia, said Randall Miller, a political historian at St. Joseph's University. That would make it harder for Schwartz to win re-election.
Or, it's possible Schwartz's district could be eliminated altogether, he said. "In our area, she's the most vulnerable," he contended.
Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy watchdog group, thinks Schwartz will be safe, however. "I'd be a little surprised if Allyson's vulnerable," he said. "She's got seniority."
With the Republicans taking control of the state Legislature and governorship next year, Stalberg agreed it would be a Democratic seat that will be cut, but likely one "held by a relatively junior person" from the east or central part of the state.
He has also heard speculation the cut could come from the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, a Democrat in southwestern Pennsylvania, who has been serving for about half a year.
Critz won a special election in May to fill the seat vacated by the late Rep. John Murtha. He won again in the general election.
G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, also pointed to Critz's seat as the possible loser.
"He's the newest Democrat in the area of the state where the population loss tends to be the greatest," Madonna said.
Stalberg cautioned that it's too early to get too frenzied over this.
"The process hasn't really started yet," he said, adding that he "wouldn't lean too much on anyone's guesswork" and emphasizing that the process is very political. Historically, Pennsylvania has been losing seats in the House over the past century.
The state had 36 seats in 1910. In 1960, it had 27 seats and has continued losing two seats each decade up to 2000.
New Jersey, like Pennsylvania, will lose a seat when a new Congress convenes in 2013.
Delaware will keep its single at-large district.
Overall, the U.S. population grew to 308,745,538 in 2010, representing a 9.7 percent increase from 2000.
The trend nationally in population growth has been toward the southwest, with Nevada experiencing the highest percentage growth increase, 35.1 percent, in the last decade.
In contrast, Pennsylvania's population grew just 3.4 percent over the decade, to 12,702,379 in 2010.
The state that gained the most numerically in residents was Texas, with an increase of 4.3 million, to 25 million people.