The Eighth Congressional District, covering Bucks County and a slice of Montgomery County, is a battleground district in a battleground state, attracting the attention of both national political parties.
Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is stepping aside after his self-imposed limit of four terms, but that tenure was interrupted by two-term Democrat Patrick Murphy, which shows why Democrats think they have a good shot at recapturing the seat.
Both parties have strong candidates, giving voters competent yet contrasting choices. Republican Brian Fitzpatrick is looking to follow in his brother's footsteps, while Democratic State Rep. Steve Santarsiero wants to graduate from Harrisburg to Washington.
Fitzpatrick, 43, labels himself a political outsider who has never held elective office. He has traveled the country and the world as an FBI agent and a special assistant U.S. attorney, investigating and prosecuting political corruption, gun and drug crimes, and terrorism.
That work took him out of the district for six years, before he resigned from the FBI last fall to return and run for this seat. Making the move so late in the game raises criticism of carpetbagging and backroom politics. He explained to the Editorial Board before the April primary that it's "an important time in the country's history," and his national security background would be an asset in Congress.
But Fitzpatrick's call to defund Planned Parenthood is troubling, as was his failure to denounce his party's standard-bearer in the presidential election until Donald Trump's boasts of kissing and groping women ignited a political firestorm 12 days ago.
Santarsiero's admirable sense of duty and service spurred him to quit his job as a lawyer after 9/11 to teach high school American history and economics.
His provision to ban use of government funds for campaign purposes became part of a House ethics rule. As a freshman legislator in 2009, he assembled a coalition that persuaded Gov. Ed Rendell to support a moratorium on oil and natural-gas drilling in state forests.
His bill for gun background checks and other initiatives have been stymied by being in the minority party for the past six years. But Santarsiero, 51, has kept fighting for his constituents. He successfully lobbied Trenton to save the jobs of New Jersey employees living in his district before a residency requirement was instituted. And he is organizing opposition to Gov. Christie's plan to scrap the reciprocal income-tax agreement between the states, which would hit his constituents in the wallet.
Santarsiero supports tax incentives to attract businesses, such as the French marketing company that produced about 200 jobs in Lower Makefield. He showed character by declining his salary during last year's state budget stalemate.