President Trump has nominated fourth-term Rep. Tom Marino (R), a frequent DEA critic who collaborated with former President Obama on a bill to combat the opioid epidemic, to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This position does not require Senate confirmation, so Marino is expected to resign from PA-10 in the next few days. After Marino resigns, Gov. Tom Wolf will have 10 days to set a date for a special election, which must take place at least 60 days after the vacancy. It does not appear that there is a deadline for the special election, and with Pennsylvania’s statewide off-year primary occurring too soon (May 16), Gov. Wolf may choose to wait things out and schedule this to coincide with the November 7 general election. There are no special primaries in Pennsylvania, so candidates will be selected by the state party committees, using party rules. Republicans hold a convention of party officials from the counties within the district to select their nominee. The Democratic nominee will be chosen by the statewide party’s 50-member executive committee, based on recommendation from county party leaders.
PA-10 is a mostly rural, upside-down-U-shaped R+16 seat in NEPA that wraps around the Wyoming Valley cites of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Historically, Republicans on the two sides of the district have not gotten along. The eastern arm of the district, which includes Scranton’s suburbs, the Poconos, and the furthest reaches of the NYC metro’s exurbs, is more industrialized and blue-collar, swinging bigly to Trump in 2016. The western arm, which is based in Williamsport but stretches from the Northern Tier deep into the heart of Pennsyltucky, produces more traditional rural Pennsylvania Republicans. Trump won this seat 66-30, up from Romney’s 60-38 win in 2012.
Because the GOP nominee will be selected by local party officials, it makes sense to start the Great Mentioner list with local elected officials. Only two state senators live in the district and neither is ideally positioned to run: State Sen. Mario Scavello (R) is from the Poconos region in the disconnected southeastern corner of the seat and may be an awkward geographic fit for district leaders, and State Sen. Gene Yaw (R), whose Williamsport district is an ideal geographic base, is 74 years old. There are about a dozen GOP State Reps. in the district, who are too numerous to go through here. From the prior candidate file, LG candidate and former state official Dan Meuser (R), who lost a primary for this seat in 2008, could be in the mix, as could Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings (R), who ran for PA-17 in 2012 as an antiestablishment conservative but has since made peace with insiders, and Snyder County Commissioner Malcolm Derk (R), who lost the 2010 primary to Marino.
Democrats held a more competitive version of this seat from 2007-2011, when ex-Rep. Chris Carney (D) came in with the tide by defeating an incumbent who had beaten his mistress and then went out with the tide by losing to Marino. Carney has worked as a consultant with a large defense firm since losing; it’s reasonable to expect Democrats to at least make a phone call to him about a return. There appears to be a lone Democratic state legislator in this seat, State Rep. Mike Carroll (D), and Dems also control most of the local offices in Lackawanna County. Given that this is a red area that is only getting redder, it’s unlikely this special will be seriously contested unless the upcoming races in KS-04, GA-06, SC-05, and MT-AL signal broad electoral problems for the GOP.