by Craig Dimitri

In Pennsylvania’s 8th District, which is largely comprised of Bucks County in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, there is a critical battleground race, as Democrats seek to capture the 15 seats needed to retake control of the U.S. House. Conversely, the state and national GOP both view the retention of this seat, as critical to extending their control of the chamber, which has lasted since their landslide victories in 1994.

This district, which includes a small sliver of both Montgomery County and the city of Philadelphia itself, is one which supported John F. Kerry in 2004. During the 1980s, it was held by Democrat Peter Kostmayer; Republicans took it in 1992 when moderate state Senator James Greenwood ousted Kostmayer.

Greenwood, who was never seriously challenged in any of his five successful re-election bids, unexpectedly resigned his seat during the 2004 election, in order to take a different position in the private sector in Washington. His Republican replacement, Bucks County Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick, easily defeated Democrat Ginny Shrader in November, winning by a 55% to 43% margin.

Howver, Fitzpatrick, 43, is now facing re-election for the first time, in a district in which President Bush is unpopular. His Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, is even younger, at 32. Murphy is a veteran of the Iraq war, and Democrats hope that his military credentials will offset the advantages held by the GOP, on the issues of national security.

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