U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach has alerted top officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee that he'll run for governor next year in lieu of a reelection effort in Congress.
The decision is expected in an announcement Tuesday. It sets up a GOP primary battle for governor of Pennsylvania between the four-term suburban Philadelphia lawmaker and Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and leaves the Republican Party facing a battle to retain a congressional seat that Gerlach has held since the district was drawn at the turn of the decade.
A Gerlach spokesman didn't immediately return a call for comment.
Gerlach has been pondering a gubernatorial bid for months and seeks to build on a strong base of support in the Philadelphia area and his roots in Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania. He also spent more than a decade in the Pennsylvania General Assembly -- as a member of the House and then the Senate -- before joining Congress in 2003.
Still, he will be considered an underdog in the race to replace Gov. Ed Rendell. Corbett cemented his status as a heavyweight statewide candidate last fall, when he was the only Republican to win a statewide contest, collecting more than three million votes in defeating John Morganelli.
Gerlach's retirement from Congress gives Democrats an opening in the 6th District, a seat the party has been after for years only to fall short in every contest against Gerlach. In four straight elections, the party's candidate has lost by no more than 4 percentage points.
Doug Pike, a former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board member, is the only Democratic candidate in the race so far -- and he has pumped $500,000 of his own money into the campaign. But that is unlikely to deter other Democrats from jumping into a race for an open seat.
Republicans haven't been keen on Gerlach retiring and now have their work cut out for them as they look to recruit a viable candidate. State House Rep. Curt Schroder has expressed interest in running should Gerlach run for governor.
I don't really like Gerlach, so I was gonna support Corbett either way. If State Representative Curt Schroder runs for PA-06, then I expect him to win. If he doesn't, then the Democrat will probably win.