Matt Cartwright Is the Most Valuable Democrat in PA

This is a pretty good article on liberal hero Matt Cartwright from Borys Krawczeniuk, but “Cartwright forges through first term as more liberal than Holden” is not the way I would have framed it.

About midway through his first year, Mr. Cartwright lived up to his campaign mantra.

Through Thursday, he had voted the Democratic party line 95 percent of the time. Only seven of the 201 House Democrats who have voted in the 113th Congress voted the Democratic way more often than he did, according to The Washington Post’s online database of congressional voting.

“I told everybody when I ran that I’m a Roosevelt Democrat and I think I’ve been true to that,” Mr. Cartwright said […]

House members typically vote the party line, but Mr. Cartwright has exceeded even his Northeast Pennsylvania Republican colleagues, Reps. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, and Tom Marino, R-10, Lycoming Twp.

Through Wednesday, of the 436 House members who have cast votes since the present Congress took office in January, 305, or 70 percent, voted with their party 90 percent of the time or better. Mr. Barletta and Mr. Marino, who are conservative Republicans, voted the party’s position 92 percent of the time.

Compare Mr. Cartwright’s percentage to that of Mr. Holden, who voted 76 percent with Democrats during his final term.

Despite the fact that the old district and the new district are both called “the 17th District,” this really is a very different electorate.

The old 17th district had a partisan lean of R+6. The new 17th district has a partisan lean of D+4. It got 10.35 points more Democratic, and is now a pretty liberal district:

Screen shot 2013-07-29 at 2.21.31 PM

Just to tease the new Primary Colors scoring system a bit more, I can say that the analysis here is right on, and that Matt Cartwright has indeed been overperforming the district for progressives. Our algorithm shows Cartwright is the most valuable Democrat in the PA delegation, followed by Allyson Schwartz, Bob Brady, Mike Doyle, and Chaka Fattah.

We would expect a member of Congress in a D+4 district to vote with progressives (different from voting with the Democratic Party, as you’ll learn) about 80.409% of the time. Matt Cartwright has actually been voting with progressives 88.913% of the time as of this week’s update, which includes the NSA vote. He’s delivering excellent value to progressives, and is currently the only member of the PA delegation who doesn’t have a positive (bad) primary score

What Borys Krawczeniuk’s analysis misses though is that Tim Holden was also overperforming the district for progressives, but he never really got credit for that from activists because his voting record was objectively pretty conservative. Had our site been around in the Holden days, I would’ve been urging you all to hoist Tim up on your shoulders and carry him through the streets singing his praises during every August recess, because he was delivering very good value to progressives on very high difficulty setting. And then when the electorate changed in 2010, I would’ve been urging you to dump him off your shoulders, and hoist up Matt Cartwright, because the new district could accommodate someone much more unapologetically liberal.

One more comment: the fact that Allyson Schwartz is the second most valuable Democrat  in the PA delegation is more a function of how much Bob Brady, Mike Doyle and Chaka Fattah are underperforming, than how well Allyson Schwartz is performing. According to the algorithm, Schwartz actually votes less frequently with progressives (81.595%) than Matt Cartwright does (88.913%) despite the fact that she represents a D+13 district, and he represents a D+4 district. A Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and some dark blue Philly suburbs has no excuse for voting less progressive than someone in a D+4. Matt Cartwright is in no electoral danger for being a bold progressive, and Schwartz clearly wouldn’t be either if she voted like him.


  1. […] thinks is especially liberal about Allyson Schwartz. Schwartz is a pretty orthodox Democrat, and is less progressive than Matt Cartwright, despite having a much more solidly liberal district. I’ve wondered if she will be considered […]

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