Report by Alfredo Alvarez
With the convening of the 111th Congress, be sure to buy the new updated 2010 edition
of the Almanac of American Politics for the latest district and legislator information.
2008 further solidified the Democrats' control of the U.S. House of Representatives, while taking the number of Senate seats ultimately to 60.
All of the changes changes, as well as excellent demographic information about every Congressional race is chronicled in the 2010 edition of the Almanac of
Written and edited every two years by columnist Michael Barone, this is the best almanac anywhere on every
member of Congress and their district. Inside the book, Barone profiles all 535 US Senators and
Representatives. The book also profiles all 50 state governors.
When you purchase the book, you get a special online account to read the Almanac on the Internet,
which is very helpful for
looking up quick information anywhere, anytime.
The almanac contains lots of difficult to find information. Each congressional
district includes a complete biography of the congressman. There always a section describing how
that congressman was elected, whether they had any primary fights, and other big political news from the
When profiling Senators, Barone incudes the demographic information about the state.
Each congressman's committee assignments are listed, as well as
some key votes within the first 100 days of the session, and other handy data.
The books also include insightful commentary from Charles Cook, who writes a balanced and insightful
newsletter on congressional races, and can be soon often on television making political commentary.
With every member profile, Cook includes a outlook on the next race for that seat.
Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report is one of the smartest political writers in the country.
In 2001, he wrote the excellent book
The New Americans, which examines today's immigrant waves and minority groups, and what that means for
POLITICS-NOW NOTE: The Almanac 2008 is available for pre-order for residents of the United States and
Canada for the book's August shipping date.
UK residents will be able to order the Almanac for an August shipping date as well!
Pennsylvania - First District
In Center City Philadelphia, the 1680s look out on the 1780s, 1880s and 1980s. The statue of William Penn, who founded the city in 1682, stands 37 feet high atop the 548-foot tower of the 1880s Second Empire-style City Hall at Market and Broad; east, is Independence Hall, where Americans in the 1780s drew up the nation's Constitution; west, is the tower of One Liberty Place, with its "romantic modernist" spire, the 1980s building that broke tradition to rise above City Hall. Philadelphia is built on a certain order. Earlier American colonies were settled by practical men, out to make money or replicate a farm settlement back home. But Penn was a Quaker, a member of one of those rationalizing sects of the 17th Century, who intended to impose order on his new environment, and did: no cowpath street patterns here, like those in Boston or Charleston, but a grid of numbered and named streets, with precisely spaced open squares. Penn's city of brotherly love has turned out to be a commercial and industrial metropolis that has grown steadily over the years, spreading out over the countryside. Yet there are still places in which you can see the distant past: in the restored townhouses of Society Hill and the tree-shaded public buildings around Independence Hall and, on the way to the ornate City Hall, the Federal and Greek Revival buildings and the temples of commerce, built when Philadelphia was the nation's largest city. Interspersed are I.M. Pei's modernist Society Hill Towers (though the rich in Philadelphia, unlike New York or Chicago, don't much like apartments) and the 1920s masonry-faced skyscrapers and 1970s glass-and-steel towers built around City Hall and in Center City farther west.
For all the grandness of City Hall, Philadelphia has seldom had a city government of which to be proud. Corruption has reigned here off and on for more than a century, and so has incompetence. While the city's private economy grew robustly in the 1980s, the city government-swollen with overpaid employees, committed to a costly, union-run health plan and mismanaged with ferocious ineptitude-lurched unknowingly toward bankruptcy under Mayor Wilson Goode. Then in 1991 Democrat Ed Rendell was elected mayor. Ebullient and energetic, he immediately set to work, literally scrubbing City Hall's grimy steps. He cut spending sharply, privatized government functions and faced down unions in a strike threat; at the same time, he improved performance and sponsored innovative new programs. Unfortunately, Rendell's push for reform stalled in the mid-1990s, and Philadelphia still has an inordinately expensive city government and neighborhoods wracked by crime that have emptied out over the years. His successor, John Street, elected narrowly, in 1999, has had to contend with militant municipal employees and teachers' union. But there are signs of hope. Philadelphia, the home of George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives coordinator John DiIulio, has some of the nation's most vibrant and charitably active churches; its economy is vibrant enough to attract some Latino and Asian immigrants, though many fewer than New York or Chicago; and its Center City is still attractive, as it was when it was on display at the 2000 Republican National Convention.
City Hall lies at the geographic center of Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District. The 1st runs north on both sides of the Broad Street corridor to include much of black North Philadelphia and south through most of heavily Italian South Philadelphia, where Italian families and their grocery stores and restaurants have been pressed tightly into narrow streets under a tangle of overhead wires; this is the neighborhood where the various Rockys were filmed and the original Philadelphia cheesesteaks are sold. The district also includes the oil tank farms where the Schuylkill River flows into the Delaware River, the Navy Yard, the Philadelphia airport, and the swath of industrial suburbs along the river to the black-majority city of Chester. This was created as a black-majority district, in the argot of the Voting Rights Act, and was 55% black and 11% Hispanic in 2000, and is overwhelmingly Democratic.
The Almanac of American Politics 2000 on Pennsylvania's First District
New Jersey - Second District
The builders of the Camden & Atlantic Railroad in 1852 may not have known it, but when they extended their line to the little inlet town of Absecon, they were starting America's biggest beach resort, Atlantic City. Like all resorts, it was a product of developments elsewhere: of industrialization and spreading affluence, of railroad technology and the conquest of diseases which used to make summer a time of terror for parents and doctors. In the years after the Civil War, first Atlantic City and then the whole Jersey Shore from Brigantine to Cape May became America's first seaside resort, and Atlantic City developed its characteristic features: the Boardwalk in 1870, the amusement pier in 1882, the rolling chair in 1884, salt water taffy in the 1890s, Miss America in 1921. By 1940, when 16 million Americans visited every summer, Atlantic City was a common man's resort of old traditions; it declined in the years after World War II as people could afford nicer vacations. By the early 1970s, Atlantic City was grim, with a bedraggled convention hall (site of the 1964 Democratic National Convention), empty hotels and bleak streets of rowhouses built in the ugliest Philadelphia style.
Then in 1977, New Jersey voters legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City and gleaming new hotels sprang up, big name entertainers came in and Atlantic City became more glamorous than it had been in 90 years. But not for all of its residents: Casino and hotel jobs tend to be low-wage, and the slums begin just feet from the massive parking lots of the casinos. In the 1990s Atlantic City's gambling business was thriving--casinos came out ahead $4.3 billion in 2000--and huge new casinos were built on both Boardwalk and bayside. Over Donald Trump's objections, Steve Wynn won approval of a new tunnel, which would permit him to build a new casino in the marina district. Meanwhile, city fathers planned to build 600 new much-needed townhouses for local residents. Now listed among the top 10 House districts nationwide for tourist economies, Atlantic City is growing into what Las Vegas has become, not just a collection of gaudy casinos but a gaggle of theme parks, with entertainment for the family as well as adults.
The Jersey Shore south of Atlantic City is a string of different resorts. There is the old Methodist town of Ocean City, where Gay Talese grew up the son of Italian immigrants, as he tells movingly in Unto the Sons. There is Wildwood, with its gritty boardwalk, and Cape May, with its beautifully preserved Victorian houses. Together, wrote columnist Michael Kelly, these beaches provide a paradise of "uplifting egalitarianism" for eager eaters. "The Jersey diet takes the most fattening foods that each ethnicity offers, puts them all on the same menu and double sizes them." Behind the Shore are swamp and flatland, the Pine Barrens and vegetable fields that gave New Jersey the name "Garden State." Growth has been slow in these small towns and gas station intersections, communities in whose eerie calmness in the summer you can hear mosquitoes whining. In the flatness, you can also find towns clustered around low-wage apparel factories or petrochemical plants on the Delaware estuary; the Northeast high-tech service economy has not reached this far south in Jersey yet.
This part of South Jersey makes up the 2d Congressional District. Politically, it has strong Democratic presences in the chemical industry towns along the Delaware River and in Vineland and a strong Republican presence in Cape May; Atlantic City often votes Democratic but has an antique Republican machine that goes back generations. Democrats carried the area in all 1990s statewide elections and won easily in the 1996 and 2000 presidential races. This is prime marginal territory, off the beaten track of Northeast politics.
The Almanac of American Politics 2000 on New Jersey's Second District