How divided is the Bucks County GOP?

The county’s Republican primary voters gave an unknown, first-time candidate, pro-life candidate Mark Houck, 37 percent of the vote in his challenge to incumbent Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. It reflects the divide between the more MAGA and moderate wings of the GOP.

Will that hurt Fitzpatrick or former President Donald Trump in the general election this November?

Bucks County GOP Chair Pat Poprik said it is not unusual for Fitzpatrick to have a primary opponent.

“That’s really normal for a district that’s so different,” she said. Bucks County is closely divided between Republicans, at 196,311, and Democrats, at 197,883. Some 80,624 voters are unaffiliated or belong to other parties.

“Even in the Republican Party, there are some differences,” she said. “But come November, [Fitzpatrick] wins by 10 or 13 points. I mean, a lot of congressmen would love to have that number in November. Brian does have the right positions for this county.”

Fitzpatrick has been ranked the most bipartisan member of Congress, which makes him a good match for the purple county.

“In the general, where it matters, he gets the independent vote. He gets tons of Democrat votes. That’s being representative, and that’s doing his job,” said Poprik.

In the most recent episode of the Delaware Valley Journal podcast, Commonwealth Foundation Senior Fellow Guy Ciarrocchi said Houck was running against “the status quo” as much as against Fitzpatrick.

“And Mark had a personal story he needed to tell that he’s genuinely concerned about.” Houck was arrested and tried for a shoving incident during his pro-life ministry at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. A federal court jury acquitted him.

“You may not like him, but there was a genuineness,” said Ciarrocchi. “And there, what happened to him in real life happened, whether you think it was necessary right or wrong, it happened. So, I think people rallied to him because of his personal story.

“And then the other part is, look, every two years, there are Republicans who want to express their dissatisfaction with Brian Fitzpatrick, that he doesn’t behave more like other Republicans. So this is sort of ritualistic. Conservative Republicans express their dissatisfaction. Brian gets the message, and he has usually been very effective at unifying while at the same time reaching out to independents and Democrats to get himself to 52 or 53 percent [of the vote].

Bellevue Communications Vice President Jeff Jubelirer agreed.

“I’d say that’s a pretty good night for Brian, actually,” said Jubelirer.  Many Republican primary voters are pro-life, he noted.  “I think [Fitzpatrick] threads that needle well.  He does get Democrat and independent support because he delivers.”

This November, Fitzpatrick will again face Democrat Ashley Ehasz, who ran against him in 2022 and lost by nearly 10 points, at 44.91 percent to 55.04.

“The only way I see Brian losing it today, you ask me (again) in the fall, is if Trump goes down by more than a few points, and then there’s some coattails perhaps,” said Jubelirer. “But Bucks is not Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, as we know. It’s very purple. So, I see Brian as very difficult to beat.”

In a statement after the primary, Fitzpatrick said, “There has been one guiding principle that has motivated me from the very first day that I decided to run for Congress: my firm, unequivocal, and unshakable belief in bipartisanship and two-party solutions to address the challenges that the good people of our community face each and every day.

‘To the very core of my being, I believe in bringing people together. I’m asking everyone in our community to join us in leading our People’s Movement of bipartisanship, center-forward problem-solving, and fighting against the bigotry of hyper-partisanship and extremist ideological purity that is destroying our nation. We need to be one community, now more than ever.’

Houck thanked his supporters on Facebook.

“Your encouragement, donations, and volunteered time have been invaluable. A special thanks to my beautiful family—through unimaginable experiences, you have been my rock. I believe God has guided us through this election, and I eagerly await the outcome. God Bless America,” Houck said.

Ciarracchi believes the party will unite to reelect Fitzpatrick and Trump and to elect Dave McCormick for the U.S. Senate, as well as other GOP candidates.

“At the end of the day, conservative Republicans understand that it’s a binary choice. Do you want [Democratic Minority Leader] Hakeem Jeffries to be speaker or not?” Ciarracchi asked.


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