Gerlach vs. Murphy (Election Night)

Since the candidates were announced for the 2006 Congressional Election, everyone in the United States and in the Sixth Congressional district knew the Murphy and Gerlach race would be close. After Republican Jim Gerlach defeated Democratic candidate Lois Murphy in 2004 by a very slim margin, the 2006 election was thought to be even more competitive. Throughout the months of August, September, and October Murphy and Gerlach both flip-flopped in taking the lead. Approaching the November 7, 2006 election Gerlach had taken the lead in the polls with a 51% to 49% lead over Murphy. Though polls are not always accurate, they predicted this race correct.

The night of November 7, 2006 Lois Murphy had taken a commanding lead over Gerlach most of the evening. Half of the precincts within the sixth district hadn’t reported their results, but the race was still not looking good for Gerlach. Around 11:45 p.m. all of the precincts had finally reported in their polling results. At 12:00 p.m. it became official that Jim Gerlach had once again defeated Lois Murphy with a 51% to 49% victory. This was a surprising but gratifying win for Gerlach and the Republican Party.

The Gerlach and Murphy race was the tenth most expensive race in the entire nation. Both the Republican and Democratic parties knew that this would once again be a tight race so they contributed a lot of money to both candidates. The Republican National Committee gave Gerlach a significant amount of funding the last three weeks of his campaign due to the overwhelming lead that the Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey Jr. had over Rick Santorum. The Republicans pulled funding from Santorum’s campaign and gave the money to Gerlach so he could campaign to the people heavily before the election. On Monday November 6, 2006 Gerlach ran an ad in the Reading Eagle newspaper which listed all of his achievements while in office and why the people of the sixth district should vote him into office for a third term.

The Democrats did the same for Lois Murphy. Funding for un-opposed candidate Tim Holden was pulled from his campaign and given to Lois Murphy. The success of Republican Jim Gerlach came quite unexpectedly. His defeat of Murphy came during an election where the Democratic Party was supposed to defeat the Republican party and take over the House and quite possibly the Senate, it is quite remarkable that such a close race did not favor the Democratic candidate. Gerlach won by 3,001 votes. He won Berks, Lehigh, and Chester counties by a significant, yet close count. In Berks county Gerlach won by 54% to 46% and in Lehigh with his largest victory of 60% to 40%. In Chester county Gerlach won 55% of the votes while Murphy settled for 45% of the ballot. Montgomery County leaned heavily Democratic in all races this election, as it usually does. Murphy received 59% of the vote in Montgomery County while Gerlach only picked up 41%. There have been a few speculations as to why a Republican won over a Democratic candidate in an election where the House of Representatives and Senate were in jeopardy of changing political control.

Some believe that Murphy lost because she was a woman. Though we live in the twenty first century a lot of people are still hesitant about a woman replacing a man in political offices. Others believe that Gerlach’s aggressive campaigning within the last three weeks of the election helped him get supporters out to the polls. Perhaps Gerlach’s creative pamphlets and other campaign material set him farther ahead of Murphy. Since Gerlach defeated Murphy by 51% to 49% again, it is safe to presume that both Gerlach and Murphy had the same supporters as the 2004 election. The Gerlach and Murphy race was one of the most watched throughout the entire nation. This race was watched very closely because the incumbent Jim Gerlach was in danger of losing his seat in Congress. Once a politician becomes an incumbent it is very hard to replace them. However, after the sixth district was redrawn in 2002 by the Republican Party, the district was thought to be an easy Republican win, but instead became one of the few swing districts. With Murphy’s strong backing from the Democratic Party all eyes were on the sixth district. Yet, despite the Democratic Party’s efforts, Murphy came up short once again in this election.

Cathy Faust