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James "Jim" Gerlach (born February 25, 1955) is a politician from the commonwealth of Pennsylvaniamarker, currently representing the state's 6th congressional district ( map) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Re-elected in November 2006 and 2008, Gerlach was one of the few Republican representatives targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who retained his seat in Congress. After forming an exploratory committee in February of 2009, Gerlach announced his candidacy for Governor of Pennsylvania on July 14th. Gerlach had been mentioned as a potential candidate for the United States Senate seat held by Arlen Specter after John Cornyn, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, contacted him following Specter's May 2009 party-switch. Gerlach, however, ultimately decided not to run for the Senate.

Education and early career

Gerlach was born in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania on February 25 1955. He graduated from Dickinson Collegemarker where he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Raven's Claw Honorary Society, with a B.A. in Political Science. He also earned his law degree from Dickinson School of Law in 1985. After graduation, Gerlach worked as a legislative aide in the Pennsylvania State Senate.

In 1986, Gerlach moved back to Ellwood City to challenge Frank LaGrotta in the race for state representative but lost. In 1987, he returned to Chester Countymarker to work for the Lamb, Windle & McErlane law firm in West Chester, whose senior partner was then-Chester County Republican Chairman William Lamb.

In preparation for the 1990 election against long-term Democratic State Rep. Samuel Morris, Gerlach visited 8,600 homes in the 155th District of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, building his campaign around what he saw as the incumbent's inattentiveness to suburban sprawl. According to a local newspaper, the Daily Local News, Gerlach charged that his opponent was "out of touch" with his constituency.

Gerlach proposed expanding open-space preservation by using zoning laws to encourage developers to incorporate open space into development projects, along with the creation of environmental protection authorities.

During the election, Gerlach's Democratic opponents accused the Western Pennsylvania native of moving to Chester Countymarker for the sole purpose of running against Morris. Gerlach denied that accusation and said he moved to Chester Countymarker because he and his wife saw it as "a great place to work and raise our kids."

Gerlach was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by 23 votes out of 17,000 cast. He won re-election in 1992 with 64 percent of the vote. Gerlach was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1994, with 67 percent of the vote, in the newly re-formed 44th district. He was re-elected in 1998 without opposition. While in the State Senate, he helped change the state's welfare laws.

While in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Pennsylvania Senate, Gerlach worked to sponsor legislation making it easier for the commonwealth's patchwork of townships to work together to preserve open space. Gov. Tom Ridge signed Gerlach's legislation into law in 2000.

Congressional career

Election campaigns

Gerlach was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2002 from the newly-created 6th District, sometimes called the "Pterodactyl District" because of its unusual shape.) Although the district was drawn to be contestable for Republicans, he has had a somewhat difficult time holding onto it in elections. In 2002, he barely defeated Dan Wofford, son of former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, by 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

In a 2002 PoliticsPA feature story designating politicians with yearbook superlatives, he was named the "Most Likely to Succeed."

In 2004, Gerlach won a close re-election against Democrat Lois Murphy, by 51.0 percent to 49.0 percent.

In their rematch in 2006, Gerlach again beat Murphy by an even narrower margin of 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent (unofficial results as of November 8, 2006). Gerlach was the only member of the "Philly Trio" of vulnerable Republican Congressmen (the others being Curt Weldon and Mike Fitzpatrick) to survive the 2006 election. He overcame a negative political climate that included the then-unpopular war in Iraq, an unpopular president and an extremely well-liked Democratic governor. Geography also played a factor; similar to the previous two cycles Gerlach carried Chester Countymarker, Berks County, and Lehigh County by significant margins, while Murphy carried the heavily Democratic Montgomery Countymarker portion of the district.

In the 2008 election, Gerlach defeated Democratic nominee Bob Roggio to win a fourth term.

In all three contests, Gerlach survived by swamping his Democratic opponents in Chester Countymarker, where he resides.

Political positions and actions

Gerlach is a member of two moderate political groups, The Republican Main Street Partnership, which supports embryonic stem-cell research, and Republicans for Environmental Protection. He is on the Financial Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action rated Gerlach's 2005 voting record at 35 points out of 100; the American Conservative Union gave him 56 points.

In 2003, Gerlach sponsored a new law mandating a new veterans cemetery in the Philadelphia area within four years. The nearest military cemetery to accept casket burials was located 90 miles from Philadelphiamarker.

Gerlach has strongly supported Schuylkill Valley commuter rail. At one point he said of the Bush administration's plan to cut federal money for construction costs from 80 percent to 50 percent: "There's just not going to be enough state and local funds to do the project. It will be a dead project."

The farmland-preservation and open-space advocacy that Gerlach became known for during his tenure as a state legislator has continued during his congressional career. On Sept. 27, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Gerlach-sponsored bill H.R. 5313 that would make federal funds available to municipalities around the country to purchase conservation easements. This bill was never acted on by the Senate, and was re-introduced as H.R. 1152 in March 2007.

Gerlach has advocated the passage of legislation that would expand federal regulation of so-called "puppy mills," and cosponsored medical liability legislation.

Gerlach voted to make the Patriot Act permanent, and for continued intelligence gathering without civil oversight as was recommended by the 9/11 Commission.

Gerlach voted against H. Con. Res. 63 which disapproved of The Surge, he said it was meaningless, fundamentally vague and would damage troop morale. [84882] [84883]

He was one of four Pennsylvania Republicans (the others were Todd Russell Platts, Charlie Dent, and Phil English) to vote to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes bill.

DeLay's ARMPAC contributions

In his three congressional campaigns Gerlach has received a total of $30,000 in contributions from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's now disbanded political action committee ARMPAC. Following DeLay's indictment on money-laundering charges, Democrats criticized Gerlach for not returning the contributions or donating them to charity. Gerlach has stated that he would return the contributions if DeLay was convicted of the crimes for which he was indicted.

Committee assignments

Political future

On July 14th, 2009, Gerlach formally announced he will run for Governor of Pennsylvania in the 2010 election.


  4. [1]
  5. "All in the Family," Beaver County Times, 2007-11-15, p. A6.
  7. PA-6 Campaign 2004, accessed October 18th, 2006
  8. Larry Eichel, GOP Redistricting Gamble Looks Safe. Philadelphia Inquirer, October 16, 2002. Accessed October 18, 2006
  9. Election 2002 — State Races: Pennsylvania,, accessed October 18, 2005
  10. Chester County results
  11. Dave Davies, For Gerlach, Murphy, geography was destiny, Daily News; November 9, 2006
  12. H.R. 5313
  13. Jim Gerlach on Homeland Security
  16. [2]
  17. Gerlach for PA website

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