Northampton County Democratic politicians welcomed the region's new Wednesday, even as they denounced the redistricting that brought him here.
U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, was in Easton Wednesday to introduce himself to his new constituents, whom he inherited after a moved much of Northampton County into Holden's 17th district.
Speaking at a news conference at the , Holden said he shares people's frustration with the new district, and promised to get to know Northampton County and its issues.
"I will be available. I will be visible," Holden said, adding that he'll establish an office in the county if he wins re-election this year. The new district lines become official in January 2013.
Holden, the longest serving Pennsylvania Democrat in the U.S. House, said it's too soon to say where that office would be.
In addition to Northampton, the new district also includes his home county of Schuylkill, as well as parts of Carbon, Monroe, Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.
In Northampton County, the district is comprised of Easton, Forks, Palmer, Bethlehem, Upper and Lower Mount Bethel and Washington townships, as well as the boroughs of Wilson, West Easton, Glendon, Nazareth, Stockertown, Tatamy, Bangor, East Bangor, Freemansburg, Pen Argyl, Portland, and Roseto.
Parts of the city of Bethlehem, as well as Plainfield and Upper Nazareth townships are also in the new district.
"It is a horrible plan," Pennsylvania state , D-136, told reporters Wednesday. "I've felt dividing the Lehigh Valley was not in the best interest of the Lehigh Valley," because it hurt a lot of regional efforts.
"That being said," Freeman added, "this is not Tim Holden's fault."
The fault lies with Republicans at the state and federal level, Democrats charged Wednesday. As she had previously, state Sen. Lisa Boscola singled out U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, a Republican whose 15th district used to include all of the Lehigh Valley.
"Because of what Charlie Dent did to this district, I don't want to work with him again," she said.
Dent has said he had no control over the way the map was drawn, and wished to see the Lehigh Valley remain whole.
Boscola and Easton Mayor Sal Panto praised Holden's working class roots, and said voters in Schuylkill County and Northampton County have a lot in common. They stressed his reputation as a moderate/conservative Democrat.
In fact, Holden was ranked last year by the National Journal as the fourth-most conservative Democrat in Congress.
But he told reporters he doesn't think he'll need to adjust his stances on any issues as his district changes.
"A majority of people are just [saying] 'What's wrong with you guys? Can't you compromise?'" Holden said.
Holden said the main issue facing Pennsylvania residents is the same wherever he goes.
"I don't care whether it's Perry County, or Schuylkill, or Lebanon, it's jobs. We need to focus like a laser on the economy," he said.
At least one Democrat is considering challenging Holden. Matt Cartwright, an attorney from Luzerne County, said last month he could run against Holden to represent the 17th district.