Democrats have long dominated the late Rep. John Murtha's district, but Republicans have made inroads in recent years that could help them win back the seat.
Political analysts said Tuesday they expect a competitive contest in the race to replace Murtha, whose ability to steer federal dollars to his economically strapped district made him a powerful figure in Pennsylvania and beyond.
Murtha's district encompasses all or part of nine counties in southwestern Pennsylvania and embodies the region's image coal mines, steel mills and blue-collar values. He was elected in 1974.
Murtha died Monday at age 77 after suffering complications from gallbladder surgery. Gov. Ed Rendell says he hasn't decided when to schedule a special election to replace him.
A Republican win would not alter the Democrats' majority in the House.
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