Reapportionment Expert Steve Dull Joins SPR As Senior Consultant
The minutia of population and geography has been Steve Dull’s world for a lifetime so it comes as no surprise that he brings those talents to his new role as senior advisor to Susquehanna Polling and Research.
“I’ve watched the evolving nature of the state for three decades now,” said Dull, who recently retired as director of mapping and reapportionment for the state House Republican Caucus.
“I’ve watched the Philadelphia suburbs change from solid red Republican to shades and even big streaks of blue,” the Gettysburg College graduate said. “At the same time, I’ve watched south-central Pennsylvania change. York County where I grew up went from a 5,000-voter registration edge for Democrats in 1972 to a 50,000-vote Republican advantage in that time”
Jim Lee, president of Susquehanna Polling and Research, said Dull joined the firm in February and will be involved in the firm’s polling activities throughout what promises to be an exciting political year.
“Steve is widely viewed as an expert in Pennsylvania’s demographics and voting patterns,” Lee said. “He will be a wonderful addition to the efforts for our clients and the continued success of the firm.”
Dull said Pennsylvania is definitely a slow growth state rising from just 11.8 million residents to 12.3 million residents between the 1990 and 2000 U.S. censuses.
Still, population growth has been heavy in arc through the state that starts at Franklin and Adams counties on the Maryland border all the way “through the Poconos and the exurbs of Philadelphia, including the Lehigh Valley.”
“Franklin and Adams counties are very Republican while there is a Democratic trend in the Poconos with Monroe County now having a higher Democratic registration than Republican. Still, he said, most growth centers in the state are trending Republican.
Asked to pick a bellwether for the state, Dull identified the Lehigh Valley, especially the congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep Charlie Dent, R-Lehigh. It has been held by both parties in recent times.
Dull said that area is the best predictor of how the state will likely vote in a fall presidential contest, emulating the statewide results in the last several presidential elections.
Dull said he and Lee began to have discussions about his joining the firm as he was closing out his state government career. The two worked together in polling and other areas. “Jim liked to pick my brain especially about census data from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses,” he recalled.
A 1972 graduate in political science from Gettysburg College, Dull got his first exposure to state government in 1971 as an intern to then House Speaker K. Leroy Irvis, D-Pittsburgh.
“It was a tumultuous time in the Legislature as Gov. Milton Shapp was trying to pass the state’s first income tax and the issue was hard fought,” Dull said. “I wasn’t yet 21 so I couldn’t vote but I liked the political environment.”
The Legislature was far different then too, he noted. Only those in leadership had staff assigned to them while four or five rank-and-file members generally shared one secretary in Harrisburg. Soon afterward, the House turned from Democratic to Republican control and both chambers began to move to more full-time status.
After graduation, Dull applied for a job with the state House through then-state Rep. Percy Foor, R-Bedford, who was the chairman of the House Consumer Protection Committee at the time, and he was assigned to Bob Butera, who then was the state House majority leader.
When Butera left to run unsuccessfully for governor in the 1978 GOP gubernatorial primary, Dull began to get involved with reapportionment gearing up toward the 1980 census. He remained in that role until his retirement.
In drawing state House districts every census after the once-every-decade population data was in hand, Dull would work with his Democratic counterpart. But to redraw the state’s congressional districts, it was a joint effort that included the Senate and all four caucuses and needed to be approved as a new law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.
“In 1990, we had a divided Legislature with a Democratic governor (Bob Casey Sr.) and a Democratic House but a Republican Senate whereas by the 2000 census, Republicans controlled all three of the legs of the stool,” he said.
That one-party control allowed the creation of a number of congressional districts that helped state senators, such as Jim Gerlach of Chester County and Tim Murphy of Allegheny County, to run for the U.S. House.
Indeed, Gerlach won the seat after it was first created in 2002 but by smaller margins than anticipated. What happened, Dull said, is that despite the carefully drawn Republican-dominated district, the trending of the Philadelphia suburbs to often vote Democratic regardless of a district’s party registration has given Gerlach tough general election opponents. As a result, he has had narrow wins in each of his re-election efforts in 2004 and 2006.
Dull is married and has no children. He and his wife, Gail, now reside in East Pennsboro Township. Cumberland County.