HAZLETON -- Republicans saw the 11th Congressional District as a safe district for the party and Lou Barletta who is currently in his fourth term.
Barletta is the former mayor of Hazleton. He may be the best known of six Republicans running but that does not guarantee him the nomination.
A professor of government at Misericordia University says Barletta is closely linked to President Donald Trump.
The congressman's fate could be tied to how Republican voters feel about the president come spring.
"Do we want somebody so closely affiliated with Trump, or do we want somebody with what you might call less baggage, do we want somebody different?" Prof. Brian Carso said.
But now with Barletta announcing a run for the U.S. Senate, and no incumbent in the race, Newswatch 16 has learned at least seven people are considering getting in the race to succeed Barletta in Congress.
Lawyer Bill Vinsko of Wilkes-Barre ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic party nomination for the 11th Congressional District in 2012. But without Lou Barletta on the ballot in 2018, Vinsko is now considering another try.
"There's no question that not having an incumbent is going to favor a Democrat more than an incumbent in the race would," said Vinsko.
Air Force veteran Alan Howe and former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff of the Harrisburg area are also considering running for the Democratic nomination.
Former state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser of Luzerne County is considering running for congress on the Republican side. Meuser is the former President of Pride Mobility in Exeter and says for the next few days, Republicans should focus on Barletta's Senate bid.
"I'm very proud of him that he's running," said Meuser. "Lou has served the 11th District extremely well in Washington with conservative values and moving the country in the right direction."
Another potential Republican candidate, state Representative Tarah Toohil of the Hazleton area, also chose to let Barletta have the spotlight for now.
In a text message, she wrote she, "believes he would be a much-needed vote for change in Washington."
Toohil has not set a timetable to decide whether to run for Congress.
Businessman Andrew Lewis and state Representative Stephen Bloom, both of the Harrisburg area, are also considering running for the GOP nomination in the 11th District.
People connected to the race say the real winners will be television and radio stations, both locally and in the state capital region.
Candidates, parties, and special interest groups will likely spend much more money on a race for an open congressional seat than a race where Lou Barletta was seen as a shoo-in for re-election.
*Corrected 8/30 to reflect Mr. Meuser is the former President and not former CEO of Pride Mobility