...After the 1980 census, Pennsylvania lost two congressional districts due to very slow population growth. The Republican-controlled legislature drew a new, heavily Republican Harrisburg-based district designed for Gekas. He easily won the seat in 1982 and was reelected nine more times.
Gekas was one of the House's most conservative members, much to the liking of a district where Republicans dominated at every level of government. However, he alienated many Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Harrisburg area with his voting record, lack of zeal in bringing federal funds back home, and his leadership in seeking to make individual bankruptcy status more difficult and less useful to obtain. However, the district was drawn in such a way that Gekas never faced any serious opposition during his first 10 campaigns, and he even ran unopposed in 1994. He was one of the House managers in the impeachment trials of Alcee Hastings and President Bill Clinton.
...Pennsylvania lost two districts after the 2000 census. One of the districts that was eliminated was the Reading-based 6th District, represented by five-term moderate-to-conservative Democrat Tim Holden. The legislature split the 6th among three other districts, placing Holden's home in Gekas' 17th District. On paper, the new 17th so heavily favored Gekas that it appeared to be unwinnable for a Democrat, even a conservative Democrat like Holden. Indeed, George W. Bush had won the district with 57 percent of the vote in 2000, and 60 percent of the district came from Gekas' old territory. Some thought the district had been blatantly gerrymandered to force Holden out of office.
However, Holden surprised everyone by running in the 17th, even though it was 65% new to him (a small portion of the even more Republican 9th District had been shifted to the 17th). Gekas received another rude surprise as the campaign wore on, as much of his old base endorsed Holden. Even his hometown paper, The Patriot-News, endorsed Holden, saying that the 17th was not the same district that originally sent Gekas to Congress. Further, Holden made much of the fact that Gekas had never set foot in two predominantly African-American neighborhoods in Harrisburg, Uptown and Allison Hill, since first going to Congress. Holden visited these neighborhoods and asked residents not to vote for a congressman who could not trouble himself to visit them. On election night, Holden defeated Gekas by almost 6,000 votes. Gekas was the only Republican incumbent placed in a district with a Democratic incumbent to be defeated for re-election in 2002.