Primary Extravaganza Part II

Last week, primary season continued with elections in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina, and there were interesting races to watch in all four states. Last night, primaries came to another four states: Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. There wasn’t as much action to see, but there were still some races of note. The conclusion of this week’s elections means that we are now ten states and 20% of the way through the primary process.


Oregon’s senators are in Class II and III seats respectively, meaning they’re up for election in 2020 and 2022, and the entire House delegation (4D-1R) holds more or less safe seats, meaning that the only remarkable race is that for governor. Incumbent Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR) ascended from state secretary of state to her current position when Gov. John Kitzhaber (D-OR) resigned amid scandal in 2015. She won a special election to the remainder of Kitzhaber’s unexpired term in 2016 by only 8%, an underwhelming margin in a state that Hillary Clinton carried by 11% and is known for its “Left Coast” politics. Since Brown had only token primary opposition, the Republican primary was the one to watch. Any Republican, particularly in this generally pro-Democratic electoral environment, has an uphill climb to victory in Oregon, but pro-choice state Rep. Knute Buehler thinks he has a chance given his moderate leanings. Conservative and Trumpaholic candidates Sam Carpenter and Greg Wooldridge disagree.

Results: Had Carpenter and Wooldridge consolidated their bases of support, a more conservative candidate might have won, but since they didn’t, Buehler won, 47%-30%19%


Like Oregon, Idaho had everything on the ballot except for its senators. With that being said, aside from Gov. Cecil Andrus (D-ID) in the 90s, Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID-1) in 2008, and a handful of state legislators, no Democrat has been elected in Idaho in recent memory, meaning that barring unusual circumstances, Republicans will win every important race in November. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Paulette Jordan ran against businessman, Boise school board member, and 2014 nominee A. J. Balukoff for the gubernatorial nomination. Balukoff may be the more viable candidate as he managed to garner around 40% of the vote in a good Republican year. On the Republican side, sitting Lt. Gov. Brad Little ran against Freedom Caucus member Raúl Labrador and businessman Tommy Ahlquist.

Results: Surprisingly, Jordan beat Balukoff 59%-40%, meaning she would be the first American Indian governor of any state in the unlikely event she wins in November, and Little beat Labrador and Ahlquist 37%-33%-26%. However, Labrador’s preferred successor in ID-1, Russ Fulcher, won his primary.


Nebraska has a bit more to look at than Oregon or Idaho, with gubernatorial, senatorial, and competitive congressional races all on the ballot. The Democratic candidates for Senate were all basically Some Dudes, but incumbent Deb Fischer (R-NE) has weak approval ratings and her predecessor was Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). In the gubernatorial race, state senator Bob Krist, a former Republican and independent (Nebraska’s unicameral state legislature is nominally nonpartisan) is seeking the Democratic nomination against Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), a wealthy member of the family that owns the Cubs. The most interesting race was in the Second Congressional District, where former one-term Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE-2) faced liberal activist Karen Eastman for the right to face incumbent Don Bacon (R-NE-2), who unseated Ashford by a little over one percentage point as Donald Trump carried the district by little more.

Results: In an upset, Eastman beat Ashford 51%-49%. In an environment where Democrats maintain a 7% edge in the generic congressional ballot, as they have, it may not make a difference, but Ashford’s moderate views meant he was more likely to retake his old seat in November.


For many reasons, Pennsylvania had more action going on than any other state last night. First off, it was the first election held under its new congressional map. In 2012, after winning all of the levers of power in the state, Pennsylvania Republicans drew a map that was horribly gerrymandered. Despite each party holding similar levels of support, in the three cycles when the map was in use, Republicans consistently held a 13-5 edge in the state’s House delegation, even when Barack Obama won the state by a double-digit margin in his reëlection campaign. This year, there were two gerrymandering cases before the Supreme Court. One challenged Maryland’s heavily Democratic map, and the other challenged Wisconsin’s heavily Republican map. Especially without any Supreme Court orders, the Republican-controlled state legislature would not budge, but the effectively Democrat-majority state supreme court found for plaintiffs and, after rejecting the legislatures measly attempts at reform, had a court-appointed special master draw new maps that would be more equitable to both parties. Under these new maps, Donald Trump won 10 districts and Hillary Clinton won 8, as opposed to 12 and 6 respectively under the old maps. All of this meant that there were new districts hardly resembling any of the old ones, incumbents deciding which new districts to run in, and a whole lot of women running break the Pennsylvania delegation’s all-male majority. I won’t go over every race in detail, but in the First District, wealthy businessman Scott Wallace, the grandson of former Vice President Henry Wallace, is running against former navy JAG (military attorney) Rachel Reddick in the Democratic primary to face effective incumbent Bryan Fitzpatrick (R) in a district that Hillary Clinton narrowly carried. Democratic incumbents in the Second, Third, and Eighteenth Districts and Republican incumbents in the Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Districts faced little trouble in their primaries and are likely safe in November. In the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth districts, Democrats Madeleine Dean, Mary Scanlon, and Chrissy Houlahan are running to become the first new congresswomen from Pennsylvania, all in districts Clinton carried in 2016. In the Seventh District, Democrat Susan Wild faced John Morganelli, an anti-abortion county attorney, and Bernie Sanders-endorsed pastor Greg Edwards for the right to succeed retiring moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA-15 [old map]). In the Eighth District, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) will attempt to paint businessman John Chrin (R) as a carpetbagger (he’s from New Jersey and doesn’t even live in the current district) in a seat that Donald Trump carried by ten points. The Ninth and Thirteenth Districts are both heavily Republican open seats. Finally, the most interesting race is in the Seventeenth District. As happens occasionally every redistricting cycle, it’s an incumbent-versus-incumbent matchup, pitting Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA-12 [old]) against Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA-18 [old]) in a seat that Donald Trump carried by a narrow 2%. State Rep. Rick Saccone, whom Lamb defeated two months ago, is attempting a comeback in the Fourteenth District. Don’t forget there are other races to look at, too! In the gubernatorial race, state senator Scott Wagner faced businessman Paul Mango for the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA), who is the only Democratic governor in a state won by President Trump up for reëlection. Wolf is popular, and given the fact that Trump barely carried Pennsylvania and the pro-Democratic environment, he’s likely safe. In the Senate race, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA-11 [old]), considered the Trump-like candidate, faced businessman Jim Christiana to see who gets to be the sacrificial lamb, er, candidate to face incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Casey is one of ten Democratic incumbents in states Trump won up for reëlection, but once again given Trump’s small margin of victory, Casey’s personal popularity, and a favorable environment for Democrats, he has little to worry about. Lastly, Braddock mayor John Fetterman primaried incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (D-PA), who is faced with accusations of misusing public funds.

Results: In PA-1, Wallace beat Reddick, 57%-35%, leaving Democrats with a strong nominee in this swingy district. Dean and Scanlon are likely to win in PA-4 and -5, while Houlahan faces a competitive general election in PA-6. In PA-7, Wild beat Morganelli and Edwards 33%-30%-26%. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Wagner beat Mango 44%-37%, and in the senatorial primary, Barletta beat Christiana 63%-37%. In the Democratic contest for lieutenant governor, Fetterman demolished Stack 38%-17%, and Stack actually took fourth place among all the candidates.

*Note: all percentages are rounded and all results are courtesy of the New York Times, which cites the AP