Key Pennsylvania Primary Tomorrow

The long-awaited Pennsylvania primary is on tap for tomorrow, and the Senate Republican battle is ending with a flurry of outside organizations running media attack ads.

Super PAC supporters of former hedge fund CEO David McCormick and television Dr. Mehmet Oz have now turned their attention toward trying to blunt Army veteran and 2020 congressional candidate Kathy Barnette who has driven herself into the top tier and is beginning to peak at the optimum time. Supporting Ms. Barnette is the Club for Growth organization, spending $2 million in a media blitz around the state in the final days to bolster her improving chances of winning the primary. Polling shows a very close race with each of the three in reasonable position to win.

Messrs. McCormick and Oz have been in a media battle for several weeks, spending major money to attack one another in order to become the party front runner. As often happens when two candidates begin to square off in a crowded field, a third contender gains positive momentum and can win at the end from the outside track. Such a pattern may be emerging in Pennsylvania.

Now several Super PAC organizations supporting either McCormick or Oz are attacking Barnette, questioning claims she has made about her background.

The Democratic side is more clear cut. Lt Gov. John Fetterman has a large polling lead over US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and looks to be the clear favorite to claim his party’s nomination early tomorrow night.

The open Governor’s race is also of interest. While Democrats have coalesced around Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is literally unopposed in tomorrow’s primary race, the Republicans are sorting through a crowded field of candidates.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Fayetteville) looks to be breaking through to the top and GOP leaders are reportedly nervous about his candidacy, fearing he cannot win the general election because of being perceived as positioning himself to the extreme ideological right. Sen. Mastriano was one of the key legislative leaders contesting the Pennsylvania presidential election because of vote fraud accusations and has earned a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Two candidates have just dropped out of the race, state Senate President Jake Corman and former US Rep. Melissa Hart, both endorsing ex-US Congressman and 2018 US Senate nominee Lou Barletta.

Turning to the slate of US House races, the state Supreme Court rejected the state legislature’s map that outgoing term-limited Governor Tom Wolf (D) vetoed, and drew their own congressional map. Still, even in a plan designed to favor the Democrats, competition exists in several seats.

Incumbents set for re-nomination tomorrow and have safe seats in the general election are Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Madeleine Dean (D-Jenkintown), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Swarthmore), Dan Meuser (R-Dallas), Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster), John Joyce (R-Hollidaysburg), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Peters Township), Glenn “G.T.” Thompson* (R-Howard), and Mike Kelly (R-Butler). 

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick* (R-Levittown) is a sure bet to defeat his lone Republican primary challenger but will face a potentially competitive general election in his Philadelphia suburban 1st District that rates politically Even according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. The unopposed Democratic candidate in this race is government affairs consultant and Iraq War veteran Ashley Ehasz.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Devon) is on the ballot seeking a third term and has no Democratic primary opposition. Republicans feature a crowded field with former Chester County Chamber of Commerce president Guy Ciarrocchi favored to win the nomination. The districts rates D+9, and though the Republicans will run a significant challenge here, Rep. Houlahan is a clear favorite for re-election in November.

Two of the three most competitive districts in the state lie north of Philadelphia in the 7th and 8th CDs.

In the 7th, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) seeks a third term and is likely to face her 2020 opponent, business owner and former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller (R). The two fought to a closer than expected 52-48% finish in the last election, but now the district has become four points more Republican according to the 538 calculations. This promises to be one of the top GOP challenger campaigns in the country.

Likewise, for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre anchored 8th District, as 2020 GOP nominee Jim Bognet returns for a re-match in what is rated as the third-most Republican district in the country that a Democrat represents. Mr. Bognet faces primary opposition tomorrow from former Hazelton Mayor Mike Marsicano. The 2020 race ended with incumbent Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic) defeating Mr. Bognet, 52-48%. Though the new district is rated R+8, the calculation is actually a one point improvement for Rep. Cartwright.

A 9th District Republican incumbent pairing primary was averted when Rep. Fred Keller (R-Middleburg), whose safely Republican expansive 12th District was eliminated in redistricting (Pennsylvania lost a seat in national reapportionment), decided not to challenge Rep. Meuser.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg/Harrisburg) looks to be in better position this year than from his tight 53-47% in the most recent 10th District election. Mr. Perry’s 2020 Democratic opponent, former State Auditor Eugene DePasquale, is not returning for a re-match, thus improving Rep. Perry’s re-election prospects in a central PA district that moves from a R+8 rating to R+9.

The new Pittsburgh anchored 12th District, where retiring Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh) would have sought re-election, is the host of an open and competitive Democratic primary. Five Democrats are on the ballot tomorrow, but it appears the real battle is coming down to a three-way contest among state Rep. Summer Lee (D-Braddock), attorney and lobbyist Steve Irwin, and law professor Jerry Dickinson. Tomorrow’s Democratic winner takes the seat in November.

The state’s most competitive general election open seat is the Allegheny County 17th District that lies west of downtown Pittsburgh. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) running for the Senate leaves a two-way Democratic primary between election law attorney Chris Deluzio and Democratic National Committee member Sean Meloy. Three Republicans battle for their party’s nomination: former Bellevue Town Councilwoman Kathy Coder, national security consultant Jason Killmeyer, and ex-Ross Town Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer who appears to be the favorite.

This race is interesting because either party can win the general election in a seat rated D+1, but curiously no Democratic or Republican state legislator or major Allegheny County local official even entered the race.

* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle.

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