Mostly Predictable Primary Results;
Some Close, One Major Upset

By Jim Ellis

2018-elections-open-seatsMay 16, 2018 — Voters in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho, and Oregon went to the polls yesterday and chose nominees for the general election.

Pennsylvania

In the Keystone State, state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) topped a field of three candidates with 44 percent of the vote, and will face Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in November. Wolf, running for a second term, is a clear favorite in the general election. US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) scored a 63 percent win in the Republican senatorial primary, earning the right to challenge two-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D). Likewise, the senator begins the now official general election in the favorite’s position.

In the new 14th District — which became an open seat because special election winner Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) decided to challenge Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) in the new politically marginal 17th District rather than run in this CD that contains 57 percent of the constituency that just elected him in March — Rick Saccone, the GOP state representative and special election nominee who lost to Lamb previously in the special, again lost. This time state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Township) won the Republican nomination with 55 percent of the vote, and he will easily take the seat in November.

Elsewhere, the Pennsylvania congressional races went generally as expected, though the new 7th District sees a Republican primary that could potentially go to a re-count between Lehigh County Commissioner and Olympic Gold Medalist (cycling) Marty Nothstein, who appears to have won, and former County Commissioner Dean Browning. The two are separated by just 304 votes of more than 31,000 ballots cast. In the interesting Democratic primary, Allentown Solicitor Susan Ellis Wild topped the field, capturing 33 percent of the vote. She defeated long-time Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli (30 percent), and Bernie Sanders-endorsed candidate Greg Edwards (26 percent), an Episcopal pastor. The general election promises to be tight and hard fought.

In the open 13th District (Rep. Bill Shuster retiring), the Republican primary winner would hold the seat come November. Thus, Altoona dermatologist John Joyce becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election. He placed first with just 22 percent of the vote, followed by state Sen. John Eichelberger (20 percent), state Rep. Stephen Bloom (18 percent), retired Army Colonel Doug Mastriano (16 percent), and frequent candidate Art Halvorson (15 percent).

Elsewhere, those predicted to win prior to voting came through in either hotly contested primary campaigns, or now face competitive or potentially competitive general election pairings:

PA-1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) draws investment fund CEO Scott Wallace, grandson of former US Vice President Henry Wallace. Wallace garnered 56 percent against two opponents. This will be a highly competitive seat in the general election.

PA-4: In the new 4th District, state Rep. Madeleine Dean crushed her opponents including former US Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D), who actually finished dead last with just 11 percent of the vote. Dean scored a 73 percent victory and will win the safely Democratic seat in November.

PA-5: In the neighboring 5th CD, a district that will convert to the Democrats, ex-Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board member Mary Gay Scanlon scored a convincing Democratic primary win with 28 percent over nine opponents. Her chief competitor, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer, placed second with just 15 percent. Scanlon now advances to the general election where she will win the seat.

PA-6: Both businesswoman and retired Air Force officer Cindy Houlahan and attorney Greg McCauley were unopposed in their respective primaries. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester) filed for re-election, but then withdrew. Houlahan now becomes a heavy favorite to convert this Chester County district for the Democrats in November.

PA-8: Self-funding businessman John Chrin captured almost 50 percent of the vote, which is a solid total from which to advance to the general election against Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton). This district will be competitive in November.

PA-9: Former state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser won last night’s Republican primary taking 53 percent of the vote against two GOP opponents. The district votes strongly Republican, so Meuser will succeed Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) who won the US Senate primary. Democrats nominated former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff.

PA-10: Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg) gets all of Dauphin (Harrisburg), most of Cumberland, and part of York Counties in the court-mandated re-draw. Rep. Perry was unopposed in last night’s Republican primary, and will now face Lutheran minister George Scott (D) who barely edged Obama former White House aide Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson by 548 votes in the Democratic primary.

PA-11: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) was re-nominated with 59 percent of the vote against ex-Lancaster County Republican chairman and frequent GOP candidate Chet Beiler. Rep. Smucker’s new district is much more Republican than his previous 16th CD, meaning he will sail to re-election in the fall.

Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia), Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), Tom Marino (R-Williamsport), Glenn Thompson (R-Howard), Mike Kelly (R-Butler), and Mike Doyle (D-Pittsburgh) all were re-nominated and become prohibitive favorites for re-election in their respective districts. Reps. Keith Rothfus and Conor Lamb will oppose each other in the new politically marginal 17th District. Both drew no primary challenges in their respective Republican and Democratic primaries.

Nebraska

While Sen. Deb Fischer (R) and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) were easily re-nominated with 76 and 81 percent, respectively, and are both heavily favored to win in November, a major upset occurred in the congressional primaries.

In the Omaha-anchored 2nd District, non-profit executive and Bernie Sanders-endorsed candidate Kara Eastman upset former one-term Rep. Brad Ashford by a 51-49 percent count in the Democratic primary. Eastman now advances to the general election to face freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha), who was unopposed on the Republican side.

Idaho

The Republican gubernatorial primary was basically a three-way contest between Lt. Gov. Brad Little, US Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise), and physician and real estate developer Tommy Ahlquist. The vote favored Lt. Gov. Little, 37-32-27 percent over Rep. Labrador and Dr. Ahlquist. Little now becomes a strong general election favorite to succeed retiring three-term Gov. Butch Otter (R). He will face state Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-Moscow) who easily turned back 2014 gubernatorial nominee A.J. Balukoff in the Democratic primary.

In Rep. Labrador’s open 1st District, as expected, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher scored a big victory in the defining Republican primary, defeating former lieutenant governor and Attorney General David Leroy and two state representatives. Fulcher scored 43 percent of the vote as compared to second-place finisher Leroy’s 16 percent. Fulcher will be the prohibitive favorite in the general election and now pairs with realtor Cristina McNeil who easily won the Democratic primary.

Oregon

The only contest of note in the Oregon primary was in the Republican gubernatorial race. There, state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) won the party nomination with 47 percent of the vote against two-time US Senate candidate Sam Carpenter (29 percent), and former Blue Angels commander Gary Wooldridge (19 percent). Buehler will now challenge Gov. Kate Brown (D) who stands for a first full term after succeeding resigned Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) and winning a 2016 special election. There is no 2018 US Senate race in Oregon. All five incumbent US House members won re-nomination landslides and all are expected to have easy runs in the general election.

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