May Primaries: Round 2

By Jim Ellis

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

May 15, 2018 — Voters in four more states go to the polls to choose their nominees today. Today, we examine those four states as voting gets underway in the Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania primaries.

Pennsylvania

Voters in the Keystone State go to the polls throughout the day to choose partisan nominees for governor, US senator, and representatives in their 18 new US House Districts.

The governor and Senate contests are not stirring up much intrigue as neither Gov. Tom Wolf (D) nor Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) face any Democratic primary opposition. On the Republican side, state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) seems to have the inside track against businessman Paul Mango and former Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce president Laura Ellsworth. In the Senate GOP contest, US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) appears primed to defeat state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Monaca) for the opportunity to challenge Sen. Casey in November. Both Democratic incumbents are currently favored to win new terms.

PA-1: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) will easily win re-nomination against a minor Republican candidate. Democrats have three candidates vying for advancement to the general election. Though the district remains 93 percent intact after the state Supreme Court re-drew the Pennsylvania CDs, and contains all of Bucks County, this race has toss-up potential.

PA-2: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia) is running in the eastern downtown district, now fully contained within Philadelphia County. Rep. Boyle will have little trouble securing this seat in tonight’s Democratic primary and in the general election. Half of Rep. Boyle’s previous 13th District comprises new District 2.

PA-3: Freshman Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) seeks re-election in a slightly different district, as 80 percent of his former constituents are re-cast into the new 3rd CD. Evans will easily be re-elected in both today’s primary and the general.

PA-4: The new 4th is comprised of parts of five previous districts, and now contains most of Montgomery County with a sliver of Berks County. Former US Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) is attempting a comeback here, but it appears state Rep. Madeleine Dean has the advantage in the Democratic primary. The new 4th is safely Democratic in the general election.

PA-5: The new 5th District contains all of Delaware County and small parts of two others. This seat will flip to the Democrats since President Trump could do no better than attracting 34 percent of the vote in 2016. Eleven Democrats are competing for the party nomination. Tonight’s Democratic winner wins the seat in November.

PA-6: With Rep. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester) withdrawing after filing for re-election, this seat is primed to flip to the Democrats. Businesswoman and retired Air Force office Cindy Houlahan is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Houlahan will become the prohibitive favorite to convert this district to the Democrats in November.

PA-7: The new 7th, which is the Allentown-Bethlehem seat, is where resigned Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) would have run. This seat may host the most interesting primary of the evening. Democrats are featuring three major candidates: long-time Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, Allentown Solicitor Susan Wild, and pastor Greg Edwards. Republicans see a battle between Olympic Gold Medalist (cycling) and at-Large Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein, and former County Commissioner Dean Browning. This will seat will feature a toss-up general election campaign.

PA-8: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) faces the toughest draw among the Democratic incumbents. President Trump carried this district with a nine-point margin, and Rep. Cartwright will likely face a self-funding businessman, either John Chrin or developer Robert Kuniegel in the general election. Former federal prosecutor Joe Peters is also in the Republican primary. This district will be competitive in November.

PA-9: If Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) were running for re-election instead of for the Senate, the 9th CD would have been his new home even though it only contains 27 percent of his previous district. The seat is safely Republican.

PA-10: Rep. Scott Perry (R-Dillsburg) gets all of Dauphin (Harrisburg), most of Cumberland, and part of York Counties. It becomes a more competitive seat than his previous 4th District (Trump: 52-43 percent), but still decidedly favors a Republican candidate. Rep. Perry is unopposed in tonight’s Republican primary, while four Democrats, all in their first run for public office, compete for the party nomination.

PA-11: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) draws a more Republican seat, and will be home free once he overcomes an expensive challenge from frequent GOP candidate and ex-Lancaster County Republican chairman Chet Beiler tonight.

PA-12: Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) gets a safe Republican district with two-thirds of his former constituency. He will sail to re-nomination and re-election.

PA-13: Retiring Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona) leaves a crowded Republican field in his wake. Tonight’s Republican primary winner takes the seat in November.

PA-14: The new 14th is an open Republican seat that contains 60 percent of former District 18 where the March special election occurred. Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) is running in new District 17, leaving this seat to the Republicans possibly in the person of state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) who lost the special to Lamb. He faces state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Township) tonight. The winner takes the seat in November.

PA-15: Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Howard) sees almost 60 percent of his constituents moving with him to new District 15. He is unopposed tonight and sails to re-election in the fall.

PA-16: Western PA Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) gets a Trump plus-20 district that has 81 percent of his previous territory. He is unopposed tonight and an easy winner in November.

PA-17: Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), choosing to run here even though the new 17th contains only 20 percent of the district he just won in a special election, forces the only incumbent pairing in the 2018 election cycle. Here, he faces three-term GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) who brings 57 percent of his constituency to the new 17th. The seat plays as a toss-up in the general election and promises to become one of the premier congressional races in the country. Both men are unopposed for their respective party nominations tonight. The general election begins in earnest tomorrow. President Trump carried this seat by a slim 49-47 percent in 2016.

PA-18: The new 18th goes to Pittsburgh Rep. Mike Doyle (D). He needs only to top frequent Democratic candidate Janis Brooks tonight. Rep. Doyle will be unopposed in the general election.

Idaho

Without a Senate race on the ballot, the two major campaigns are the open governor’s race and the related open 1st Congressional District that Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) is vacating to enter the aforementioned race.

Gov. Butch Otter (R) is retiring from politics after three terms as Idaho’s chief executive, 16 years as its lieutenant governor, and three terms representing the Gem State in Congress. Seven Republicans are running to succeed Gov. Otter, including Rep. Labrador and Lt. Gov. Brad Little. The Republican winner is likely to face Boise School Board member and 2014 gubernatorial nominee A.J. Balukoff in the general election. He is favored to defeat state Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-Moscow) in tonight’s Democratic primary.

In the US House race, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher is the favorite among seven Republicans vying for the party nomination. Fulcher’s top opponent is former lieutenant governor and attorney general David Leroy, who was last on the ballot in 1994 when he lost the 1st District open congressional nomination to Helen Chenoweth who would go on to win the seat and serve three terms. The Republican nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite to win in November.

Nebraska

Sen. Deb Fischer (R) stands for re-nomination for a second six-year term, and faces four minor Republican opponents. No one has raised even $75,000 to support his challenge efforts. On the Democratic side, Lincoln City Councilwoman Jane Raybould appears to be a lock for the party nomination. She is easily expected to outpace three minor Democratic candidates, though Raybould is spending more than half of the almost $1 million she’s raised in order to secure her nomination.

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) faces a minor Republican Party challenge from marijuana legalization activist Krystal Gabel. Among Democrats, it appears that state Sen. Bob Krist (D-Omaha), a former Republican, is headed for the nomination. Gov. Ricketts will be the heavy favorite for re-election to a second term.

In the congressional races, the 2nd District Democratic primary seems to be the contest attracting the most attention. Here, one-term former US Rep. Brad Ashford, who lost his seat in 2016 to current incumbent Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha), is attempting a political comeback. First, however, he must overcome what has become a competitive challenge from non-profit executive Kara Eastman. Through the April 25 pre-primary financial disclosure period, Eastman had raised $355,000 as compared to Ashford’s $571,000. The general election is expected to be highly competitive.

Oregon

With no Senate race and little political excitement in the state’s five congressional races, the governor’s race is attracting the most attention in tomorrow’s primary. Here state Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) has jumped out to a polling and financial lead in the battle for the Republican nomination. The Global Strategy Group conducted an early May poll (May 3-6; 438 likely Oregon Republican primary voters) that found Buehler holding a 33-25-8 percent lead over businessman and former US Senate candidate Sam Carpenter and former Blue Angels commander Greg Wooldridge, respectively.

The GOP winner faces Gov. Kate Brown (D) in November. Gov. Brown ascended to the governorship from her position as Secretary of State -– Oregon has no lieutenant governor – in early 2015 when Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) resigned. She then won a 51-43 percent special election victory over healthcare company executive Bud Pierce (R) to serve the balance of the current term. Now, Gov. Brown runs for her first full term in her own right. The general election has some potential for becoming competitive.

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