Lt. Gov. John Fetterman appears headed for the Democratic Senate nomination from Pennsylvania, while Attorney General Josh Shapiro was unopposed for the Democratic nod for governor. But there are Democratic battles lined up on Tuesday’s main card, including a series of proxy battles between outside groups aligned with progressive Democrats and more moderate candidates in safe seats in the Democratic House.
A trio of House incumbents also face major challenges, led by Rep. Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.). But Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) also face primary opponents.
Trump also backed against the incumbent governor of Idaho — where his nominee could very well lose — as well as a number of lower-ballot candidates.
Pennsylvania primaries set key races for November
Oz may have Trump’s blessing in the Senate race, but polls in recent days have shown Oz and Barnette are locked in a bind.
Trump’s bet on Oz’s endorsement despite McCormick trailing in most polls at the time shows Trump’s belief in the power of the celebrity candidate – even one who is relatively polarizing, with up and down ratings almost equally distributed. The former president repeatedly pointed to Oz’s 18-year stint on television, including during a robocall to Pennsylvania GOP voters on Monday, as a sign of Oz’s call.
As the race remained close, Trump in recent days criticized both McCormick and Barnette–McCormick for being an “insider who absolutely sold us out to China,” he told listeners on the call. Monday, and Barnette for supporting the creation of a statue honoring the Obama family in 2020.
Fetterman, who occupies the progressive path of the party, is favored to win the Democratic Senate nomination over Representative Conor Lamb, who has a more centrist record. Fetterman voted by emergency mail on Tuesday from his hospital room, where he continues to receive treatment after suffering a stroke on Friday.
Pennsylvania will be one of the nation’s main battlegrounds this fall as Republicans seek to hold on to incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat and swing the Senate 50-50 their way.
GOP concerns about Mastriano in the gubernatorial race are even stronger. He has led all recent polls in the splintered field which also includes former Rep. Lou Barletta, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain and businessman Dave White, among others.
Republicans both in the state and nationally believe Mastriano could cost the party a chance at a competitive open seat. A last-ditch effort to try to shore up opposition to him materialized last week, but it quickly failed after none of the leading candidates gave up – and Trump endorsed Mastriano over the weekend.
The other big Senate primary: North Carolina
Budd won the Senate nomination easily and quickly on Tuesday night. But Trump’s endorsement of Budd last year in North Carolina’s Republican Senate primary wasn’t nearly as powerful as his Oz announcement five weeks before the Pennsylvania primary — or an even shorter window for JD Vance, who won the GOP Senate nomination in Ohio on May 3. .
Budd struggled for months to overtake former Gov. Pat McCrory’s lead. Trump and David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, even tried to broker a deal with former Rep. Mark Walker — another Republican in the race — to step down and run for House instead, believing Walker was taking the lead. Budd’s support.
Walker remained in contention until the end, but Budd eventually took over as GOP leader in late March, buoyed by record spending by the Club for Growth. Its rise in the polls coincided with Trump’s rally in the state in early April and has been growing ever since.
Budd will face Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court who has rubbed shoulders in recent months after her two main arch-rivals pulled out of the race.
While North Carolina has turned red in recent years and isn’t a top priority for Democrats in the fight for control of the Senate, the state remains competitive. Major Republican outside spending groups have already earmarked millions of dollars in advertising time for the race to succeed retired GOP Senator Richard Burr.
Other national meets to watch: Idaho and Oregon
Tuesday’s primary elections in Idaho are the most important elections of the year in the state, where the eventual Republican candidates will become the de facto general election winners in the ruby-red state.
This is a clash between the two wings of the Republican Party, the conservative but generally business-aligned wing, and an insurgent far-right wing of the GOP.
The contests in the state are headlined by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s main challenge to Gov. Brad Little. McGeachin, who has far-right ties and spoke at a conference hosted by a white nationalist, also has Trump’s backing in his bid to unseat Little.
Other ballot contests in the state have a sharp divide: Longtime state attorney general Lawrence Wasden faces a primary by former congressional agitator Raúl Labrador. And the state secretary of state contest has candidates who have said they don’t believe President Joe Biden was legitimately elected president.
In Oregon, Democratic Governor Kate Brown has a term limit. The Democratic nomination will likely go to either former State House Speaker Tina Kotek or state Treasurer Tobias Read, after former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s campaign was disqualified because did not meet the state residency requirement.
The Republican field is a crowded contest with no clear frontrunner. While he may not be among the top gubernatorial candidates this year, he could become competitive if the political environment remains awful for Democrats and Republicans to nominate a candidate who can appeal to some voters in the state in blue trend. A wildcard in the race is Betsy Johnson, a former conservative Democratic state senator who is running as an independent in the fall.
House holders in trouble
Cawthorn, Simpson and Schrader all watch the main challengers on Tuesday night.
Perhaps the most threatened of the three is Schrader, a longtime Blue Dog Democrat who faces a progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Much of Schrader’s seat is new thanks to the recut. And he has placed a target on his back because the left believes he and several other moderate House Democrats have united to block Biden’s massive social spending plan.
Schrader’s allies have warned the party could struggle to keep the district in the fall if a McLeod-Skinner wins. Biden has carried it by 9 points in 2020.
Cawthorn, however, made headlines. Besieged by a barrage of scandals, Cawthorn has distanced himself from former allies in his western North Carolina district and on Capitol Hill. His notoriety has attracted a large group of challengers in his primary, but the most formidable is State Senator Chuck Edwards. Even Sen. Thom Tillis (RN.C.) lined up against the incumbent.
Another North Carolina battle to watch: Whether Bo Hines, a former Cawthorn sidekick who has since distanced himself, wins in an open district.
In Idaho, Simpson is locked in a 2014 rematch with Bryan Smith, a lawyer and businessman running to the right of the incumbent. Simpson framed the race as a test for the GOP governing coalition and warned that his opponent would be reluctant to compromise and obstruct the party’s attempt to legislate.
Progressives and Moderates in Safe Blue Seats
Progressive candidates are vying for open and safe blue seats in southwestern Pennsylvania and north-central North Carolina – but outside groups aligned with cryptocurrency financiers and pro-Israel groups are united to block them.
In retired Rep. Mike Doyle’s Pittsburgh district, the AIPAC super PAC spent nearly $2 million on TV ads blocking state Rep. Summer Lee. Their preferred candidate is attorney Steve Irwin, portraying him as someone “who will work with his fellow Democrats.”
In North Carolina, these forces have united to back State Senator Val Foushee in her open-seat primary against Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, the first Muslim woman elected to public office in the state. In another open-seat race, State Senator Don Davis was the beneficiary of super PAC spending by AIPAC and another aligned group.
A less ideological – but even more costly – battle is raging in a new open headquarters in Oregon, where Protect Our Future, a super PAC backed by crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, has dumped cash to boost top contender Carrick Flynn in a crowded primary.
Democrats will also choose a candidate from a deep blue corner of Kentucky to replace incumbent Rep. John Yarmuth. State Senator Morgan McGarvey is considered the frontrunner and has the backing of Yarmuth and Protect Our Future.