Heated House primaries come to a close in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania — roiled by retirements and a court-drawn congressional map in 2018 — offers half-dozen opportunities for Democrats hoping to chip into the Republican Party's 23-seat advantage in the House. But some Democrats worry that the bruising primary process in a handful of districts will deliver battered candidates into November.
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“I don’t see how we retake the House without winning in Pennsylvania and winning Pennsylvania’s 1st District,” said Scott Wallace, one of two Democratic candidates jockeying to take on Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the lone GOP congressman seeking reelection in the Philadelphia suburbs. “If we don’t win here, where the district turned a shade bluer under redistricting, then retaking control of the House is harder to get to.”
Voters in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Oregon and Idaho are also nominating candidates in a big Senate race and a handful of gubernatorial contests, with President Donald Trump continuing to loom large in Republican primaries.
In Pennsylvania, Trump recorded a robocall to boost Rep. Lou Barletta in his bid to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. But Barletta first has to dispatch state Rep. Jim Christiana in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
Polls close at 8 p.m. Eastern time in Pennsylvania, 9 p.m. in Nebraska and 11 p.m. in Idaho and Oregon.
Several of the Democratic primaries broke down along ideological lines, pitting centrist and progressive wings of the party against each other.
In the Lehigh Valley, home to Pennsylvania’s 7th District, the top three contenders “represent a different swatch of the Democratic Party,” said Greg Edwards, the Bernie Sanders-endorsed pastor who is running to replace former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who recently resigned after announcing his retirement last fall.
Edwards and EMILY’s List-backed Susan Wild are battling for the progressive bloc, while Northampton District Attorney John Morganelli, a well-known moderate who tweeted at Trump about a job in the administration, caters to the Blue Dog Democrats that once dominated the blue-collar Lehigh Valley.
"If a lot of traditional Democrats come out, I should be okay,” said Morganelli, who’s drawn national spending against him for his positions on abortion and immigration. “If the mix is more progressive, then it gets tougher. The Democratic primary electorate is a little more liberal than me.”
Down in Bucks County, Wallace also faces a centrist Democrat, 33-year-old Navy veteran Rachel Reddick, part of the wave of female and veteran office-seekers who have stormed into Democratic primaries around the country this year.
The primary race turned negative, as Reddick cast Wallace as a carpetbagging millionaire, while Wallace hammered Reddick for recently changing her voter registration from Republican to Democrat. Wallace heavily outspent Reddick on TV ads, giving him an edge heading into Tuesday night.
But Reddick’s supporters argued that her conservative background would make her better suited for the general election.
“She can build consensus with Democrats and Republicans, and that’s what we need going up against Fitzpatrick,” said Kristin Vogel, a 50-year-old voter from Doylestown.
The turnover in Pennsylvania’s delegation also means a handful of open GOP primaries in safer, Republican-leaning seats that have drawn the involvement of national conservative groups looking to put their stamp on the party. State Rep. Rick Saccone — fresh off losing a special election to Congress in March — is running in one of those now-open districts but faces a stiff challenge from state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler.
Voters in Eastern Pennsylvania had to dodge dangerous, severe weather Tuesday afternoon and evening. Tornado warnings were posted for Harrisburg and Allentown, and a line of severe thunderstorms rolled through Philadelphia shortly before 7 p.m.
In Nebraska, former Rep. Brad Ashford’s comeback bid for his Omaha-based seat has also run into opposition from the left. Kara Eastman ran a true-blue progressive campaign against Ashford, who has been a Republican, independent and Democrat over the course of his legislative and congressional career. But Ashford’s name recognition is expected to carry the day in the contest to take on GOP Rep. Don Bacon in the fall.
Also in Nebraska, Democrats will nominate candidates to take on GOP Sen. Deb Fischer and GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts — though neither looks to face serious challenges in the fall.
Later in the evening, polls will close in Idaho, where three-term Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is retiring. Rep. Raúl Labrador is giving up his House seat — from which he has carved an influential role as a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — to run statewide. But he faces a competitive, three-way race against Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Tommy Ahlquist, a retired physician.
In Oregon, Republicans will choose their candidate to face Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in the fall. Brown, who ascended to the governorship in 2015 when then-Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned, won a special election in 2016 to complete Kitzhaber’s term and is now seeking a full term in her own right.