Primary elections: Barletta claims GOP Senate nomination in Pa., as Democrats settle crowded contests
● Republican Scott Wagner will face incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf in the race for Pennsylvania governor.
● Nebraska state Sen. Bob Krist (D) will face incumbent Republican Pete Ricketts in the race for governor.
● Republican congressman Lou Barletta will face Democratic incumbent Robert P. Casey Jr. in the high-stakes race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
● Sen. Deb Fischer (R) in her bid for reelection will face Lincoln city councilwoman and grocery store executive Jane Raybould (D).
This is a developing story.
An ally of President Trump claimed the Republican nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, as energized Democrats settled crowded primaries that will shape the party’s chances in November’s midterm elections.
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) was projected to beat state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Pa.) with half of the precincts tallied in the Republican Senate primary. Trump had recorded an automated telephone message praising Barletta in the final hours of the race. The GOP congressman will run against two-term Democratic Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., who has stockpiled nearly $10 million for his campaign.
Shortly after 10 p.m., Barletta declared victory at a party in Hazleton, the city where his tenure as a tough-on-immigration mayor started his political rise.
“The media said that Donald Trump could not win in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania put Donald Trump in the White House,” Barletta said. “They say I can’t beat Bob Casey, and I’m going to beat Bob Casey.”
Pennsylvania primary election results 2018: Governor, Senate and House races
Still, Democrats were leading Republicans on turnout across the state, despite having only one competitive statewide race. With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, Democrats had cast nearly 100,000 more votes than Republicans. In Erie County, where Republicans saw one of their most dramatic surges in 2016, Democrats cast 5,000 more votes than the GOP.
The general election in Pennsylvania will serve in part as a test of Trump’s appeal two years after he stunned Democrats by edging out Hillary Clinton and becoming the first Republican presidential nominee to win the state in nearly three decades.
Still, the state has shown signs of trending Democratic since Clinton’s defeat; in March, Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election in a Pittsburgh-area district where Trump beat Clinton by 20 percentage points.
Encouraged by a redrawn congressional map and a string of House Republican retirements, Democrats are hoping to build on their success and gain as many as half a dozen House seats in November. They need 23 pick-ups to win control of the House.
Voters cast ballots Tuesday in four states where primary outcomes will provide fresh signs about voters’ mood less than six months before Election Day. In addition to Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon held nominating contests.
Trump met with Senate Republicans at the Capitol on Tuesday and spoke optimistically about the party’s Senate prospects in November. The GOP holds a razor-thin 51-to-49 advantage, but leaders are increasingly bullish about adding to their majority as Trump’s approval ratings have ticked up.
The president used Twitter to urge Nebraska Republicans to “make sure you get out to the polls and VOTE” for Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who beat four little-known challengers.
In Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, a pickup opportunity for Democrats, former congressman Brad Ashford (D) was trying to make a comeback. He ran against nonprofit executive Kara Eastman. The winner will face Rep. Don Bacon (R).
Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts faced a primary challenger, but he won his party’s nod. State Sen. Bob Krist was projected to win the Democratic nomination for governor, though Ricketts is favored to win a second term in November.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will face state Sen. Scott Wagner, who hopes to win by capitalizing on Trump’s 2016 success in the state. Voters also settled contested primaries for lieutenant governor in both parties.
The retirement of Rep. Ryan Costello (R), the resignation of Rep. Patrick Meehan (R) and a revised map ordered by the state Supreme Court have led Republicans to effectively cede two House districts in the Philadelphia area. Democrats Chrissy Houlahan and Madeleine Dean secured the party’s nominations, virtually assuring that there will be two women in the next Pennsylvania congressional delegation.
In the Delaware County-based 5th District, Democrats were voting in a competitive, crowded primary in which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Rich Lazer. Sanders also picked sides in an Allentown-area district that Democrats are aiming to pick up in November.
Elsewhere, Democrats were trying to unseat Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R), who was running for reelection in a swing district. Wealthy philanthropist Scott Wallace and military veteran Rachel Reddick were the leading Democratic candidates heading into Tuesday’s vote.
Republican Rick Saccone, who lost to Lamb, was seeking redemption in a primary for a Pittsburgh-area district that favors the GOP. With 89 percent of precincts reporting, he trailed state legislator Guy Reschenthaler by about 3,500 votes. Lamb opted to run in a different district near Pittsburgh that is less conservative. He will face Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) in November.
John Fetterman, the longtime mayor of a struggling industrial town who ran with the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), defeated Lt. Gov. Mike Stack by an unexpectedly large margin. Stack, who had been dogged by reports that he and his wife mistreated state employees, lost the party’s support for a second term, and struggled outside of his Philadelphia base; Fetterman, who ran on universal health care and marijuana legalization, dominated in the western part of the state.
While strategists in both parties are monitoring Pennsylvania, most are not counting on the Senate seat flipping Republican.
In the phone message he recorded, Trump called Casey the “handpicked guy” of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), using a strategy Republicans have deployed in other states to tie candidates to party leaders.
But Democrats were not as worried about those attacks resonating in Pennsylvania, compared with some other states Trump won. And Casey has built a much bigger campaign account than Barletta, giving them another reason to be confident if Barletta is his challenger.
As of late April, Barletta had about $1.3 million in his campaign account. Casey had more than $9.9 million.
In Idaho, a competitive Republican primary for governor featured three leading candidates: Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, a founding member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus; Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who had the support of outgoing Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter; and Tommy Ahlquist, a businessman and physician who ran with the backing of 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The leading Democratic candidates headed into the day were Paulette Jordan, a former state lawmaker who would be the country’s first Native American governor; and A.J. Balukoff, the party’s 2014 nominee.
“People are ready for something new,” Jordan said in an interview. “I’m not about the party; I’m not about the system.”
Farther west in Oregon, incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown drew a pair of primary challengers but was expected to advance to the general election. The governor’s race attracted a crowded field of Republicans.
Oregon is a heavily Democratic state, and Brown was favored to retain the governorship this fall.