All Eyes On Pa.
Primary Preview: What to Watch for in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Idaho
Open House seats and a new election map make Pennsylvania ground zero for Democratic hopes and dreams on Tuesday.
The heated primary season continues on Tuesday as voters in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania head to the polls. Of those four states, Pennsylvania is playing host to the broadest field of candidates and will be hugely determinative in whether Democrats can retake a majority in the House of Representatives in November.
That is, in part, because of a newly redrawn map by the state’s Supreme Court which replaces a previous one thrown out on the grounds that it was a partisan gerrymander. Pennsylvania has long been represented by 13 Republican House members and 5 Democratic ones, which belied its swing state status and the close electoral win of Donald Trump in 2016. Now, Democrats have an opportunity to win a potential quarter of the necessary 23 net House seats they need to win the majority in Pennsylvania alone.
The two of the easiest pickup opportunities for the party are in previously Republican-held seats that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
That includes the new 5th Congressional District represented by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), who resigned at the end of April following revelations that he had used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim. Previously, the district was carved out in a circuitous pattern to the west of Philadelphia and was a district that Clinton won by two points. Under the new district parameters, she would have won it by 28.
There are 10 Democrats running for the seat with no obvious frontrunner. But whether former federal prosecutor Ashley Lunkenheimer, state Rep. Greg Vitali, or any of the others jockeying for the seat win the primary Tuesday, they will be heavily favored to take the seat in November.
In Pennsylvania’s new 7th Congressional District, a similar battle is being waged albeit with fewer Democrats. The seat, previously occupied by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) who announced his retirement, went from a place Trump won by eight points to one Clinton would have won by a point. There are three likely Democratic frontrunners, all of whom represent particular factions of the Democratic Party. John Morganelli, a district attorney, is a centrist Democrat who has expressed some Trump-inclined immigration views and recently scrubbed his Twitter page of supportive tweets for the president. Attorney Susan Wild has the backing of Emily’s List and African-American pastor Greg Edwards has the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and a host of progressive organizations.
There are other districts where sitting Republicans are facing major challenges as well, including Pennsylvania’s new 1st District which now leans more Democratic. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) currently represents the districts and there are three Democrats running in Tuesday’s primary to challenge him. In Pennsylvania’s new 17th Congressional District, two sitting members of Congress will face off against each other in November’s general election.
After a surprise win in the old 18th District, vacated by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) will now challenge Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) in the 17th which became considerably more Democratic-leaning in the new map. Lamb’s current district, the 18th, actually became more Trump-friendly in the new map and state Rep. Rick Saccone, who lost to Lamb earlier this year, is running there again but faces a credible primary challenge from state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler.
Three other states are also hosting contests on Tuesday.
Voters in Idaho will choose between three Republican gubernatorial candidates, including Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) to replace retiring Republican Gov. Butch Otter.
Finally, in Nebraska, Democrats are hoping they can peel off another win in November in the state’s 2nd Congressional District where Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) narrowly won in 2016 against former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) who won the seat in 2014. Former President Obama won the district in 2008 and Trump only won it by two points in 2016. Ashford is running again in Tuesday’s primary and faces Kara Eastman, a progressive challenger who supports Medicare-for-All.