May 17th was the most exciting primary day so far, and it’s not even over yet.
At this moment, the GOP Senate contest in Pennsylvania between Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick is still too close to call. As we await the counting of the final mail-in ballots throughout the commonwealth, Oz holds a tenuous 1,270 vote lead.
Regardless of whichever candidate finishes in the lead, it’s highly probable the result will be close enough to trigger a recount. As a result, the ferocious fight between these two will go on into overtime.
Despite the uncertainty in this particular race, we did learn plenty from the rest of Tuesday’s results. To get a complete sense of exactly what we can discern, let’s dive into the contests from each of the May 17th states. Then we’ll conclude with a look ahead at the May 24th races to watch.
The headline out of PA, of course, is the aforementioned probable recount in the GOP Senate primary between Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick.
The odd woman out is Kathy Barnette, who polls showed shooting up to the top in the race’s final week, only for her to end up in third place. Barnette had to contend with a last-minute surge of negative TV ads from pro-Oz and pro-McCormick Super PACs.
The real culprit in her mind, however, was Fox News’ Sean Hannity. In the campaign’s last days, Hannity devoted multiple segments of his show to bashing Barnette as unelectable. As a result, the candidate publicly blamed the cable TV host for her defeat.
Meanwhile, Lt. Governor John Fetterman cruised to victory in the Democratic Senate primary. In my preview, I wrote about how Fetterman’s personal brand withstood all attacks from his challengers. Turns out it even held up against Fetterman’s own health, as the candidate suffered a stroke over the final weekend and had to have a pacemaker installed on Election Day.
Nonetheless, Fetterman stands tall at 58.7% of the vote and looks likely to win the most votes in all of PA’s 67 counties. Rep. Conor Lamb had to settle for a disappointing 26.2%, while State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta secured 10.5%.
Over in the Governor’s race, State Senator Doug Mastriano ran away with the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination, winning 43.4% of the vote. Former Congressman and 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta took second place with 20.1%.
Mastriano was one of the staunchest supporters of Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, to the point that he was spotted on the Capitol grounds during the January 6th riot. Mastriano also won despite an attempt by Republican insiders to rally around one alternative in order to deny Mastriano the nomination. Given all this, Sabato’s Crystal Ball moved their characterization of this race from Toss-Up to Leans Democratic.
At the same time, Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro released his own TV ad painting Mastriano as the most pro-Trump candidate, a thinly-veiled way to try to convince Republican voters to nominate Mastriano.
In response, some have noted how similar this race feels to the dynamic of the 2016 presidential race. One notable difference with this contest, however, is that Shapiro achieved Hillary Clinton’s goal of clearing the primary field. Shapiro ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination and he’s already been running a general election campaign for months.
Finally, we should note that there is another race in Pennsylvania that is currently too close to call and which may well go to a recount. In the open Pittsburgh-based 12th district seat, State Rep. Summer Lee leads attorney Steve Irwin by 446 votes.
A Lee victory would be a major triumph for progressives. She could very well become a member of The Squad, and her ascension would also provide a much-needed win for Sen. Bernie Sanders, given that he traveled to Pittsburgh last week to campaign with Lee.
The major story out of the Tarheel State the past few weeks has been the implosion of Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s career. A succession of scandals too numerous to list here hampered Cawthorn ahead of his primary contest in the 11th district.
State Senator Chuck Edwards ended up winning the GOP nomination with 29,411 votes (33.4%) over Cawthorn’s 28,092 votes (31.9%). Perhaps unexpectedly, Cawthorn quickly accepted his defeat.
In a way, the NC-11 contest overshadowed the Republican Senate primary between Rep. Ted Budd and former Governor Pat McCrory. Budd, buoyed by the support of Donald Trump, upset McCrory 445,343 votes (58.6%) to 186,760 votes (24.6%). Budd won every county in the state except Mecklenburg, where former Charlotte Mayor McCrory leads by just 70 votes. Now, Budd will face Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley in a closely-watched general election.
Speaking of Budd, with him seeking the Senate seat, suddenly the 13th district became available. College football player Bo Hines was able to ride Trump’s endorsement to victory in that wide-open primary, and he awaits a high-profile match-up with Democratic nominee Wiley Nickel in November.
Out west, our attention was mainly tuned to a trio of House races.
While we’re still waiting for all the results to come in (Oregon’s ballots are cast by mail), it appears that incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader will ultimately lose his 5th district primary to Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Schrader is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress and got a rare endorsement from President Biden. McLeod-Skinner, on the other hand, scored the support of Elizabeth Warren and was backed by progressives hoping to purge Schrader.
Meanwhile, in the 4th district and 6th district respectively, Land Commissioner Val Hoyle and State Rep. Andrea Salinas are projected to win those Democratic nominations. As opposed to McLeod-Skinner, these candidates both had the most institutional support in their contests. Given Oregon’s increasingly Democratic nature, all three will start out as favorites for November.
Up in the Potato State, conventional conservative and incumbent Governor Brad Little was challenged from the right by his (arguably insubordinate) Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin. Evidently, not even Trump’s support could help McGeachin here, as she only got 90,782 votes (32.2%) to Little’s 149,040 votes (52.8%).
Finally, the retirement of John Yarmuth opened up a golden opportunity for Democratic hopefuls in the one blue seat in deep red Kentucky. State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey ultimately held off progressive challenger Attica Scott by a 63.3% to 36.7% margin. McGarvey is now well-positioned for a long reign in this Louisville-based D+20 district.
On May 24th, primaries will be held in Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia as well as run-offs in Texas. The two marquee match-ups (in my humble opinion, at least) are the GOP Gubernatorial primary in Georgia and the Democratic run-off in Texas’ 28th Congressional District.
In Georgia, Donald Trump’s crusade of revenge against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp is on track to fall short. Trump convinced former Senator David Perdue to forgo a possible return to the upper chamber to take on Gov. Kemp, who refused to aid Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Polling suggests that even Georgia Republicans consider that an insufficient reason to throw out the incumbent. A defeat here would definitely be Trump’s most consequential of the 2022 cycle so far.
At the same time, down in Texas, the race between Rep. Henry Cuellar and Jessica Cisernos will give us a crucial peek at the mood of the Democratic electorate. Despite a close call in 2020, not to mention his own past and present legal difficulties, Cuellar was poised to defeat Cisneros yet again.
What changed? Well, the report that the Supreme Court will soon strike down Roe v. Wade.
Cuellar is one of the few anti-abortion Democrats left in Congress, in fact Cuellar and Sen. Joe Manchin were the only Dems to vote against a recent bill to codify Roe. Suddenly, the TX-28 run-off became the first opportunity for pro-choice activists to flex their revitalized muscles. A Ciscernos victory, therefore, would confirm that abortion will be an animating issue for Democratic voters this November.
Of course, these are by no means the only races we’ll be watching on May 24th. That night we’ll be reporting results for races in all four of these states, and the next morning I’ll be back here giving you the rundown once again. See you then!