A week after carrying J.D. Vance to victory in the Ohio Senate primary, Donald Trump’s preferred Republicans went 1-1 in tonight’s results.
In West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, two incumbent Congressmen were drawn into one district thanks to the Mountain State losing a seat during reapportionment. While Rep. Alex Mooney had Trump and Club for Growth in his corner, Rep. David McKinley was backed by Gov. Jim Justice and Sen. Joe Manchin.
McKinley’s two major sins in Trump’s eyes were apparently voting to create the January 6th Commission and voting for President Biden’s infrastructure bill. If that is true, then those votes did indeed prove deadly for McKinley’s career.
At the time of this writing, with just about all of the precincts in, Mooney had 44,806 votes (54.21%) against Mooney’s 29,442 votes (35.62%).
Meanwhile, over in Nebraska, Trump’s favorite Republican was not as lucky. Businessman Charles Herbster was a long-time Trump associate from even before the famous escalator ride (which Herbster was in fact present for). The two men even share groping allegations, as eight women recently claimed that Herbster inappropriately touched them.
Given such baggage, all eyes were on Nebraska to see if Trump’s imprimatur could push Herbster past businessman (and establishment favorite) Jim Pillen as well as State Senator Brett Lindstrom.
With just about all of the vote in, Decision Desk HQ has called the race for Pillen, who’s secured 88,569 votes (33.75%) so far. Herbster will have to settle for second place, with 79,068 votes (30.13%), and Lindstrom third with 67,375 votes (25.68%).
Now, with the topline May 10th results behind us, let’s look ahead to the major primary contests set to take place on May 17th.
In my biased opinion, the main event of the May 17th primaries is the contests in the Keystone State. Thanks to the retirement of Senator Pat Toomey, and Governor Tom Wolf hitting his term limit, PA is home to four statewide open primaries.
Most analysts, myself included, have spent their time on a Democratic Senate contest that may turn out to be anti-climatic. Congressman Conor Lamb and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta have been unable to gain traction against front-runner and Lt. Governor John Fetterman, as not even a pair of lackluster debate performances could dent Fetterman’s lead in the polls.
In hindsight, Fetterman’s decade-long effort to build a political brand was too difficult to overcome in just a few months. Through dozens of magazine profiles, a 2016 Senate run, his 2018 Lt. Gov campaign, and countless cable TV hits Fetterman pulled off the rare alchemy of being a well-known outsider.
Meanwhile, in the GOP Senate primary, another candidate with high name ID is having a tougher time. Despite years of TV exposure, and the endorsement of Donald Trump, Mehmet Oz is holding a tenuous lead among a largely undecided electorate. Even when Trump headlined a rally for Oz, several reporters noted that any mention of Oz would prompt some boos from the crowd.
All the while, Oz and hedge fund CEO David McCormick are fighting a multi-million dollar battle over the commonwealth’s airwaves. McCormick, the quiet hope of the Republican establishment, remains very much still in it. Furthermore, there’s even a possibility that conservative firebrand Kathy Barnette could make a late charge and win the nomination herself.
With all the focus on the Senate race, however, PA’s open gubernatorial contest has been a bit overshadowed. It doesn’t help, of course, that Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Nevertheless, there’s another intriguing free-for-all for the GOP slot.
State Rep. Doug Mastriano, a fervent proponent of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, sits atop the latest polls. Should he win, the Shapiro camp is sure to highlight his ultra-conservative record as well as videos showing him on the Capitol grounds during the January 6th insurrection.
Former Congressman Lou Barletta, an early Trump supporter and immigration opponent, is currently battling for second place with former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain. While Trump vehemently denounced McSwain, he’s yet to actually endorse a candidate, suggesting he could be torn between Mastriano and Barletta.
Now, with just a few days left to go, it appears Republican insiders are aghast at the possibility of Mastriano and Barnette leading their ticket. The two controversial conservatives made a mutual support pact that has them both gaining steam as Election Day nears.
According to reports from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Politico, GOP leaders are working on an arrangement of their own. The plan is to convince other Gubernatorial candidates to drop out so one of them can consolidate support and defeat Mastriano. The hang up, as you might expect, is that they can’t agree on who should leave the race and who they all should get behind.
Before moving on to the rest of the May 17th states, we should look at two PA congressional primaries. In the open Pittsburgh-based 12th district, State Rep. Summer Lee is leading the way for this D+15 seat. Bernie Sanders is holding a rally for Lee on Thursday, and a Lee victory would be a much-needed win for the Vermont Senator and his wing of the party.
Finally, in Conor Lamb’s old 17th district, several parties are vying for this D+1 seat. In the Democratic primary, veteran and establishment favorite Chris DeLuzio is running against party organizer and progressive champion Sean Meloy. On the Republican side, party officials are lining up behind Jeremy Shaffer, who is facing challenges from Jason Killmeyer and Kathy Kozak Coder.
For months, the North Carolina GOP Senate primary loomed over Donald Trump’s head as a potential embarrassment. The former President went out on a limb to support Rep. Ted Budd over former Governor Pat McCrory, the choice of retiring Sen. Richard Burr. Yet McCrory continued to hold the polling lead. As spring sprung, however, suddenly Budd found himself on top and Trump was on the verge of an upset win.
Additionally, the Tarheel State is awash with competitive congressional districts. One contributing factor to that is the Census reapportionment, which granted North Carolina another seat.
First up is the 1st district, a D+5 seat being vacated by retiring incumbent G.K. Butterfield, where State Senator Don Davis has the support of labor and local officials. Speaking of retirements, another in the heavily Democratic 4th district sets up a contest between musician Clay Aiken, State Senator Valerie Foushee and activist Nida Allam.
Perhaps you’ve heard about Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s problems this month? The GOP incumbent’s practically never-ending series of scandals provides an opening to primary challenger State Senator Chuck Edwards. Reportedly even Donald Trump has grown wary of Cawthorn’s chances and regrets supporting the scandal-plagued pol.
Lastly, the 13th district is a bit of a free-for-all, with 8 Republicans and 5 Democrats on the ballot. One Republican hopeful should sound familiar, though, former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. Ellmers rode the Tea Party wave to victory in 2010, only to be deemed too close to House leadership and tossed out in a 2016 primary. Now she’ll try to win back those conservatives she lost six years ago.
Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin sure hasn’t made life easy for Governor Brad Little. On two separate occasions in 2021, McGeachin used the temporary power she gained during a Little out-of-state visit to issue anti-masking and anti-vaccination executive orders.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that McGeachin jumped at the chance to primary Little last year or that she managed to win Trump’s endorsement. Idaho Republicans, though, are apparently perfectly happy with Gov. Little, who enjoys a massive polling advantage over McGeachin. Accordingly, Trump’s been quiet about a race that will likely count against his prized endorsement record.
With incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown term-limited, a host of Dems are jumping at the opportunity to succeed her. Leading that pack are former Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek and State Treasurer Tobias Read. Kotek leads the endorsement race and an internal Read poll from last month even found Kotek ahead by five points.
Additionally, there’s a trio of Democratic Congressional primaries in the Beaver State. Peter DeFazio’s retirement leaves the coastal 4th district open, although he tapped Land Commissioner Val Hoyle as his preferred replacement. In OR-5 one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, Kurt Schrader, got a well-timed endorsement from Joe Biden as he seeks to fend off a progressive challenger.
Then there’s the newly created 6th district, created thanks to reapportionment from the 2020 Census. Nine Democrats are fighting for this D+3 seat, although State Rep. Andrea Salinas has the advantage with the support of Gov. Brown, Planned Parenthood and the SEIU.
Incumbent Senator Rand Paul is expected to cruise in the GOP primary, while former State Rep. Charles Booker is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. The race to watch, though, is the Democratic primary in the open 3rd district. The Louisville-based 3rd is the one blue seat in the commonwealth, represented by retiring Rep. John Yarmuth. Yarmuth is backing State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey as his replacement, while State Rep. Attica Scott is running as the progressive insurgent.
Make sure to come back to Decision Desk HQ for comprehensive coverage of these and all the other May 17th primary contests.