Tuesday primary preview: Rick Saccone searches for redemption two months after loss to Conor Lamb
● ID-Gov (R): GOP Gov. Butch Otter is not seeking a fourth term, and three notable Republicans are running to succeed him in this very red state. The best-known candidate to national observers is Rep. Raul Labrador, a tea-partying bomb thrower who won his 2010 primary in an upset. But Labrador has not brought in anywhere close to as much money as his two main rivals, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and physician and developer Tommy Ahlquist, who have both done some significant self-funding and have well-funded outside groups backing them.
Little, who hails from a famous ranching family, is the choice of much of the state political establishment. Otter backed him early, and Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson both endorsed him as well. Physician and developer Tommy Ahlquist, who has Mitt Romney’s support, has poured millions of his fortune into his campaign, and he began advertising about a year before the primary.
There has been no recent polling. However, Little and Ahlquist have largely aired ads attacking one another while leaving Labrador alone, which could mean that they don’t think the congressman is positioned to win. The GOP nominee will likely face wealthy businessman and Boise school board president A.J. Balukoff, who lost to Otter 54-39 in 2014, a respectable showing in such a tough year. Former state Rep. Paulette Jordan is also in the mix, but she’s raised little money. However, we’ve seen women candidates perform very well in Democratic primaries this year, so we won’t rule out an upset.
● OR-Gov (R): Republicans haven’t won the governorship in Oregon since Vic Atiyeh was re-elected in 1982, but party leaders hope that state Rep. Knute Buehler will give Democratic Gov. Kate Brown a run for her money. Buehler is the primary frontrunner, but there are some late signs he may not be as secure as he’d previously looked.
Buehler has spent most of the $ 3.5 million he’s raised to ensure he wins the primary, even though his two main rivals, businessman Sam Carpenter and retired Navy pilot Greg Wooldridge, have little money between them. Carpenter has been emphasizing his opposition to abortion, compared to self-proclaimed “pro-choice” Republican Buehler, while Buehler has returned fire with some negative ads aimed at Carpenter.
A late April poll from Carpenter actually showed him trailing Buehler 39-24, which was a big drop from their 23-23 tie in March. (Carpenter’s unusual decision to release this poll was an unsuccessful gambit to encourage Wooldridge to drop out of the race to help him consolidate the anti-Buehler vote.) However, the Democratic group Global Strategy Group put out a different poll for an unnamed client late in the race showing Buehler with a smaller 33-25 edge, while Wooldridge took just 8. Democrats are likely trying to push anti-abortion primary voters who are trying to decide between Buehler’s opponents toward Carpenter rather than Wooldridge in order to try and get a weaker Republican nominated.
● PA-Gov (R): Republicans are hoping to give Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf a serious challenge in this competitive state, and the frontrunner for the GOP nod appears to be wealthy state Sen. Scott Wagner, who has the endorsement of the state party and has self-funded heavily. Wagner’s main foe is businessman and retired Army Ranger Paul Mango, who has also poured millions into his campaign.
The two have run an exceptionally nasty race. One Mango ad accused Wagner of being a “slum lord” and a “deadbeat dad,” while Wagner’s daughter countered by calling Mango “not half the man my father is” in a spot for the state senator. Wagner outspent Mango $ 5 million to $ 2.2 million during April, and the only recent poll we’ve seen showed him ahead 37-23. Attorney Laura Ellsworth is also in, but she’s raised little money and doesn’t have many allies.
● ID-01 (R) (64-25 Trump, 65-32 Romney): Rep. Raul Labrador and the radical anti-tax Club for Growth are supporting former state Sen. Russ Fulcher in the primary for this heavily Republican western Idaho seat. Fulcher lost a 2014 primary challenge to Gov. Butch Otter by a surprisingly close 51-44 margin, and he planned to run for governor again before deferring to Labrador. Former Lt. Gov. David Leroy, a prominent local attorney, appears to be Fulcher’s main primary rival. Leroy lost a very tight race for governor to Democrat Cecil Andrus all the way back in 1986, and he lost a 1994 House primary 48-29 to eventual winner Helen Chenoweth.
Fulcher and Leroy each spent about $ 110,000 during the pre-primary period, while state Rep. Luke Malek deployed $ 85,000 during this time. However, Fulcher has benefited from another $ 512,000 in spending from the Club for Growth, while major outside groups haven’t done much for any other candidate.
● NE-02 (D) (48-46 Trump, 53-46 Romney): Republican Don Bacon unseated freshman Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford in this competitive Omaha seat by a narrow 49-48 in 2016, and Ashford is seeking a rematch. But first, Ashford needs to get past Kara Eastman, a nonprofit head and member of the Metropolitan Community College Board.
Ashford, who is on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list for top candidates, began the race with a big name-recognition edge over Eastman, and he’s decisively outspent her. However, Eastman does have the support of some local Democratic elected and party officials, and she’s been running to the left of Ashford, a former Republican who has always portrayed himself as a moderate. An Eastman victory would be an upset, but in a year where women have been doing well in Democratic primaries, we could see it happen.
● PA-01 (D) (49-47 Clinton, 50-49 Obama): GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who was elected to succeed his brother in 2016, is a top Democratic target in this competitive suburban Philadelphia seat. The two main candidates are wealthy lawyer Scott Wallace, who chaired an investment fund that finances efforts to combat global warming, and Navy veteran and JAG attorney Rachel Reddick.
Wallace has the backing of much of the local party establishment in Bucks County, which makes up the vast majority of this seat, while Reddick has the national groups VoteVets and EMILY’s List on her side. Wallace has been doing some significant self-funding, and he outspent Reddick $ 2 million to $ 141,000 during the pre-primary period. But once again, with women faring so well in Democratic primaries, Reddick may very well be able to pull off a win.
● PA-04 (D) (58-38 Clinton, 56-43 Obama): Court-ordered redistricting created a new congressional district that includes most of Montgomery County in the Philadelphia suburbs, and the Democratic nominee should have little trouble carrying it.
Much of the state and local establishment has consolidated behind state Rep. Madeleine Dean. Prominent gun-safety activist Shira Goodman did outspend her $ 129,000 to $ 63,000 during the pre-primary period, though Dean had considerably more money available for the final weeks of the campaign. Joe Hoeffel, a former congressman who unexpectedly decided to run just before the filing deadline, could have an opening thanks to his name recognition, but he’s had trouble winning over prominent allies or raising money. Many local party activists have also made it clear that they want to nominate a woman, which could hold back Hoeffel.
● PA-05 (D) (63-34 Clinton, 63-36 Obama): There’s a crowded and well-funded Democratic field running for this new seat, which is dominated by Delaware County and contains a small portion of Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
It’s anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious, but there are signs that attorney Mary Gay Scanlon is the frontrunner. Scanlon, who has the support of former Gov. Ed Rendell, spent the most money during the pre-primary period, and she’s had leads in three different polls over the last few weeks, with state Rep. Greg Vitali and former federal prosecutor Ashley Lunkenheimer her nearest opponents. However, it’s very possible any number of candidates could win.
Scanlon outspent Lunkenheimer $ 340,000 to $ 318,000 during the pre-primary period, but a super PAC financed by Lunkenheimer’s mother has deployed about $ 100,000 on her behalf. Former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer didn’t poll well in any of the three surveys, but he’s very close to local unions, and a labor-funded super PAC has spent $ 1 million for him. Philadelphia only makes up a small portion of this seat, but if Lazer does well in the city while the Delaware County vote is split, he’ll have an opening. Lazer also picked up an endorsement on Friday from Bernie Sanders, which could help him stand out.
Vitali, despite his standing in the polls, has a poor relationship with legislative leaders and has raised very little money, so he could have a tough time winning over undecided voters, who’ve made up a plurality in every survey. Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and state Rep. Margo Davidson, meanwhile, have spent very little, but in an entirely revamped district like this one, no outcome would shock us.
● PA-07 (D & R) (49-48 Clinton, 53-46 Obama): Both parties are going to compete hard for this open swing seat in the Lehigh Valley. The Democratic primary is a three-way contest between Pastor Greg Edwards, former Allentown Solicitor Susan Wild, and longtime Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli.
Morganelli is a self-described “pro-life” Democrat who gave GOP Sen. Pat Toomey some useful help during the tight 2016 Senate race and has praised Trump repeatedly, but he nevertheless has a very strong shot at victory. Morganelli’s Northampton base makes up just over 40 percent of this seat, and he did well in this area during his unsuccessful 2016 primary bid for attorney general. He also has some labor support, and he’s benefited from outside spending from a group called United Together that’s tied to the awful No Labels.
Edwards and Wild have been running as more conventional Democrats, and there’s a very real chance that they’ll split the liberal non-Morganelli vote. Still, outside groups are spending to stop him. EMILY’s List, which is backing Wild, has aired ads supporting her and going after Morganelli, while Tom Steyer’s NextGen America is also spending against Morganelli. Edwards also has Bernie Sanders’ endorsement.
Things are a lot more quiet on the GOP side, where Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein, who won a gold medal in cycling at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, faces former Lehigh Commissioner Dean Browning. Nothstein outspent Browning $ 124,000 to $ 55,000 during the pre-primary period, and Browning’s recent electoral history is poor. The NRCC added Nothstein to the first rung of their Young Guns candidate program in the final week of the race, a strong signal that national Republicans are rooting for him.
● PA-08 (R) (53-44 Trump, 55-43 Obama): This seat in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area swung hard from Obama to Trump, but it’s not clear if the GOP will seriously target Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in a year where they’re largely on the defensive. The three Republicans competing here are John Chrin, a wealthy former JP Morgan managing director, former federal prosecutor Joe Peters, and businessman Robert Kuniegel.
Chrin has poured over $ 1 million of his own money into his campaign, but he has weak ties to the area. Chrin kicked off his bid against Cartwright last year while still living in the extremely wealthy community of Short Hills, which just so happens to be in New Jersey. And while Chrin grew up in Northampton County, his childhood home is located in the neighboring 7th District.
Peters has the opposite issue. While he did live outside the district until recently, he’s the son of a former Scranton mayor and served as a police officer in the city. But Peters has raised very little money, so he may struggle to get his name out. Kuniegel, who has done some self-funding, is a longtime area resident who may be able to thread the needle here.
● PA-09 (R) (65-31 Trump, 57-41 Romney): The GOP nominee should have little trouble winning this newly created seat in coal country northwest of the Philadelphia area. Former state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser has loaned his campaign $ 530,000, and he’s portrayed Schuylkill County Commissioner George Halcovage as a serial tax hiker. Meuser spent a considerable $ 450,000 during the pre-primary period, while Halcovage filed his required paperwork with the FEC well over a week after the deadline.
● PA-10 (D) (52-43 Trump, 53-46 Romney): GOP Rep. Scott Perry, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, is a potential Democratic target in a seat that includes Harrisburg and York. The two main Democratic candidates look like former Obama administration staffer Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, who has the support of EMILY’s List, and public health scientist Eric Ding. Ding outspent Corbin-Johnson $ 75,000 to $ 54,000 during the pre-primary period.
● PA-11 (R) (61-35 Trump, 60-38 Romney): Freshman GOP Rep. Lloyd Smucker faces a primary rematch with wealthy businessman Chet Beiler, who just happens to be his second cousin. Smucker defeated Beiler 54-46 in 2016 for what was an open seat (it was numbered the 16th District back then), and it doesn’t seem like he’s done much to offend conservative voters over the following two years. But Beiler, who has self-funded almost all of his campaign, outspent Smucker by about $ 200,000 to $ 50,000 during the pre-primary period.
● PA-13 (R) (71-25 Trump, 67-32 Romney): There’s a crowded GOP primary for this open seat in rural southern Pennsylvania. Dermatologist John Joyce has been doing a considerable amount of self-funding, and the $ 326,000 he deployed during the pre-primary period was considerably more than what anyone else spent. State Rep. Stephen Bloom spent $ 200,000 during this time, though he may have problems winning since most of his Cumberland County legislative seat is outside this district. State Sen. John Eichelberger spent only $ 43,000, but the longtime Altoona area politician may benefit from name-recognition. The other GOP candidates have spent almost nothing.
Outside groups started to get involved in the final weeks of the race. While the anti-tax Club for Growth has not endorsed anyone, they’ve aired ads attacking Joyce for donating to Democrats. However, a group called CLA, Inc. is airing ads promoting Joyce and hitting Bloom and Eichelberger. House Freedom Action, which is allied with the far-right Freedom Caucus, has also run a spot praising Bloom.