Home Politics The first test of the ‘Squad’ and a presidential protest vote: five stories for the Pennsylvania primaries

The first test of the ‘Squad’ and a presidential protest vote: five stories for the Pennsylvania primaries

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The first test of the 'Squad' and a presidential protest vote: five stories for the Pennsylvania primaries

PHILADELPHIA – Pennsylvania could be the most important state for both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in November. But since both have already secured their parties’ nominations, Tuesday’s most interesting primary in the Keystone State will be ruled out.

In Pittsburgh, Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) is the first member of the progressive ‘Squad’ to face a primary challenge this year, although a victory for her seems more than likely at this point. And in other districts, Democrats and Republicans will choose their candidates for potentially competitive general elections.

One congressional race is already set: the already expensive state Senate race between Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Dave McCormick, who are unopposed in their respective primaries.

There are also competitive primaries for state offices, and even the dormant presidential race could reveal a few things about key Pennsylvania suburbs. Here are five things we’ll see tonight:

The ‘Squad’ faces its first test

Lee is the first member of the progressive ‘Squad’ to face a primary challenge this cycle, and one of the first major tests of the impact of the war between Israel and Hamas. But he may not be as formidable a challenge for Lee as he might once have seemed.

Lee was first elected last cycle after winning a hotly contested Democratic primary, where pro-Israel groups spent millions opposing her. But the same groups have he was left out of his confrontation with Edgewood County Councilwoman Bhavini Patel this year, even as the Israeli invasion of Gaza has loomed over Democratic politics and Lee was one of the first members of Congress to call for a ceasefire.

There were still some outside expenses. The moderate PAC, which was supported by Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, has spent about $570,000 opposing Lee, and some of the ads accuse her of not supporting Biden enough. But most of that spending came earlier this spring: The group has lost just $6,000 in the past two weeks, according to ad-tracking firm AdImpact, perhaps a sign that the race isn’t as competitive as the group ever thought it was.

Lee was accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) while campaigning in Pittsburgh last weekend. A victory would be a victory for progressives in Congress. But other members of the ‘Squad,’ like Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), still face tougher tests ahead.

Republicans choose their candidates for key congressional races

Republicans will choose their candidate to face Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) in the competitive 7th Congressional District, which includes Allentown and the Lehigh Valley. Wild won by two points in 2022, a good year for Pennsylvania Democrats.

He faces three potential challengers: state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, National Guard veteran Kevin Dellicker and Maria Montero, who served in former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration. Dellicker has had a slight financial lead in the race, but whoever wins the primary will have a lot of catching up to do in terms of money, as the Wild reported $2.6 million in cash on hand earlier this month.

As Republicans seek to retain the House, they are also keeping a close eye on Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District, where Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) faces a challenge from anti-abortion activist Mark Houck.

The 1st Congressional District includes all of dynamic Bucks County and a portion of neighboring Montgomery County. But the current president’s brand is strong in the district won by Biden: Fitzpatrick, a moderate who was preceded by his brother Mike in the seat, won by almost 10 points two years ago. However, if Houck were to defeat him, he would open the door for Democrats to flip the district. Democrat Ashley Ehasz, whom Fitzpatrick defeated in 2022, will run again this year.

Fitzpatrick has easily defeated right-wing rivals in the primary several times, and it’s not clear that Houck has a better path to pulling off an upset, even after Democrats tried to interfere in primary school. But Republicans will breathe a little easier once Fitzpatrick secures the nomination.

Democrats will also choose their candidate against Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who won re-election by 8 points in 2022. Perry, who has close ties to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, represents a central Pennsylvania district that the then president narrowly won. year.

There are six Democrats on the ballot, but the leading contenders appear to be former local television news anchor Janelle Stelson, Marine Corps veteran Mike O’Brien and Harrisburg City Councilwoman Shamaine Daniels, who lost to Perry two years ago.

Presidential protest votes?

Pennsylvania is the largest and most important presidential swing state, so although Biden and Trump have amassed far more delegates than needed to secure their respective nominations, the state’s presidential primary is worth watching.

Both parties have zombie candidates (those who have suspended their campaigns but had already secured ballot access in future states) on the ballots.

On the Republican side, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is the only alternative to Trump. As in other post-Super Tuesday states that voted after she ended her campaign, a strong showing by Haley in places like the Philadelphia suburbs could be a warning sign about Trump’s ability to win back the voters he lost. in their 2020 defeat.

The Democratic race won’t be as interesting. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have the “uncommitted” ballot line, which has become a popular protest vote for those who disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas. And the only other candidate on the ballot, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), largely shares Biden’s policies and voted in favor of aid to Israel last week when he appeared before the House.

clashes between attorneys general

Perhaps the most competitive race in Pennsylvania on Tuesday is the Democratic contest for the state’s attorney general. The position is the only state position without an incumbent this year. And it’s notable that previous Pennsylvania attorneys general have a pattern of becoming governor; just look at current Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, or Corbett, a Republican.

Five Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination. State Rep. Jared Solomon of Philadelphia and Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer are the two who have raised enough money to run television ads. Both have touted their support for abortion rights. Also in the race are former state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, former Bucks County Attorney Joe Khan and Keir Bradford-Grey, the former chief public defender in Philadelphia.

The Republican race is a battle between state Rep. Craig Williams of Delaware County and York County District Attorney Dave Sunday. Both have taken a tough-on-crime approach, with Williams leading a Republican legislative effort to recall Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, which passed the state House but was rejected by the Senate. Sunday, who is backed by the state Republican Party, has touted a drop in gun violence in York County during his tenure.

The Northeast Philadelphia primaries and the Democrats’ dilemma

State Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Democrat from Northeast Philadelphia, faces a primary challenge on Tuesday. His whereabouts have also been publicly unknown since last week, after police issued an arrest warrant for him, accusing him of violating a protection from abuse order. That The order was withdrawn on Monday..

Boyle, who has spoken openly about his mental health issues in the past and whose family has expressed concern for his well-being, may lose his primary. Democrats recruited a challenger, Sean Dougherty, earlier this year after an incident in which Boyle was caught on video yelling at restaurant staff. Dougherty is a former assistant public defender who, like Boyle, is from a well-known Pennsylvania political family.

But there is a lingering problem for Democrats even if Boyle loses the primary. The party currently has a two-seat majority in the lower house. That number is likely to shrink to a one-seat lead after a special election also being held Tuesday in Republican-leaning House District 139.

Democrats have already used proxy voting to cast votes on Boyle’s behalf using a permanent designation of him, even when his whereabouts are unclear. (The math is complicated because another Republican member is currently on leave from the House while deployed overseas.)

But that process, criticized by Republicans, will become less sustainable as time goes on. Democrats have suggested launching an investigation into Boyle’s fitness to serve in office that could lead to his eventual ouster. But he still creates a difficult situation in the closely divided chamber and focuses even more attention on Tuesday’s race.

A version of this story first appeared in POLITICO Pro’s Morning Score newsletter.Sign up for POLITICO Pro.

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