Pennsylvania Remapped: Primaries Enter New Territory

May 14, 2018

Roll Call: Pennsylvania Remapped: Primaries Enter New Territory

By: Bridget Bowman

Keystone State is hosting several competitive House primaries

Tuesday’s primary elections in Pennsylvania will be the first contests under the state’s new congressional map, and they will set the November matchups in a state that has seen a surge of House candidates.

Ninety-four people — 59 Democrats and 35 Republicans — filed to run for Congress in the Keystone State this cycle. The high number of candidates is due in part to several open-seat races.

Some of the fall contests are essentially set. Rep. Lou Barletta appears poised to win the Republican primary for Senate to take on Democratic incumbent Bob Casey.

Newly elected Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb cleared the field in the 17th District near Pittsburgh to take on GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus.
Democrat Chrissy Houlahan and Republican tax lawyer Greg McCauley are the remaining 6th District candidates for the seat outside of Philadelphia, vacated by GOP Rep. Ryan A. Costello.

And John Chrin appears likely to win the GOP primary to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in the 8th District, which became more Republican under the new lines.

Still, a handful of competitive House races will be set after Tuesday’s contests. And some could also determine likely new members of Congress, with a number of open seats that are solidly in one party’s column.

1. Year of the woman?

There are no women in Pennsylvania’s 20-member congressional delegation, but a slew of female candidates are hoping to change that. EMILYs List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, have endorsed in five races that could be pickups for the party. But it has yet to weigh in on another Likely Democratic race that features multiple women in the primary.

All five of the EMILYs List candidates joined the group’s president Stephanie Schriock on a Thursday press call, in which they described Pennsylvania politics as a “boys club.” The women noted that endorsements from county parties (which tend to be led by men) carry weight in primaries, which has been a barrier to female candidates.

“We have struggled to get through the support of a lot of those old structures in Pennsylvania,” Schriock said. “And we needed a moment like this with candidates like this.”

Women Vote!, the independent expenditure arm of EMILYs List, has spent more than $700,000 in three primaries in Pennsylvania, boosting its candidates and spending against anti-abortion Democrat John Morganelli in the 7th District primary.

One race that could determine Tuesday if a woman will join the delegation next year is the open race in the 4th District in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Two women — state Rep. Madeleine Dean and gun control activist Shira Goodman — are competing against former Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel. The winner will be highly favored in November given that the race is rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

EMILYs List has spent $247,000 boosting Dean, which she said was helpful since the district is in the expensive Philadelphia media market.

2. Open seats

Seven of Pennsylvania’s 18 House districts are hosting open-seat races, thanks to a series of retirements and resignations (including some lawmakers amid scandal).

The 7th District in Lehigh Valley is expected to be among the most competitive of the open seats. The district, vacated by GOP Rep. Charlie Dent, shifted from one President Donald Trump carried by 8 points in 2016 to one that would have voted for Hillary Clinton by 1 point.

A crowded field of six Democrats are competing for the nomination, and the more conservative Morganelli is viewed as one of the front-runners because of his high name recognition as a longtime district attorney.

EMILYs List is backing former Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild. Pastor Greg Edwards has the backing of a number of liberal groups and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned for him earlier this month. (The Vermont independent was also in the state campaigning for Jessica King, the only Democrat vying to take on GOP Rep. Lloyd K. Smucker in a Solid Republican 11th District race.)

On the GOP side in the 7th District, ex-Olympian Marty Nothstein is competing against Dean Browning, a former Lehigh County commissioner who has cast himself as the pro-Trump candidate. But Nothstein’s notoriety in the area — one state operative described him as a local legend — could help him win.

Pennsylvania’s 5th District is also hosting a crowded open-seat primary for a Likely Democratic race, and it’s not clear who might win. Former school board member Mary Gay Scanlon and former U.S. Attorney Ashley Lunkenheimer have led the field in fundraising. Former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer is also a top candidate, and he received Sanders’ endorsement Friday. 

Pearl Kim, a former Pennsylvania senior deputy attorney general, is the lone Republican running in the 5th District, the successor to the old 7th that GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan vacated amid allegations of sexual harassment. But Republicans acknowledge it will be difficult to hold the seat under the new lines. Clinton would have won it by 28 points.

Three safe Republican districts are also witnessing open-seat contests, so all of the action is focused on the crowded GOP primaries.

Former state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser is a top candidate in the open 9th District, which comprises some of Barletta’s old territory. Meuser loaned his campaign $530,000 and has spent $733,000 on the race. Schott Uehlinger, a former Navy and CIA officer, who was running for Dent’s seat before the lines shifted, raised $102,000 for his campaign.

GOP Rep. Bill Shuster’s retirement opened up the new 13th District, which has seen some outside groups playing in the primary.

Main Street Partnership, which supports the “governing wing” of the Republican Party, launched digital ads and mailers backing physician John Joyce. But the conservative Club for Growth Action launched a television ad and digital spots against him, saying he was not a true Republican and would not support Trump’s agenda.

Joyce has raised $518,000, the most of the primary field. State Rep. Steve Bloom, who describes himself as a “tested conservative leader,” raised $332,000 over the course of his campaign. State Sen. John Eichelberger and businessman Art Halvorson, who unsuccessfully challenged Shuster the last two cycles, have also raised more than $100,000.

The third safe Republican open seat is the new 14th District near Pittsburgh, featuring a familiar name to those following recent special elections. State Rep. Rick Saccone is running here after losing March special election to Lamb in the old 18th District. Saccone’s top competition appears to be state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, who was also endorsed by the Main Street Partnership.

The seat is open following GOP Rep. Tim Murphy’s resignation last year due to a sex scandal (and his successor Lamb’s decision to run in the neighboring 17th District, which is more Democratic). Murphy hasn’t completely disappeared though — he bankrolled an outside group backing Reschenthaler.

3. Democratic targets
Democrats looking to flip the House see a number of pickup opportunities in Pennsylvania due to the new congressional map. The 7th and 5th districts are top targets for them, as are the 17th and 6th districts where the general election matchups are already set.

One other target where the primary will determine the Democratic challenger is in the 1st District near Philadelphia held by freshman GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.

Rachel Reddick, who served as a prosecutor with the U.S. Navy, faces philanthropist Scott Wallace. Democrats expect Wallace to win, largely because he has vastly outspent Reddick in the primary.

Wallace lent his campaign $2.5 million, and spent $1.6 million on cable and broadcast television, according to media buying figures shared with Roll Call. He spent 15 times more on TV ads than Reddick, who’s spent $103,000 on the airwaves. EMILYs List spent $247,000 on her behalf.

Democrats are also eyeing GOP Rep. Scott Perry’s seat after the lines were redrawn. Perry currently represents 60 percent of the new 10th District, and his seat shifted from one that Trump carried by 22 points to one that would have supported him by 9 points.

A handful of Democrats are facing off to take on Perry, including epidemiologist Eric Ding and former Obama administration aide Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, who has also been endorsed by EMILYs List.