Women Win U.S. House Primaries, GOP Makes Picks For Gov, Senate

May 16, 2018

Pennsylvania Republicans picked a tough-talking state senator and a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump to be their party's nominees for governor and U.S. Senate, as a big splash in U.S. House primaries made it more likely that women will break the all-male hold on Pennsylvania's congressional delegation.

State Sen. Scott Wagner, a garbage magnate, will face incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, while U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta will take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

The Republican gubernatorial candidates spent more than $20 million on the primary ballot's marquee race. The GOP contest for U.S. Senate was sleepy, but could still play a role come November in deciding whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber.

Farther down the ballot, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack became the first holder of the office to lose in a primary, while big wins for women in contested U.S. House primaries made it possible that Pennsylvania will send at least three women to Congress next year.

Following Pennsylvania's court-ordered redrawing of congressional maps, Democrats have their best shot in years of picking up U.S. House seats long held by Republicans.

Three state lawmakers also lost primary challenges.

GOVERNOR

Wagner, the GOP's endorsed candidate, spent $10 million of his own money to beat a pair of political newcomers in Paul Mango, a former health care systems consultant, and Laura Ellsworth, a commercial litigation attorney.

Wagner and Wolf are both York County residents who made millions in business before entering politics. The similarities end there.

Wolf is soft-spoken where Wagner is brash. Wolf has a Ph.D. from MIT; Wagner didn't graduate from college.

Their policy differences are just as stark.

Wagner, who's compiled one of the Senate's most conservative voting records, fashions himself as a garbage man coming to clean up a wasteful state government that chokes the economy with regulations and taxes.

"The trucks are empty, and they're ready to go," Wagner told the crowd at his election night party in York. He then accused Wolf of being "for sale" to moneyed campaign interests and said Pennsylvanians should have a governor who's a lot like them, "and I'm a lot like all of you."

In turn, Wolf's campaign called Wagner "the very worst of Harrisburg," the state capital, saying Wagner is blocking efforts to change Harrisburg and help families, and backs the state's big natural gas industry against Wolf's efforts to impose a severance tax on it.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

John Fetterman won a five-way Democratic Party primary race for lieutenant governor — and made political history.

The Braddock mayor's victory means he will run on a ticket with Wolf in the fall. He vanquished Stack, a former Philadelphia state senator, who became the first sitting lieutenant governor to lose a primary.

Stack has had a chilly relationship with Wolf, and Wolf never endorsed Stack and rarely, if ever, appeared in public with him. Wolf left Stack to fend for himself after he stripped Stack of state police protection amid complaints over how Stack and his wife treated state employees, including state police troopers.

Jeff Bartos, a real estate investor from suburban Philadelphia, beat three other candidates to win the Republican nomination.

U.S. SENATE

Barletta first made a name for himself more than a decade ago when, as mayor of a small city, he tried to crack down on illegal immigration. He was among Trump's earlier supporters and Trump, in turn, asked Barletta to run for Senate. The president is expected to visit Pennsylvania to campaign for him.

Barletta, who easily dispatched his Republican rival, state Rep. Jim Christiana, had spent the primary campaign focusing on Casey, the two-term Democrat and son of the late former governor.

In brief remarks in his hometown of Hazleton, Barletta said Tuesday night that Casey has tried to "resist, reject and obstruct" Trump's agenda, and has moved so far left he doesn't represent Pennsylvania anymore.

In a statement, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party accused Barletta of "scapegoating" immigrants, backing Republican efforts to slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy, attack Medicare and Social Security and put Trump's interests ahead of Pennsylvanians.

U.S. HOUSE

A court ruling that upended Pennsylvania's congressional maps set off a wild scramble for the state's 18 U.S. House seats.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court mandated a redrawing of the maps after concluding Republicans had unconstitutionally gerrymandered the 6-year-old map to favor their party's candidates.

That prompted a bumper crop of 84 candidates — the most in 34 years — to run in 21 primary races. Democrats' anti-Trump fervor and the fact that seven seats came open this year also helped spur the high number of candidates.

The impact of the court ruling could be seen Tuesday in Pennsylvania's 5th Congressional District outside Philadelphia, which used to have a Republican majority but now tilts Democratic.

Mary Gay Scanlon won the Delaware County-based district's 10-way Democratic primary Tuesday and is favored in November's general election.

The seat had been held by Republican Rep. Pat Meehan, who resigned amid an ethics investigation into his use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment allegations by a former aide.

Including Scanlon, Pennsylvania could send at least three women to Congress next year, breaking the all-male hold on the state's delegation.

Madeleine Dean won a three-way Democratic primary in a newly drawn Montgomery County-based seat where Democrats are favored in November.

Meanwhile, Chrissy Houlahan is the uncontested Democratic nominee for a Chester County-based seat where she's favored in November.

Women won contested Democratic primaries for three other seats in Pennsylvania, although two of those seats are in solidly Republican districts. Susan Wild won a six-way Democratic primary in an Allentown-area district and the race is considered a toss-up in November.

STATE LEGISLATURE

A Republican state senator and two Democratic state representatives lost primary challenges for their Pittsburgh-area seats.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich was beaten by Jeremy Shaffer, while Summer Lee beat nine-term Rep. Paul Costa and Sara Innamorato took out five-term Rep. Dom Costa.

Republicans picked up an open Democratic seat in Washington County in a special election. Both chambers of the Legislature have sizable Republican majorities.