7 min read

Wake Up To Politics - May 17, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Primary day primer
Wake Up To Politics - May 17, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, May 17, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 175 days away. Election Day 2024 is 903 days away.

We’ve got a packed edition for you today. First off, a primer of what to watch in today’s primary elections, which feature a range of interesting characters — from a television doctor to a 6-foot-8 lieutenant governor to a cryptocurrency billionaire.

Later on, we’ve got a few more key headlines for the day, as well as a preview of President Biden’s visit to Buffalo today to offer his condolences after the mass shooting over the weekend.

Let’s dive in:

Primary primer: What to watch in today’s elections

Voters will head to the polls today in five states (Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) for some of the most highly anticipated primary elections of the 2022 midterms.

The marquee contest of the day is in Pennsylvania, where Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s retirement is creating an open Senate seat in one of the country’s most competitive battleground states.

With the seat likely to play a key role in deciding control of the Senate this November, both the Democratic and Republican fields have attracted crowded primary fields:

On the Republican side, the race has been dominated by two self-funding multi-millionaires: Mehmet Oz (known as television’s “Dr. Oz”) and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. Oz and McCormick have both poured millions into the race, making it one of the most expensive primaries of the year.

But in the race’s final days, a third candidate has surged in the polls: right-wing political commentator Kathy Barnette. Republicans from the Oz and McCormick camps have frantically mobilized to stop her momentum, noting that Barnette is largely unvetted, as evidenced by recent reports of her Islamophoic tweets and attendance outside the Capitol on January 6.

The closely watched race has split Trumpworld three ways, with the former president backing Oz but close allies like Mike Pompeo, Kellyanne Conway, and Ted Cruz backing McCormick. Barnette, meanwhile, is being backed by right-wing figures like Michael Flynn and Sebastian Gorka. The primary will be a key test of Trump’s influence in the GOP, after he made a somewhat risky gamble by going all-in for Oz, his fellow television veteran.

Dr. Mehmet Oz (left) has a slim lead in the polls in Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary. (Oz campaign)

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has been the candidate to beat for most of the year. Fetterman has long stood out on the political stage, not just for his 6-foot-8 frame and his shorts-and-a-hoodie uniform: He’s an unapologetic progressive in a purple state, who supported Bernie Sanders and flew a marijuana flag outside his office — but also has faced controversy for once pulling a gun on a Black jogger.

Then, on Sunday, the race got hit with a curveball: Fetterman announced that he’d suffered a stroke on Friday, which pulled him off the campaign trail for the primary’s final days. The lieutenant governor, who says he will soon make a full recovery, will not be at his own election watch party tonight.

Fetterman has held a considerable polling lead for months, but it’s possible that his health challenge will provide a late burst of momentum for one of his rivals. The other top candidates in the race are Rep. Conor Lamb, a moderate Democrat who sees himself in Biden’s mold, and state Rep. Malcom Kenyatta, a 31-year-old Black gay man.

  • Polling snapshot: Per RealClearPolitics, Fetterman stands at 43%, with Lamb at 12% and Kenyatta at 6% — but fewer polls have been conducted than in the GOP primary, and none since Fetterman’s stroke.
Often clad in a hoodie, John Fetterman has long cut a unique figure on the political scene. (Pennsylvania governor’s office)

Other primaries to watch

Also in Pennsylvania, there’s an open gubernatorial race. Trump-backed state Sen. Doug Mastriano is the GOP frontrunner, but his ardent promotion of Trump’s 2020 election lies is sparking fears among Republicans about his electability. State attorney general Josh Shapiro, who tested positive for Covid just this morning, has the Democratic nomination sewn up.

In Oregon, mysterious donations from a cryptocurrency billionaire have brought attention to a Democratic House primary. In the race, crypto-backed Carrick Flynn faces off against state Rep. Andrea Salinas, who is backed by a slew of Latino groups as well as progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • Meanwhile, moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is facing a viable primary challenge from progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Biden has waded into the race with an endorsement of Schrader; further asserting herself in party politics, Warren has also put her chips behind McLeod-Skinner.

In North Carolina, the GOP Senate primary provides another test for Trump, who endorsed Rep. Ted Budd over Rep. Mark Walker and former Gov. Pat McCrory.

In Idaho, a unique GOP gubernatorial primary is playing out as Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is challenging Gov. Brad Little. Trump has endorsed McGeachin, a darling of the far right.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn is in a fight for his political life. (Gage Skidmore)

Polls close at 6pm ET

More news to know

Campaign finance: “The Supreme Court split along ideological lines in striking another campaign finance restriction Monday, agreeing with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s challenge to federal limits on the use of post-election contributions to repay a candidate’s loan to his campaign.” Washington Post

Ukraine: “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia faced a series of setbacks Monday over the Ukraine invasion, as his faltering military appeared forced to further shrink its goals and an emboldened NATO practiced war games with the alliance’s two newest applicants on his country’s doorstep.” New York Times

Redistricting: “A court-drawn plan for New York’s congressional districts would increase the number of competitive seats in the state, pit incumbents against each other and erode what had been a significant Democratic advantage under a map struck down earlier this year.” Wall Street Journal

Somalia: “President Biden has signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia — largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.” New York Times

Baby formula: “The baby formula manufacturer at the heart of a nationwide formula recall said Monday that it has reached an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration to enter into a consent decree, a legally binding agreement that would require the company to take certain steps in response to violations found at its Sturgis, Michigan, facility.” CNN

Sen. Ted Cruz scored a major victory at the Supreme Court on Monday. (Gage Skidmore)

What’s going on in Washington today

All times Eastern.

President Biden will travel with the first lady to Buffalo, New York, where 13 people (10 of whom were Black) were shot on Saturday in a racially motivated attack.

  • Biden’s trip schedule: Arrives in Buffalo (9:45 am). Pays his respects at a makeshift memorial outside Tops Market, the site of the shooting (10:25 am). Meets with families of victims, law enforcement and first responders, and community leaders (11 am). Delivers remarks (1 pm).
  • More on Biden’s speech: According to a White House official, Biden will use the speech to urge Americans to “give hate no safe harbor,” while also calling on Congress to pass gun control legislation.
  • Then: After returning to the White House, the Bidens will host a reception to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (4 pm).

Vice President Harris: Attends Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ address to a joint meeting of Congress (11 am). Attends the White House reception for AAPI Heritage Month (4 pm).

  • Details: Mitsotakis will be the first Greek leader to ever address a join meeting of Congress. He’ll also be the first foreign leader to address lawmakers in-person since the pandemic began.

Senate: Holds votes to advance H.R. 7691, the $40 billion Ukraine aid bill, and three U.S. district judge nominations.

House: Votes on bills related to workforce development, cybersecurity, homeland security, and veterans affairs.

Supreme Court: Nothing on tap today.

What else: The House Intelligence Committee will hold the first public congressional hearing on UFOs in more than 50 years (9 am).

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci and other officials will testify before a Senate subcommittee on the NIH’s budget request for next year (10 am). Hearings with Fauci have often sparked fireworks on Covid policy.

Links to watch for yourself: Biden at Tops MarketBiden speech in BuffaloBiden reception for AAPI MonthGreek PM speechSenate sessionHouse sessionUFO hearingFauci hearing

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe