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Wake Up To Politics - May 18, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Four primary night takeaways
Wake Up To Politics - May 18, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 174 days away. Election Day 2024 is 902 days away.

Results roundup: What happened in yesterday’s primaries

Here are the four things you should know about yesterday’s primary elections:

1. The biggest race of the day remains undecided

Going into Tuesday, the most highly anticipated contest was the Senate Republican primary in Pennsylvania. The race included two multi-millionaires — Dr. Mehmet Oz, the former daytime television star, and David McCormick, a former hedge fund CEO — as well as a controversial right-wing candidate, Kathy Barnette, who received a late burst of momentum.

Between the three of them, more than $55 million was spent on television and radio ads — putting it on track to be one of the most expensive primaries of the 2022 cycle. Plus, former President Donald Trump endorsed Oz, making the race a key test of his influence over the GOP.

But the winner of the primary remains unclear. With 95% of the vote reported, Oz is leading McCormick by about 2,500 votes — 31.3% to 31.1%. Meanwhile, despite last-minute polls predicting she’d have a surge, Barnette is in third place with 24.8%.

That means Oz is currently in the lead, but with a fair chunk of votes yet to be counted (including at least 20,000 mail-in ballots), the race isn’t over yet. Plus, if the final margin of victory is within 0.5%, Pennsylvania law calls for an automatic recount.

Dr. Mehmet Oz currently holds a slim lead in the Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary. (Oz campaign)

2. Trump’s endorsement is no guarantee of victory

Even if Oz ends up pulling out a win, it will be by the slimmest of margins — a sign that Trump’s backing doesn’t automatically mean a Republican primary candidate will march to victory.

There were a few other reminders of that last night, as two Trump-backed candidates lost their primaries outright. In North Carolina, state Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated Rep. Madison Cawthorn, 33.4% to 31.9%. Cawthorn, a 26-year-old House freshman who generated a series of scandals in his short congressional tenure, was one of Trump’s biggest boosters in Washington.

Over the weekend, Trump acknowledged that the congressman had “made some foolish mistakes,” but urged voters in his North Carolina district to give him “a second chance.” That urging went unheeded, and Cawthorn became the youngest member of Congress to lose their seat since 1966.

Plus, in Idaho, Gov. Brad Little easily beat back a primary challenge from his lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, with 53.3% of the vote to her 31.5%. McGeachin had achieved notoriety on the right — and Trump’s endorsement — after repeatedly overturning Little’s executive orders on Covid policy while serving as “acting governor” during his trips away from the state.

But Trump’s backing was not enough to lift Cawthorn or McGeachin to victory, two black marks on the GOP primary endorsement record he is so fond of bragging about.

Still, I’d hesitate to take too much away from those losses. Both Edwards and Little are still supporters of Trump (even if Trump was not a supporter of theirs), just less aggressive ones, meaning the results aren’t really a swerve away from Trumpism for the GOP. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Oz may have been the candidate who won Trump’s blessing — but McCormick and Barnette have both spent the primary attempting to prove their MAGA bona fides as well.

In other words, GOP primary voters may not take Trump’s word as gospel... but it’s not like they’re selecting candidates who are standing in his way. Besides, the night wasn’t all losses for Trump: in North Carolina, Rep. Ted. Budd — his preferred Senate candidate — won the GOP primary.


Gov. Brad Little fended off a far-right primary challenger. (Little’s office)

3. A leading election denier might be the governor of Pennsylvania

One of the most pro-Trump candidates on the ballot Tuesday was David Mastriano, a far-right Pennsylvania state senator who was seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the Keystone State.

Mastriano (who had Trump’s endorsement) won his party’s nod handily, taking 44.3% of the vote to former Rep. Lou Barletta’s 20.2%.

The newly minted gubernatorial nominee is one of the most ardent promoters of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election; he tried to push the Pennsylvania legislature to overturn President Biden’s victory in the state and appoint a slate of Trump electors instead.

Mastriano was also outside the Capitol during the January 6 riot. If elected governor, Mastriano would be able to appoint Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, who oversees (and certifies) elections — which would give him outsized power over the 2024 presidential election, considering Pennsylvania’s battleground status and his previous willingness to overturn an election outcome.

In November, he’ll face state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee. Some prognosticators believe Mastriano’s primary victory could make it harder for Republicans to win the governorship: the Cook Political Report moved the race from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic” after Tuesday.

Indeed, Shapiro took out ads during the GOP primary that were clearly designed to boost Mastriano’s standing among Republicans. That means Democrats may have gotten the opponent they wanted — but they also might have contributed to placing him one step closer to being able to meddle in the 2024 election.

Election denier Doug Mastriano won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Pennsylvania. (Mastriano campaign)

4. Progressive Democrats scored a series of victories over moderates

Most of these takeaways have been about the Republican primaries on Tuesday, but Democrats also hold their primaries in all these states, of course. And pretty much across the board, progressive Democrats triumphed over moderates in every high-profile intra-party spat they participated in.

The most obvious example was in Pennsylvania, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won the Democratic nomination for Senate over Rep. Conor Lamb. Fetterman is a 6-foot-8, tattooed Bernie Sanders supporter who has become one of the nation’s most prominent advocates for legalizing marijuana. Lamb, meanwhile, is a staunch member of his party’s moderate wing, previously picking fights with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her left-wing “Squad.”

Fetterman, despite suffering a stroke just days ago and having a pacemaker implanted hours before the polls closed, beat Lamb in a landslide, 59% to 26.5%.

Progressive candidates are also leading in three closely watched House primaries: In Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district, Sanders-backed Summer Lee has declared victory over moderate Steve Irwin (although she has a very slim lead).

In Oregon’s 5th congressional district, moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader is currently trailing his progressive challenger, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, 38.7% to 61.3%. McLeod-Skinner, a lesbian rancher and school board member, had dubbed Schrader the “Manchin of the House” for his opposition to certain Democratic Party priorities. President Biden had endorsed Schrader, one of few primaries he waded into; if McLeod-Skinner’s lead holds, it will be an embarrassing sign of Biden’s weight within his own party.

And finally, in Oregon’s 6th congressional district, progressive Andrea Salinas is currently running ahead of Carrick Flynn in the Democratic primary, 37.8% to 19%. Flynn’s campaign had been bankrolled by a cryptocurrency billionaire, and also backed by the House Democrats’ main super PAC. Salinas, meanwhile, boasted endorsements from Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and a slew of labor unions and Latino groups.

As they stand now, each of those House races would point to an organizational and energy advantage for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — although it should be noted that none of the contests have been called yet. Lee’s race remains too close to call, while only 53% of the vote is in from Oregon’s fifth and 72% from Oregon’s sixth.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman was one of several progressive candidates who had a good night. (Pennsylvania governor’s office)

More news to know

— “Russian soldier pleads guilty in first war crimes trial of Ukraine conflict” BBC News

— “Biden assails bigotry after Buffalo attack, says ‘white supremacy is a poison’” Washington Post

— “FDA authorizes first COVID booster for children ages 5 to 11” NPR

— “Justice Dept. Is Said to Request Transcripts From Jan. 6 Committee” New York Times

— “U.S. Soccer reaches milestone agreement to pay its women’s and men’s teams equally” CBS News

The U.S. women’s soccer team will now be paid the same as the men’s team. (Rachel King)

What’s going on in Washington today

All times Eastern.

President Biden: Receives his daily intelligence briefing (10:15 am). Receives a briefing on interagency efforts to prepare for and respond to hurricanes this season (1:45 pm).
Vice President Harris: Delivers remarks at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremony in New London, Connecticut (11 am).

First Lady Biden: Hosts Selena Gomez and a group of young leaders at the White House for a conversation on youth mental health (11 am). Departs from Washington, D.C. for Quito, Ecuador (1:30 pm). Arrives in Quito (6:30 pm). Visits the U.S. embassy in Ecuador and meets with staff (7:15 pm).

Senate: Votes on confirmation of six Biden nominees: Jennifer Rochon (to be a U.S. District Judge), Barbara Leaf (to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs), Elizabeth Watson (to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs), Trina Thompson (to be a U.S. District Judge), Sunshine Sykes (to be a U.S. District Judge), and Christopher Lowman (to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment).

  • Some fast facts: Rochon currently serves as general counsel of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Leaf served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates under Obama. Watson is the executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Sykes would be the fifth Native American ever to serve as a federal judge.House: Votes on two bills to address the baby formula shortage: H.R. 7790, which would provide $28 million to the FDA to boost the baby formula supply and seek to prevent future shortages, and H.R. 7791, which would expand access to baby formulas for low-income families who use the Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program.
  • Other notable votes: The House will also vote on H.R. 350, which would increase governmental efforts to combat domestic terrorism, and S. 2938, which would rename a Florida courthouse for Joseph Woodrow Hatchett, who was the first Black federal appeals judge in the Deep South.
  • H.R. 350 was previously stalled by progressives but is back before the House after the Buffalo shooting. S.2938 was previously blocked by House Republicans with little explanation.
  • And a few more: The chamber will vote on 13 other pieces of legislation too, including an anti-poverty bill and a resolution condemning anti-semitism. Supreme Court: Nothing on tap today.

    What else: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (1:30 pm). She’ll be joined by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan (1:30 pm).
  • Also, the nation’s top public health officials will hold a press briefing to provide an update on the Covid-19 response (10:45 am). CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, and White House Covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha will participate.
  • Plus, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on access to abortion (10 am).Links to watch for yourself: Biden hurricane briefingFLOTUS on youth mental healthSenate sessionHouse sessionWH briefingCovid briefingHouse abortion 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