Heart of the Primaries 2022, Democrats-Issue 17 (April 7, 2022)

In this issue: Recent polling and debate in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race and state Sen. Steve Roberts challenges Cori Bush in MO-01

Recent polling and debates in the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania

There’ve been a number of developments in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania since our last issue, including a new poll and the first debate. 

Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta participated in the April 3 debate at Muhlenberg College. The candidates disagreed on fracking policy. 

Lamb said, “It is very, very widely supported by people all over the state because of the opportunities that it brings” and that it is the “single technology that has allowed us to reduce our carbon emissions in the United States the most.” Lamb added that “it has to be done responsibly.”

Kenyatta said pipeline developers have faced sanctions and lawsuits and, “If we’re going to get to a clean energy future, we have to stop approving new fracking permits.”

The Associated Press‘ Marc Levy reported, “Pennsylvania is the nation’s No. 2 natural gas-producing state.” 

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman did not participate in this debate, saying that he’s committed to three others that will reach more viewers. Lamb and Kenyatta criticized Fetterman for not attending and brought up a 2013 incident in which Fetterman pulled a gun on an unarmed Black man.

Lamb said, “It was wrong when he did that. … And he skipped the debate today because he doesn’t think he has to answer.”

Kenyatta said, “[Fetterman] was dead wrong. … And now he refuses to come here but expects you to vote for him.”

Fetterman has said he heard what he believed were gunshots and saw a man running toward an elementary school. Fetterman said he called the police and followed the man in his truck. The man, Christopher Miyares, said Fetterman pointed a shotgun at his chest. Fetterman said the gun was not loaded and that he did not point it at Miyares. According to police reports, Miyares was unarmed.

Fetterman responded to Lamb’s criticism, “Conor is in the middle of a meltdown because he saw his poll numbers at 10%. … So he is resorting to these desperate smears against fellow Democrats that I wouldn’t choose to make, but that’s the campaign he’s running.”

A recent Emerson College poll showed Fetterman with 33% support among likely Democratic primary voters. Lamb received 10%, Kevin Baumlin (who withdrew from the race on March 31) received 9%, and Kenyatta, 8%. Thirty-seven percent were undecided. The poll was conducted between March 26 and March 28 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points. 

As we wrote last month, Lamb received the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s endorsement. Lamb also received 61% support on the second ballot at the state Democratic Party’s meeting —short of the two-thirds required for an endorsement but ahead of Fetterman, who received 23%, and Kenyatta, who received 15%.  

Incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is not running for re-election. Pennsylvania is one of two states holding a Senate election in 2022 with a GOP incumbent that Joe Biden (D) won in the 2020 presidential election. And it’s one of three Senate election states with one Democratic and one Republican senator. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) holds Pennsylvania’s other Senate seat.

The primary is set for May 17. 

Dale Holness makes second FL-20 candidacy official

Former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who lost the special primary election for Florida’s 20th Congressional District by five votes last year, officially announced his campaign for the district’s 2022 regularly scheduled election. 

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, CEO of Trinity Health Care Services, won the special election to complete former Rep. Alcee Hastings’ (D) term ending Jan. 3, 2023. She ran against Hastings in the 2018 and 2020 Democratic primaries. Cherfilus-McCormick hasn’t announced whether she’ll run this year.

Holness said, “Families are hurting these days as the costs of everyday necessities — including housing, childcare, healthcare, gas, and groceries — continue to rise but wages fail to keep up. … Our communities deserve a champion with experience and follow-through to build a stronger, healthier future for all of us.” Holness’ campaign said that “voters are feeling fatigued with some candidates and incumbents overpromising and under-delivering.”

Cherfilus-McCormick campaigned on $1,000-per-month payments to people over 18 making less than $75,000 a year, Medicare for All, and a $20 minimum wage. Cherfilus-McCormick said within her first 30 days in office, she cast important votes including for the COMPETES Act, which she said would contain inflation and “bolster American independence and self-sufficiency in manufacturing.” Cherfilus-McCormick also said she is “the first Democrat of Haitian descent elected to Congress, and I am here to bring that voice and understanding and cultural competency of being a Caribbean, being a woman and representing a district full of minorities.”

Holness filed two lawsuits last year requesting that uncounted mail ballots be counted and alleging in part that Cherfilus-McCormick’s basic income proposal amounted to bribery. No court took up the suits.

Former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief placed third in the special primary and recently announced she would run for state Senate this year instead of running in the 20th Congressional District race. 

The primary is set for Aug. 23. Florida’s congressional district map is unsettled. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed the maps the legislature approved.

State Sen. Steve Roberts challenges Cori Bush in MO-01

On March 28, state Sen. Steve Roberts announced his Democratic primary bid for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District. Roberts joins five other candidates, including incumbent Cori Bush.

Roberts said, “We all had the highest hopes for Congresswoman Bush but she’s shown over the past year and a half that she’s not interested in the job of United States Representative. We don’t have time for slogans; I’m ready to get to work, bring people together, and deliver results for the families of the 1st district.” In a statement, Roberts’ campaign representative criticized Bush’s vote against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, among other things. 

Bush said she voted against the infrastructure bill because the House voted on it before the Build Back Better Act: “St. Louis deserves the president’s entire agenda. … So that means both the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Build Back Better act. We cannot push away one part of President Biden’s agenda because it’s difficult or because a couple of people don’t want it.”

Bush’s campaign released the following statement in response to Roberts’ announcement:

“The people of St. Louis will have a choice: between their Congresswoman who loves them and delivered hundreds of millions of dollars to St. Louis, and a host of ego-driven men who seem to think all that Black women leaders do is never good enough. Among that crowded field is at least one candidate who has been credibly accused of rape, and such men do not belong in public service, much less representing the incredible people of St. Louis in Congress.”

Roberts said, “They can try to distract voters from her indefensible voting record by recycling old false stories about me, but I don’t think it’s gonna work.”

In 2016, state Rep.-elect Cora Walker (D), who died last month, accused Roberts of raping her. Roberts denied the allegations. No charges were filed after a special prosecuting attorney said there was not enough evidence to establish non-consensual activity. Roberts later sued Walker for defamation, and Walker countersued Roberts. Both parties dropped their suits in 2019. 

Roberts served in the state House of Representatives from 2017 to 2021. He won election to the state Senate in 2020 and became the youngest Black state senator in Missouri’s history. Bush defeated 10-term incumbent William Lacy Clay in the 2020 Democratic primary.

The primary is set for Aug. 2.

Trudy Busch Valentine enters Senate primary in Missouri

On March 29, Trudy Busch Valentine announced her campaign for U.S. senator from Missouri. State Sen. Scott Sifton dropped out of the race on March 28 and endorsed Busch Valentine, a registered nurse and the daughter of August Busch, the former majority shareholder of beer company Anheuser-Busch. 

In her campaign launch video, Busch Valentine says, “Too often, neighbors and families just stop talking to each other. And the politicians in Washington continue to divide us even further. Most Missouri families include Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Mine sure does. But it seems we’ve lost our ability to be understanding and compassionate for each other.” 

The Kansas City Star‘s Daniel Desrochers said that Busch Valentine’s campaign launch video “appears focused on the political middle-ground, drawing on an argument recently made by former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth that there’s room for a centrist candidate in the U.S. Senate race because of voter fatigue with the polarization of the two major parties.” 

Desrochers contrasted that to candidate Lucas Kunce’s approach, saying Kunce “has been attempting to run a populist campaign to win back working-class voters who have fled the Democratic Party for the GOP.”

Kunce is a former Marine and is the director of national security policy at the American Economic Liberties Project. His campaign representative said, “Missouri deserves a warrior for working people, a proven patriot who’s served his country, who has the courage to stand up to criminal politicians, corrupt elites running massive multinational corporations and billionaire heiresses who have been stripping our communities for parts.”

As of Dec. 31, Kunce had raised $2.5 million. Sifton was second with $890,000.

The primary is set for Aug. 2.

Tim Ryan’s first TV ad focuses on China, Morgan Harper responds

Tim Ryan’s first TV ad in Ohio’s U.S. Senate election focuses on China. Ryan says, “China is out-manufacturing us left and right. … America can never be dependent on Communist China. … We need to build things in Ohio, by Ohio workers.”

Senate candidate Morgan Harper released an ad on social media calling Ryan “Trumpesque” and alternating footage of Ryan and former President Donald Trump saying “China.” Harper wrote, “We will not win by trying to be Republicans. We can be honest about the threats we face while also energizing people towards a positive vision for the future.”

The Asian American Midwest Progressives, which endorsed Harper, said the ad “builds upon long-standing racist and demonizing narratives about people of Chinese descent” and called on Ryan to take it down.

Ryan said the ad was directed at the Chinese government and, “I’ve spent my entire career sounding the alarm on China, who — thanks to a concerted strategy by their Communist government that has included currency manipulation, intellectual property theft, and artificially depressed wages, use of child labor, and brutal working conditions — has been our greatest economic adversary for 40 years.”

Harper also released her first TV ad recently. She says in the ad, “I’m the only Democrat for Senate who’s always supported Medicare for All and a $15 living wage, who’s always been pro-choice and supports expanding the Supreme Court to protect women’s rights.”

Ryan has served in the U.S. House since 2003. He was a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Harper was a senior advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and challenged Rep. Joyce Beatty (D) in the 3rd Congressional District primary in 2020, losing 32% to 68%. Tech executive Traci Johnson is also running in the May 3 primary.

Incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) isn’t seeking re-election. Three election forecasters rate the general election either Lean, Likely, or Solid Republican.

Competitiveness data: North Carolina’s primaries

North Carolina’s filing deadline for congressional and state elections was March 4. We’ve crunched some numbers to see how competitive the primaries will be compared to recent election cycles.

Notes on how these figures were calculated:

  • Candidates per district: divides the total number of candidates by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Open districts: divides the number of districts without an incumbent running by the number of districts holding elections.
  • Contested primaries: divides the number of major party primaries by the number of possible primaries.
  • Incumbents in contested primaries: divides the number of incumbents in primaries by the number seeking re-election in the given election cycle.



About the author

Amee LaTour

Amee LaTour is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.