Heart of the Primaries 2022, Democrats-Issue 20 (April 28, 2022)

Welcome to The Heart of the Primaries, Democratic Edition

April 28, 2022

In this issue: President Biden makes first 2022 congressional endorsement and Utah Democrats back independent McMullin

President Biden’s first congressional endorsement of 2022: Kurt Schrader in OR-05

On April 23, President Joe Biden (D) endorsed incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader in the May 17 Democratic primary for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. It’s Biden’s first congressional endorsement of 2022. 

Biden said, “We don’t always agree, but when it has mattered most, Kurt has been there for me. … And in doing so, he has helped to pass much of my agenda into law—making a huge difference in the lives of the Oregonians he represents and all of America.”

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an attorney and board member of the Jefferson County Education Service District, is challenging Schrader in the primary. McLeod-Skinner tweeted, “I respect Biden’s work to tackle Covid-19 & rebuild our economy but I have to disagree with the President here. Schrader took over $1 million from Big Pharma & other corporate donors—and then voted against Oregonians. We need a leader in Congress who will finally fight for us.”

McLeod-Skinner has criticized Schrader’s voting record more broadly: “When he does vote with Democrats, it is often after working to water-down the original ideas.” 

In December 2020, Schrader was one of two House Democrats to vote against a plan to send every American a $2,000 stimulus check. Schrader also voted against an initial version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Congress passed in March 2021, saying members “were not allowed or encouraged to offer amendments.” Schrader voted for the final bill. 

Schrader said his voting record reflects the partisan composition of his district. “This is not an easy district to run in — 40% of the folks have told both parties ‘I’m not interested.’ They’re non-affiliated. So I have to bridge that gap between the far right and the far left (to) represent this district. … We forget that’s our job — representation, not being a party ideologue. I am representing this district and proud to have done so for the last 10 years.”

Redistricting after the 2020 census changed the 5th District’s boundaries. According to data from Daily Kos, 47% of the population in the new 5th District comes from the old 5th District. Earlier this year, Democratic party leaders in Deschutes, Linn, Marion, and Clackamas counties—where about 90% of voters in the new district liveendorsed McLeod-Skinner (D).

According to FiveThirtyEight, the district has a Democratic lean of D+3, compared to the old district’s D+4 lean. 

Utah Democrats endorse independent Evan McMullin for U.S. Senate

The Democratic Party of Utah voted 57%-43% not to nominate a candidate for U.S. Senate at its convention Saturday, instead backing Evan McMullin, an independent running for the seat. 

This means there will be no Democrat on the ballot. Candidates in Utah qualify for the ballot through a convention vote or petitions, and no Democrats qualified via petition. Democrat Kael Weston sought the convention nomination. 

Supporters of the party’s decision included former U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams (D), who served in the House from 2019 to 2021.

The party’s endorsement came one week after the United Utah Party endorsed McMullin at its state convention. This was the first time since the party’s establishment in 2017 it voted to endorse a non-member. 

McMullin, a former operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency and policy advisor to House Republicans, ran for president in 2016 as an independent. He secured ballot access in 11 states and received more than 700,000 votes, including 21.5% of the vote in Utah. McMullin said Monday that if elected, he would not caucus with either party.

Incumbent Sen. Mike Lee (R) faces three Republican primary challengers. Lee has said he voted for McMullin for president in 2016.

In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) defeated Joe Biden (D) 58% to 38% in Utah. Democrats haven’t won a Utah Senate race since 1970. An independent has never held the office in the state.

John Fetterman rejects progressive label in Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a candidate for U.S. Senate, rejected the term progressive to describe his views in recent interviews with CNN and Jewish Insider.

CNN reported:

A staunch backer of labor unions, Fetterman supports at least a $15 minimum wage, legal marijuana, universal health care and Black Lives Matter while calling climate change “an existential threat.” But he rejects the notion that he is some kind of liberal.

“I don’t mean to nitpick, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as progressive,” Fetterman told CNN. “I consider myself a Democrat that’s running on the same platform of ideas that every other Democrat in this race is running on.”

In an interview with the Jewish Insider, Fetterman said he hadn’t encountered concerns that he’s critical of Israel throughout his campaign, “I’m not really a progressive in that sense. … Our campaign is based on core Democratic values and principles, and always has been, and there is no daylight between myself and these kinds of unwavering commitments to Israel’s security.” Fetterman said he opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and votes from some House members against funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system last year.

Fetterman and candidates state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb expressed similar views on Israel during an April 14 forum, each saying they supported security funding for Israel. 

Writing about policy disagreements between those three candidates, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Julia Terruso said that only Kenyatta supports a moratorium on new fracking sites and abolishing the Electoral College. Lamb is the only candidate who opposes federal recreational marijuana legalization, instead supporting state and local decriminalization along with legalized medical marijuana. Fetterman has made recreational marijuana legalization a key issue.

Earlier this month, Lamb said of moderate/progressive comparisons between himself and Fetterman, “I think those labels don’t really mean a whole lot at the end of the day. …  I’m a Democrat that represents an area where there’s more Republicans than Democrats, and I’ve been successful at that because people felt I was working hard for them and … not so much ideological.”

In related news, the super PAC Penn Progress recently released a revised version of an ad that initially called Fetterman a “self-described socialist.” The new ad says Fetterman “sought the Democratic Socialists’ endorsement,” which he did in 2017. Fetterman said in a Pittsburgh DSA questionnaire, “I don’t consider myself a socialist.” He did not receive the endorsement.

The primary is May 17.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield endorses Davis in N.C.-01 primary

On April 25, retiring incumbent Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D) endorsed Don Davis in the Democratic primary for North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Butterfield has represented the 1st District since 2004. 

Davis, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former mayor, has served in the state Senate since 2013, in addition to one previous term from 2009 to 2011. Davis is running against former state Sen. Erica Smith, Jullian Bishop Sr., and Jason Spriggs in the primary.  

Butterfield said, “Don has the legislative experience and is prepared to fight for the Democratic agenda of empowering America’s families and communities. I’m confident Don Davis will fight to protect voting rights, provide a safety net for those who have been left behind due to the pandemic and advocate for public-private partnerships to build much-needed infrastructure in the 1st District.” Butterfield also said, “I’m completely satisfied Don Davis can be the strongest Democrat to beat the strongest Republican in the general election.”

Spectrum News 1’s Reuben Jones said, “Butterfield’s endorsement may speak to the debate happening nationally in the Democratic Party. … The question is whether [the district’s voters] will be more moderate or more progressive Democrats.” 

Smith said, “Voters don’t care about labels. … I’m running on a survivor’s agenda that delivers an increase in living [sic] wage for workers. … I’m center left, and I’m excited about the progressive values and the progressives [sic] voices we are running on, because we know it will produce true structural change.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is among Smith’s endorsers. Smith served in the state Senate from 2015 to 2020 and ran for U.S. Senate in 2020, losing the primary to Cal Cunningham (D) 57%-35%.

The primary is May 17.

Ohio gubernatorial candidates sharpen criticisms of one another

On April 20, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley criticized former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley at a gubernatorial primary forum. The same day, Cranley released an ad comparing what he called Cincinnati’s comeback and Dayton’s decline during each candidate’s mayoral tenures.

Cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer reported that Whaley “accused Cranley of overstating the financial benefits of his marijuana legalization plan, again criticized his past opposition to abortion, and said it was time for Democrats to nominate someone besides a ‘moderate white man’ for governor” at the Columbus Metropolitan Club forum.

Cranley said his marijuana legalization plan would bring 30,000 jobs and that he’d use resulting tax revenue for initiatives such as expanding high-speed wifi access. Cranley also said he now supports abortion access. Cranley said he was more likely to win the general election and “whether either of us are men or women is out of our control. But what is in our control is how we govern our state.” 

Cranley’s most recent campaign ad said he was better equipped to lead the state’s recovery. A narrator said, “Under John Cranley, Cincinnati has made a real comeback. More jobs, higher wages, a city moving forward. While under Nan Whaley, Dayton has continued to decline even more than Mike Dewine’s Ohio.” The ad cited a WCPO-TV headline, “Cincinnati is growing more quickly than Akron, Cleveland and Dayton.”

Whaley’s campaign representative said, “Attacking a major Ohio city and its residents is one ‘strategy’ for attempting to gain relevance in a primary you’re clearly losing. … Voters know better than to fall for these self-serving attacks from a desperate millionaire who is focused on himself, not Ohio families.” 

The primary is May 3.

Competitiveness data: Mississippi and Montana  

Montana’s filing deadline for congressional and state candidates was March 14. Congressional candidates in Mississippi had until March 1 to file. Mississippi is not holding state legislative elections in 2022. 

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.