It’s primary day in five states

Welcome to the Tuesday, May 17, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Five states holding primary elections today
  2. One last look at Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate
  3. Fewer candidates are running for U.S. House in North Dakota than at any point since 2016

Five states holding primary elections today

Today is the fourth statewide primary election day of the 2022 cycle. Voters in five states—Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania—are selecting their general election nominees. Here’s a quick look at what’s on the ballot:

U.S. Senate

All five states are holding primaries for the U.S. Senate. Incumbents are running for re-election and facing contested primaries in Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon. In North Carolina and Pennsylvania, incumbent Sens. Richard Burr (R) and Pat Toomey (R) are retiring, leading to large, competitive primary contests in both major parties.

U.S. House

This is the first post-redistricting House election in these five states. Oregon and North Carolina gained one congressional district leaving them with six and 14, respectively. Pennsylvania lost one district, dropping to 17. Idaho and Kentucky remained the same with two and six districts, respectively.

State executive offices

Idaho and Pennsylvania are holding primaries for state executive offices, including the governorship.

In Idaho, incumbent Gov. Brad Little (R) faces a primary field that includes Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R) and six others. This is the first time since 1938 that an incumbent lieutenant governor has challenged an incumbent governor in an Idaho gubernatorial primary.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is term-limited. Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and eight candidates are seeking the Republican nod. Pennsylvania has had a divided government since Wolf was first elected in 2014. Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature.

State supreme court

Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Oregon are holding primaries for their state supreme courts, though only voters in North Carolina will have a contested primary to decide.

The two incumbents up for election in Idaho and one incumbent in Oregon were the only candidates to file for their respective races. In Kentucky, no more than two candidates filed for any of the four districts up for election, so those primaries were canceled.

In North Carolina, two Democratic seats are up for election. There is one Republican primary for Seat 5, the winner of which will face Justice Sam Ervin IV (D) in the general election. No primaries are needed for Seat 3, where Justice Robin Hudson (D) is not seeking re-election. Democrats currently hold a 4-3 majority on the court.

State legislature

All five states are holding state legislative primaries. Democrats currently control both chambers in Oregon and Republicans in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

The total number of contested primaries is up from 231 in 2020 to 323 this year, a 40% increase. The number of contested Democratic primaries decreased or stayed the same in Idaho, North Carolina, and Idaho, and increased in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The number of Republican primaries increased in all five states.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for some unofficial results! And subscribe to our Heart of the Primaries newsletter for even deeper dives into party primaries throughout the cycle.

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One last look at Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate

As we mentioned above, one primary we are following closely today is the Republican race for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is not running for re-election.

Seven candidates are running in the Republican primary. The candidates performing best in recent polls and receiving the most media attention are Kathy Barnette, David McCormick, and Mehmet Oz.

Barnette has had the largest increase in support in the polls heading into the primary. Barnette averaged 11% support in 10 polls conducted before May. Barnette’s support has averaged 23% in the four polls released this month. McCormick and Oz also saw increases in their respective polling averages in May.

A candidate can win the primary with a plurality, rather than a majority, of the vote.

On April 9, former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Oz. On May 12, following her rise in the polls, Trump issued a separate statement opposing Barnette, saying she “will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats.” In response, Barnette said, “[the people] don’t want to be spoon-fed two globalists … they want a real conservative.”

After serving in the U.S. Army Reserves, Barnette worked as a political commentator and in corporate finance. Barnette calls herself an America First candidate, a term often associated with Trump’s platform and candidates who say they support Trump’s agenda.

McCormick was the CEO of Bridgewater Associates, an investment management firm, from 2017 to 2022. McCormick also served as an undersecretary in commerce and treasury during the George W. Bush (R) administration. McCormick’s campaign has focused on economic issues and the U.S.-China relationship.

Oz is an author and former surgeon who hosted The Dr. Oz Show from 2009 to 2022. Oz says he is a political outsider. Oz’s campaign materials compare him to former Presidents Ronald Reagan (R) and Trump, saying they started in Hollywood before going to Washington to fight the establishment.

Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, Sean Gale, and Carla Sands are also running in the primary.

Three independent race forecasters view the general election contest as either Toss-up or Tilt Republican. President Joe Biden (D) won Pennsylvania by 1.2 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election. Trump won the state by 0.7 percentage points in 2016.

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Fewer candidates are running for U.S. House in North Dakota than at any point since 2016

In the race for the U.S. House, North Dakotans won’t make any decisions during their June 14 primaries. That’s because only two candidates filed for the office—incumbent Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R) and Mark Haugen (D)—the first time only two candidates filed to run for the office since 2016.

Since only one Democrat and one Republican filed, there are no contested elections for the U.S. House in North Dakota for the third time since 2014. These races will still appear on primary ballots, but with only one candidate listed, depending on voters’ parties.

The most candidates to file for the House race was five back in 2018—four Republicans and one Democrat: four Republicans and one Democrat. Former Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) did not seek re-election that year, leaving the office open.

Unlike most states, North Dakota has an at-large congressional district, meaning the state has one U.S. representative.

While Armstrong and Haugen have a clear path to the general election ballot, more candidates may enter the race. The filing deadline for independent candidates is Sept. 6.

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