Heart of the Primaries 2022, Democrats-Issue 23 (May 19, 2022)

In this issue: Takeaways from five states’ primaries and another possible incumbent-vs.-incumbent primary in NY

Primary results roundup

Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Oregon held primaries on May 17.

The big stories of the night: Fetterman wins, and too-close-to-call House races in Oregon

Pennsylvania Senate: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Alexandria Khalil. As of Thursday morning, Fetterman received 59% of the vote and Lamb was second with 26%.

Fetterman’s top campaign priorities were adopting a single-payer healthcare system, legalizing marijuana, and supporting LGBTQIA+ rights. The Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association and The Philadelphia Tribune were among his backers. Lamb said his priorities included expanding Medicare, reducing prescription drug prices, a $15 minimum wage, and strengthening unions. Lamb’s endorsers included the Philadelphia Democratic Party and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pennsylvania is one of two states Joe Biden won in 2020 that has a U.S. Senate election this year in which the current incumbent is a Republican. Pennsylvania is also one of six states with one senator who caucuses with Democrats and another who caucuses with Republicans. 

Oregon’s 5th: As of Thursday morning, Jamie McLeod-Skinner led incumbent Kurt Schrader 60%-39%. Schrader has represented the 5th District since 2009. According to Daily Kos, 47% of the population in the new 5th District after redistricting comes from the old 5th District that Schrader has represented. 

Schrader campaigned on what he called a record of bipartisanship, saying it represented his constituents. McLeod-Skinner criticized Schrader’s record and said she’d do more on the issues of housing, healthcare, childcare, and the environment. 

President Joe Biden (D) and Planned Parenthood Action Fund were among Schrader’s endorsers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and the Democratic parties in Deschutes, Linn, Clackamas, and Marion counties—containing more than 90% of the new district’s voters—endorsed McLeod-Skinner.

Schrader may become the third House member to lose a re-election bid this year. Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and David McKinley (R-W.V.) lost their primaries. 

Oregon’s 6th: As of Thursday morning, Andrea Salinas led eight other candidates with 37% of the vote. Carrick Flynn was second with 19%. 

Satellite group spending was a big issue in the race. The House Majority PAC spent $1 million and Protect Our Future PAC spent more than $10 million backing Flynn, while the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Bold PAC spent $1 million supporting Salinas. Salinas and five other candidates criticized House Majority PAC’s spending, saying in a joint statement, “This effort by the political arm of the Democratic establishment to buy this race for one candidate is a slap in the face to every Democratic voter and volunteer in Oregon.” The PAC’s communications director said it was “doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House majority in 2022.”

Other marquee primary results

U.S. House

  • Kentucky’s 3rd: Morgan McGarvey defeated Attica Scott 63% to 37%. Incumbent John Yarmuth (D) did not seek re-election. Yarmuth endorsed McGarvey. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee endorsed Scott. Three forecasters rate the general election Safe or Solid Democratic.
  • North Carolina’s 1st: Donald Davis defeated three other candidates with 63% of the vote. Erica Smith finished second with 31%. Incumbent G.K. Butterfield (D) didn’t seek re-election this year. Butterfield endorsed Davis. Three forecasters rate the general Lean Democratic.
  • North Carolina’s 4th: Valerie Foushee defeated seven other candidates with 46% of the vote. Nida Allam finished second with 37%. Incumbent David Price (D) did not seek re-election. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) backed Foushee. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Allam. Three forecasters rate the general Safe or Solid Democratic.
  • Pennsylvania’s 12th: This race was too close to call as of Thursday morning. Summer Lee had 41.7% to Steve Irwin’s 41.3%. Forecasters rate the general Safe or Solid Democratic.

State executive

  • Oregon Governor: Tina Kotek defeated 14 other candidates with 58% of the vote. Tobias Read finished second with 33%. Incumbent Kate Brown (D) was term-limited. Three forecasters rate the general election Lean or Likely Democratic.

State legislative incumbents defeated

At least 30 state legislators—eight Democrats and 22 Republicans—lost in primaries on May 17. Including those defeats, 44 state legislative incumbents have lost to primary challengers this year. This number will likely increase: there are 42 primaries or primary runoffs featuring incumbents that remain uncalled or undecided.

Across the nine states that have held primaries, 4.7% of incumbents running for re-election have lost.

That 4.7% loss rate is the highest compared to previous cycles in these nine states. In 2020, 3.3% of incumbents running for re-election lost primaries. In 2018, 4.3% lost in primaries.

Of the nine states that have held primaries so far, one had a Democratic trifecta, five had Republican trifectas, and three had divided governments with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both legislative chambers. Across these nine states, 1,114 seats are up for election, 18% of the nationwide total.

Media analysis

Politico‘s David Siders said Tuesday was a good night for progressives:

In North Carolina, two progressives, Nida Allam and Erica Smith, went down in open seat House primaries. But even with those losses — and even if the results in Oregon [5th and 6th District] and Pennsylvania [12th District] turn — it will go down as a good night for the left.

At a minimum, they have Fetterman and Salinas. And in the Senate, the rest of the map was pretty promising for progressives as well. A night that produced Fetterman — and Charles Booker and Cheri Beasley in Kentucky and North Carolina, respectively — as Democratic Senate nominees is a night progressives can learn to love.

CNN said that Fetterman’s win in Pennsylvania and Cheri Beasley’s win in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate primary speak to a shift in the Democratic Party: 

What it means to be a top Democratic recruit is changing.

On Tuesday night, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a 6-foot, 8-inch, bald, tattooed former mayor known for wearing shorts and hoodies, ran away with the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary. In North Carolina, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley largely cleared the primary field and coasted to a nomination that could make her the state’s first Black senator.

Their wins are part of a change within the Democratic Party, where what constituted a good recruit in cycles past meant someone who looked a lot more like the people Fetterman and Beasley beat.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency‘s Ron Kampeas wrote that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC contributed to Davis’ and Foushee’s wins in North Carolina:

Moderate Democrats backed by political action committees affiliated with the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby won hotly contested Democratic primaries Tuesday, which the group said was a vindication of its controversial decision to dive into direct campaign funding.

Both races were to replace longtime Democrats who are retiring and were two of three closely watched in the pro-Israel community because of massive injections of cash by United Democracy Project, a so-called “super PAC” launched last year by AIPAC. The PAC targeted the races because [Erica] Smith and [Nida] Allam would have added to the contingent of congressional lawmakers who seek stricter oversight and limitations on defense aid for Israel.

The third race, in Pennsylvania’s newly drawn 12th District, was too close to call, with the United Democracy-backed candidate, Pittsburgh lawyer Steve Irwin, less than a percentage point behind State Rep. Summer Lee with 98% of the vote counted.

It’s not clear how much AIPAC’s support drove the outcomes, as both Davis and Foushee had support from the local Democratic establishment and the cryptocurrency sector, which is seeking to deter congressional oversight, also poured money into the races.

But it’s clear that the pro-Israel funding, which also flowed to a lesser degree from a PAC associated with the group Democratic Majority for Israel, did register in the races. In the Pittsburgh-area district Lee was seen as the clear front-runner until she was hit by a barrage of negative ads paid for by United Democracy. And in North Carolina’s 4th District, the pro-Israel donations caused the state’s progressive caucus to rescind its endorsement of Foushee.

The Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake said Oregon’s big House races were heading in a negative direction for what he called the Democratic establishment:

There’s a reason we focus on Trump’s endorsements: Because he makes a lot of them, and he’s obviously trying to maintain control of the party during an uncertain time. But President Biden has made a couple of endorsements, too, including for Rep. Shontel M. Brown (D-Ohio) in her landslide over Turner.

It’s worth noting that one of those endorsed — Schrader — is losing pretty badly. … Schrader is a moderate who sometimes alienated fellow House Democrats on spending bills — and who, because of redistricting, was campaigning in a very different district than in years past.

Backing an incumbent facing a primary challenge is kind of a no-brainer for a president, but it’s looking as if Oregon voters had little regard for Biden’s advice.

Speaking of the Democratic establishment getting one wrong: Biden aside, the party more broadly didn’t fight too hard for Schrader. But a PAC affiliated with House Democratic leaders did spend $1 million on a candidate in the neighboring 6th District, Carrick Flynn. …

That investment in an apparently losing candidate, though, pales to Flynn’s biggest benefactor: cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. His Protect Our Future PAC spent more than $11 million on Flynn — a stunning sum for one out of 435 House seats — and it appears to have failed badly.

Flynn ultimately benefited from $13 million in outside spending … for 19 percent of the vote.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler may both run in NY-12 

On Monday, Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler both said they would run in New York’s 12th Congressional District under a new draft district map. Maloney chairs the House Oversight Committee. Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee. Both representatives were first elected to the House in 1992.

A special master released the draft after the New York State Court of Appeals overturned the legislature’s previously enacted map. The court ruled the legislature did not get enough input from the state’s redistricting commission.

According to Daily Kos, Nadler “represents 39% of the redrawn (and safely blue) district while Maloney represents the remaining 61%.”

If the state Court of Appeals approves the draft map, the Maloney-Nadler primary would be the sixth U.S. House primary this year featuring two incumbents and the fourth with two Democratic incumbents.

We wrote about the 12th District primary under the overturned congressional map. That race included candidates Suraj Patel and Rana Abdelhamid. Both said they are holding off on decisions about their bids as the draft map is not final.

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 23.

Satellite ads zero in on abortion stances in TX-28 runoff

Recent satellite group ads supporting either incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar or Jessica Cisneros highlight their positions on abortion.

Last week, the group Mainstream Democrats PAC released an ad supporting Cuellar. The narrator said, “With women’s rights under attack from extremists, Democrat Henry Cuellar has made it clear that he opposes a ban on abortion.” The ad also says Cuellar “is standing up for South Texas families by working every day to hold down our cost of living,” including supporting lower drug prices, affordable health care, child care assistance, and a $15 minimum wage. 

On May 13, Women Vote!, a super PAC affiliated with EMILY’s List, booked $526,000 in TV ads supporting Cisneros. One ad, with versions in both English and Spanish, criticizes Cuellar for being the only Democrat to vote against the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have legalized abortion nationally. The narrator says “[Cuellar is] voting with MAGA Republicans against women’s healthcare.” The ad also says Cuellar “voted to make it harder to join a union and opposed expanding overtime pay.” 

As we wrote earlier this month, abortion policy has been in the spotlight in the runoff, especially after Politico published a leaked initial draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would overturn rulings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, allowing states to decide the legality of abortion. To learn more about the issue of abortion in this race, click here

In the March 1 primary,  Cuellar received 48% to Cisneros’ 47%. Tannya Benavides received 5%. The primary runoff is May 24. 

Competitiveness data: Alabama

Alabama holds primaries on May 24. 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.