Pa. Primary 2022: 3 storylines we’re following today | Tuesday Morning Coffee

The Trump factor. Will the Dems beat the midterm curse? And what about the race for LG?

May 17, 2022 7:10 am

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette ( photo)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The ads have been aired. The closing pitches have been made. And if you haven’t already sent in or dropped off your mail-in ballot, you’ll be heading for your local polling place or drop-off point sometime between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. today to make your voice heard in this very unusual primary election.

Voters will cast their ballots in crowded Republican primaries for governor and U.S. Senate, the Democratic and Republican primaries for lieutenant governor, and some key legislative races where, courtesy of redistricting, a brace of incumbent lawmakers will face Hunger Games-style contests to hang onto their jobs.

The chances are pretty good that we’re going to be in for a very long night. And the staff of the Capital-Star will be here, providing live coverage of all these races. So here are some of the key storylines we’ll be keeping track of today.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks with attendees on the Capitol steps of a rally for gun rights on September 29, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

1. The Trump Factor: Almost without exception, every Republican running this cycle has tried to cloak themselves in the mantle of former President Donald Trump — kissing the …. ahhh … ring of the Sad Clown of Mar-A-Lago as they raced to secure a coveted endorsement.

Trump has endorsed two candidates: GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz, who, like Trump, is a creature of television. The 61-year-old, a longtime New Jersey resident, is a celebrity heart surgeon and talk show host.

Over the weekend, Trump endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, in what is now a 7-way Republican primary for governor. In typical fashion, Trump praised Mastriano, a former U.S. Army colonel who has trafficked in baseless claims of election fraud, saying “there is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for Election Integrity than” Mastriano.

And, yes, you read that irony-free sentence correctly.

Mastriano has run consistently ahead in most polls, while Oz has found himself locked in what is now a tight, three-way race for the GOP nomination in a field that also includes venture capitalist David McCormick and conservative influencer Kathy Barnettewho has surged in the race’s closing days.

Trump chose Mastriano, who has aggressively courted the MAGA vote over former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, of Hazleton, who was among Trump’s first Pennsylvania supporters in 2016.

Political observers have suggested that Trump is hedging his bets by selecting Mastriano, who has a likely chance of success at the polls today over Oz, who will be running down to the wire.

A win by Mastriano, who has so worried the Republican establishment that they mounted a last-ditch effort to stop him, would prove the power of the Trumpian endorsement — in the event of Oz not crossing the finish line.

Meanwhile, there’s former federal prosecutor Bill McSwain, who has the dubious honor of being ‘un-endorsed’ by Trump for not doing enough to fight the 2020 election results. A McSwain win would blow up the Trump endorsement – while a respectable finish would at least prove that a presidential drubbing isn’t necessarily fatal.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman [Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller]

2. Will the Dems beat the midterm curse? If there’s one thing that’s true about midterm elections, it’s that the party that controls the White House gets its hat handed to it in the November general election.

The conventional wisdom about this election also has held that Democrats are suffering from an enthusiasm gap compared to Republicans, who are animated and looking forward to holding a Senate seat, winning the governor’s office, and expanding their legislative majorities.

Then along came U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and the leak of his draft opinion eviscerating Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark opinion providing a constitutional right to abortion.

Democrats were understandably incandescent. And they took to the streets in their thousands nationwide over the weekend to protest in support of abortion rights, and to call on lawmakers to protect abortion access.

The question now is whether that grassroots anger will translate into turnout at the polls. Primaries, generally, tend to be pretty low turnout races, with only the most motivated and partisan voters making the effort to cast their ballots.

Mail-in ballots could end up telling the tale. Democrats tend to favor the ballots, while Republicans are generally more fond of voting in-person, so the early results might not be the result we end up with when the dust settles.

State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny (Photo via The Pittsburgh Current/Twitter)

3. And what about the race for LG? In a normal year, the primary race for the state’s official second banana wouldn’t attract that much attention. But in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t an ordinary year.

The leading Democratic and Republican gubernatorial hopefuls — Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, respectively — each have taken the unusual step of endorsing their hoped-for running mate. And I say hoped-for because, as the Capital-Star’s Cassie Miller reports, Pennsylvania is one of just seven states where candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries, but run on a joint ticket in general elections.

So that means there’s an outside chance that Shapiro, who’s backing state Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny; and Mastriano, who’s backing veteran and retired police officer Teddy Daniels, could end up running with another of the LG hopefuls in this November’s general election.

On the Democratic side that includes state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia or Montgomery County banker Ray Sosa. Republicans also could pick former state Rep. Jeff Coleman, of Indiana County; state Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon; former Northampton County Executive John Brown, state Rep. Carrie DelRosso, R-Allegheny; New Castle Pa. Mayor Chris Frye; Navy vet James Jones, former state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, or activist Clarice Shillingner.

Such a varied field will add some drama to a race for a job that’s basically the political equivalent of your appendix — you only think about it when it’s about to explode.

Key: Navy – D+5,000 or more, Blue – D+1,001 to D+4,999, Light Skyblue – D+1 to D+1,000. Light Salmon – R+1 to R+1,000, Red – R+1,001 to R+4,999, Maroon – R+5,000 or more (Map by Nick Field via Dave’s Redistricting).

Our Stuff.
If voting registration figures are a lagging indicator of partisan enthusiasm, then Republicans are heading into Pennsylvania’s 2022 primaries with a major head of steamCorrespondent Nick Field reports, as he crunches the latest state voter data.

Three Democratic members of the Pennsylvania state House requested they be removed from the list of endorsements on the campaign website of Janet Diaz, Democratic candidate for Lancaster County’s 49th House District, amid concerns over her stance on abortion rights and access, Correspondent Lauren Manelius reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Pennsylvania voters must prioritize clean energy and environmental issues in Tuesday’s primaries, Jospeh Minott, of the Clean Air Council Action Fund writes. A secure nation requires a well-educated populace — we cannot skimp on this critical investment in our children, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter, of Philadelphia, writes. And Brown v. Board of Education never really overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, opinion regular Michael Coard writes.

GOP U.S. Senate hopefuls David McCormick (L) and Mehmet Oz (R) | Capital-Star photo collage by John L. Micek

Today’s primary election will both put a cap on chaotic campaigns and point the way forward for the Big Two parties, the Inquirer reports.

Today’s gubernatorial primary has divided Republicans, but united Democrats, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

We’ll likely have final results in the key races by Wednesday morning, BillyPenn reports.

GoErie and Pennsylvania’s other Gannett papers will have live updates all day.

While he recovers from a stroke, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won’t attend his Democratic U.S. Senate bash, the Post-Gazette reports.

And Democratic strategists tell City & State Pa. that Fetterman’s ill health shouldn’t have an impact on the race.

PennLive tracks the final hours of the Senate campaign.

LancasterOnline runs down what readers need to know about local races today.

Ditto for the York Daily Record.

Extremely Rich Person Jeffrey Yass has spent at least $18 million on the 2022 campaign, Spotlight PA report (via the Morning Call).

Luzerne County budget czar Brian Swetz will serve as acting county manager, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

The re-election bids of three U.S. House lawmakers, including North Carolina GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorncould end todayRoll Call reports.

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What Goes On
It’s Election Day. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
9 p.m., Capitol Steps: Ghost Bicycles event memorializing every cyclist death in Pennsylvania last year.

Gov. Tom Wolf does his usual 8:07 a.m. hit on KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh this morning.

Heavy Rotation
I look forward to posting this one every Election Day. From Nashville’s own, The Shazam, it’s ‘Super Tuesday.’

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
The New York Yankees topped the Baltimore Orioles 6-2 on Monday night. The Os are in last place in the AL East, 12.5 games behind division-leading New York.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.