PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Pennsylvanians head to the polls Tuesday for Primary Day as they will decide who will face the incumbent Democratic governor and U.S. senator in November as well as determining local U.S. House races. This will also be the first election after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a new congressional map.
Republican Party voters aiming to make Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf into Pennsylvania’s second straight “one-term Tom” will choose between the garbage man who intends to clean up state government, the conservative military man who says he’s got the business know-how and the grown-up lawyer who says she can get things done.
Scott Wagner, a York County state senator since 2014, has long been viewed the front runner. He is the state party’s endorsed candidate, and he has used the millions he made in the waste-hauling industry to spend the most in the race — more than $12 million and counting.
The Republican Party has endorsed in every gubernatorial primary since 1978, and in every case that endorsed candidate won the party nomination.
Wagner, who announced his candidacy in early 2017, rails consistently at state government’s inefficiencies and public-sector unions. In the Senate, he rolled up one of the most conservative voting records and has transformed his reputation of party gate-crasher into that of party bedrock. He has become one of the party’s most reliable campaign financiers, shoring up GOP committees and candidates with more than $370,000 in 2017 alone.
His opponents are first-time candidates from suburban Pittsburgh: former health care systems consultant Paul Mango, a former Army paratrooper, and commercial litigation attorney Laura Ellsworth, who has held prominent roles in the city’s civic and business organizations.
Wolf is seeking a second term in the November election and is uncontested in Tuesday’s primary.
In the battle for the Republican Senate nomination, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is heavily favored over state Rep. Jim Christiana to determine who will challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in November’s election.
Casey is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Barletta is endorsed by the state Republican Party and is a favorite of President Donald Trump, who Barletta endorsed in the 2016 presidential election even before Trump had won Pennsylvania’s primary election.
The state Supreme Court’s decision on substantially overhauling a congressional map widely viewed as among the nation’s most gerrymandered will have an effect on local U.S. House races. The map was approved in a 4-3 decision.
Most significantly, the new map likely gives Democrats a better shot at winning seats in Philadelphia’s heavily populated and moderate suburbs, where Republicans had held seats in bizarrely contorted districts, including one labeled “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck.”
Ten Democrats are vying to win the new heavily Democratic 5th District and succeed the now-resigned Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan in what had been viewed as one of the most gerrymandered districts in the country.
In the Allentown area’s new 7th District, six Democrats are competing for the nomination in a seat being vacated by seven-term Rep. Charlie Dent. In the district, viewed as a tossup in the general election, candidates diverge on core Democratic Party issues, and it is driving the race.
In recent days, John Morganelli, the longtime Northampton County district attorney, drew attacks from California-based billionaire activist Tom Steyer’s NextGen and Washington-based Emily’s List, a politically influential group that backs women candidates who favor abortion rights. The crux of the criticism is Morganelli’s opposition to abortion rights and the immigrant-friendly policies of sanctuary cities, providing an opening to compare Morganelli to President Donald Trump.
Emily’s List endorsed Susan Wild and Greg Edwards received an endorsement and a visit Saturday from liberal icon Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator. Meanwhile, a super PAC whose donors include Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and former Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is attacking Wild and Edwards, presumably to help Morganelli.
By comparison, the 5th District race is genteel as candidates seek endorsements to separate themselves from the pack and Philadelphia’s powerful electricians’ union spends heavily to boost its favored candidate, Rich Lazer.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Click here to find your local polling station.