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Primary Report

Pennsylvania’s primary and special elections results showed some major surprises in the vote totals, a few which will have serious impacts in the fall and the future in Harrisburg. Two incumbent Congressmen and six sitting members of the state House of Representatives saw their House careers end with the results. Incumbents who lost by and large were centrist candidates, opposed by Tea Party/conservatives on the Republican ballot and more liberal opponents on the Democratic side of the aisle.

At the state level, Mitt Romney easily outpaced his opponents with about 57% of the vote, and finished the evening with what sounded like a GOP acceptance speech aimed at President Obama. In an earlier appearance at Consol Energy’s headquarters in southwestern Pennsylvania, Romney had blasted the president for being unfriendly to the coal and gas industries (see clip below.)

In the race for the state’s US Senate seat, Bob Casey, Jr. easily won his primary, and Tom Smith, a coal mine owner from Armstrong County, took more than one half of the GOP vote, far outpacing the endorsed Republican candidate Steve Welch and former State Rep. Sam Rohrer among others.

In row office elections, few surprises – the Attorney General race in the fall will pit uncontested Republican winner David Freed against Kathleen Kane, who survived an ugly primary fight to get the Democratic nomination.

For Auditor General, Republican State Rep. John Maher won 2-1 over Frank Pinto, and will square off against Democrat State Rep. Eugene DePasquale in the fall. State Treasurer candidates ran without opposition, and this fall, Treasurer Rob McCord will face Republican Diana Irey Vaughan.

Two sitting Congressmen lost their primaries, as Rep. Tim Holden (D, 17), the co-chairman of the Blue Dog caucus was defeated by Scranton lawyer Matt Cartright, and Congressman Jason Altmire, another moderate Democrat lost in a close race with Congressman Mark Critz.

Congressman Tim Murphy easily handled his well-financed Tea Party challenger Adam Feinberg by a 63-37 percent margin in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In the newly formed fourth Congressional district, State Rep. Scott Perry received more than 53 percent of the total vote, easily outpacing six other candidates in his effort to replace retiring Congressman Todd Platts.

State House
The House is currently under GOP control by a 110-87 margin with six seats being filled by special elections. After Tuesday’s elections, the Democrats picked up one net seat, leaving the chamber 111-92. ERG welcomes the six new members of the state House of Representatives, elected Tuesday to fill open seats left by resignations of the previous members.

Democrat Martin Schmotzer will assume the 22nd district seat in Allegheny County vacated when Chelsa Wagner (D) was elected Allegheny County Controller. In the 134th District, vacated by Doug Reichley (R), Republican Ryan Mackenzie takes over the Lehigh County seat. In Montgomery County, the seat vacated by Josh Shapiro (D) was won by Madeleine Dean, a Democrat. In Philadelphia’s 169th District vacated by Dennis O’Brien (R), Democrat Ed Neilson will become its Representative. Democrat Harold James, a former House member, will take back the 186th District seat in Philadelphia vacated by Kenyatta Johnson (D). And Democrat Gary Williams will take over the 197th District seat left open by Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams (D).

There were some major surprises in the House primary elections, with Speaker Sam Smith winning a surprisingly close primary in Jefferson County, and several incumbents being defeated on both sides of the aisle. Republican Transportation Committee chairman Rick Geist was defeated by 56 votes in Blair County by conservative challenger John McGinnis. And the Democratic Chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee, Joe Preston, lost his Pittsburgh seat by almost 2-1 after the Allegheny County Democratic party endorsed his opponent Ed Gainey.

Other incumbents upset in the primary were Democratic Reps. Kevin Murphy and Ken Smith in northeastern PA and Babette Josephs in Philadelphia. Rep. Tony Payton of Philadelphia withdrew after challenges to his nomination papers.

Several other sitting members won close primary races with less than 60 percent of their party’s votes.

Also of note, two vacancies have opened in the House this week after the announced resignations of Rep. Bill DeWeese (D-Greene), effective April 24, and Rep. Curt Schroder (R-Chester), effective May 6. DeWeese was sentenced Tuesday to 30-60 months of jail time, and has appealed his conviction. Schroder is accepting a job as senior vice president of the Hospital and Health Systems of Pennsylvania southeast region. The seats will be filled by special elections later this year.

State Senate
In the state Senate, Republicans continue to control the chamber by a 30-20 split.

Only four State Senators faced primary opponents. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi easily outpaced Tea Party candidate Roger Howard by 3-1. Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County won her primary by a 57-43 percent margin, and Sen. Gene Yaw of Lycoming County both won primaries against conservative challengers, and Sen. Dave Argall of Schuylkill County defeated coal company president Brian Rich by 55-45.

In the most hotly contested GOP Senate primary, D. Raja, a businessman who ran for Allegheny County Executive in 2011, easily defeated Rep. Mark Mustio and Sue Means, a home school advocate in a race to replace retiring Sen. John Pippy.