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ERG Partners Primary Report


In the Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary, Donald Trump won easily over Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, gaining more than 55% of the vote, assuring him of the 17 statewide delegates on the first ballot.  But the race for delegates will tell the full story when votes are counted.  Trump’s campaign came up with a last minute “boots on the ground” effort to capture delegates throughout the state.  Hillary Clinton easily defeated Bernie Sanders on the Democratic ticket, but those delegates will be determined proportionately.  The state’s SuperDelegates have already effectively announced support for Clinton in Philadelphia.

US Senate Primary

Pennsylvania’s junior senator Pat Toomey (R) was unopposed, but this fall’s election is expected to be a barn burner.  Four Democrats were vying for the opportunity to run against Toomey this fall.  In the race, Katie McGinty defeated former Congressman Joe Sestak who had an enviable 17 point lead over McGinty just six weeks ago.  Braddock Mayor John Fetterman ran a very strong race with no cash or endorsements, coming in third with more than 20% of the vote.  A series of endorsements from the President and Vice President, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee down to the House Democratic caucus, along with several million dollars in donations both in state and out of state PACs had narrowed the lead of Sestak by late last week and McGinty has pulled ahead.  

Congressional Primaries

PA 2nd Former House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans had virtually everyone’s endorsement and funding with fellow Democrats Brian Gordon and Dan Muroff also in the race defeated incumbent Chaka Fattah, who is facing trial next month on multiple Federal criminal charges.  The district boasts an 82% Democratic registration so there is little hope in November for Republican James Jones.

PA 9th Congressman Bill Shuster is in his eighth term, and was locked in a difficult primary against conservative real estate developer Art Halvorson.  Shuster serves as the Chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Halvorson alleged Shuster was “voting with liberals and selling out to special interests instead of fighting for Republican principles.” Shuster has been questioned for his personal relationship with airline lobbyist Shelley Rubino. Halverson has tied Shuster’s support of legislation favored by the airline industry to his relationship with Rubino and demanded Shuster’s resignation. At midnight, Shuster was declared the winner by the Associated Press, leading by less than one percentage point with 80% of the vote recorded..

PA 8th The retirement of Republican Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick creates a toss-up seat with even voter registration at 42% Republican and 42% Democratic. State Rep. Steve Santarsiero defeated Shaughnessy Naughton who lost in the 2014 Democratic Primary.  On the Republican side, retired FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick, the younger brother of the Congressman easily defeated perennial Bucks County candidate Andy Warren and psychologist Dr. Marc Duome.

PA 16th Lloyd Smucker, a state Senator, will be the GOP nominee for the seat of retiring Joe Pitts, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Health, in this largely Republican Lancaster County seat.  County GOP chair Chet Beiler and Smucker waged a personal, ugly blood bath to determine the party’s nominee. Christina Hartman won the Democratic nomination.

PA 7th  Pat Meehan is in his third term, and defeated the conservative Tea Party real estate developer Stan Casacio. Meanwhile, Democrats have their own battle to see who will be the party’s standard bearer in November.  Political science professor Mary Ellen Balchunis, who lost to Meehan in 2014, defeated Pastor Bill Golderer, who was recruited and financed by party leaders who have long looked for “the right candidate” to attack the moderate Meehan.

PA 14th First elected in 1994 to a district that had been held by Rick Santorum, Congressman Mike Doyle will become the longest serving member from the Keystone State. Doyle easily defeated pastor Dr. Janis C. Brooks who is a founder/CEO of a local youth program, and self-described human rights activist.

State Attorney General

State Senator John Rafferty secured the endorsements of the party and a host of state Republican leaders and defeated Joe Peters, who was active in law enforcement for decades, serving in the Office of Attorney General under AG’s from both parties, and in the White House Office on Drug Control. 

Josh Shapiro, Montgomery County Commissioner chairman has been angling for this job for several years, and has his chance at it this fall.  Shapiro defeated Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allegheny County DA Stephen Zappala, after he was endorsed by Democratic leaders, ranging from President Obama and VP Joe Biden to Governor Wolf and state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

Notable State Senate Races

Rep. Tom Killion, a 13-year House veteran, won a special election over Marty Molloy, a nonprofit executive in the 9th District seat vacated when former Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi retired to become a judge.  Killion and Molloy will face off again in the fall.
In Philadelphia, the John Sabatina vs. Kevin Boyle race was a battle between two Northeast Philadelphia family dynasties, with the inclusion of Lt. Governor Mike Stack jumping in on the side of Sabatina.  Bad blood between these families and the Lt. Gov. has been brewing for several years over local pride and politics.  Boyle is the younger brother of Congressman Brendan Boyle and a member of the State House.  At this point in time, the race is too close to call, and may go days without the winner being revealed.
Sharif Street, son of former Mayor John Street and chief of staff to retiring Sen. Shirley Kitchen will become that fifth district’s next state Senator.

State Rep. Mike Regan defeated three opponents including former NFL fullback Jon Ritchie in the very acrimonious race across the Susquehanna from the Capitol for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Vance.  The Senate Majority  Leader (and Senate Campaign Committee Chairman) supported Regan while Vance, the Public Health and Welfare Committee chair, recruited Ritchie.  Both sides had football representatives making robocalls (Christian Hackenberg for Regan, Mike Harbaugh for Ritchie), and two of the state’s GOP lobbying/consulting firms guiding campaigns and running ads for opposite sides.  Several unions endorsed Ritchie, a fact that became an issue in this race.  ERG learned this afternoon that those unions were running a write-in campaign for Ritchie on the Democratic ballot for the fall.

Former County Commissioner Scott Martin appears to have won the GOP nomination for Senate seat now held by Lloyd Smucker.  Former County GOP Chair and publisher Ethane Demme and combat veteran Neal Rice were competing for the Lancaster County State Senate seat.

Notable State House Races

Seventeen incumbents faced challenges this spring, and four lost their seats for the next session, although all three seats will likely remain in Democratic control.

Among Democrats, Philadelphia challenges are among the most publicly notable.  Rep. Mark Cohen, who has been in the House since 1974, was defeated by Jared Solomon, a civic leader who lost to Cohen by 158 votes in 2014.

In a surprise, two Philadelphia Representatives who had only just won seats in the March 15 special election were defeated in the primary.  Rep. Tonyelle Cook-Artis was defeated by Chris Rabb in the primary.  And Rep. Lynnwood Savage was defeated by Morgan Cephus.

Rep. Frank Farina of Scranton has conceded his race against former State Rep. Kevin Haggerty who Farina defeated in the 2014 primary.

Rep. Russ Diamond, a Republican reformer when elected, is in a Countywide battle with retiring Representative Mauree Gingrich for control of the Lebanon County party.  Diamond was opposed by supervisor Tom Houtz, and ran a candidate for the seat Gingrich was leaving.  Diamond was in a very tight battle, trailing by less than a percentage point at 11 p.m.

And Vanessa Lowery Brown, one of five Democratic members charged by District Attorney Seth Williams in a pay for play sting operation, remains in the race having narrowly defeated three primary opponents.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe had a re-run against farmer George Marburger (Marburger ran a write in campaign against Metcalfe in 2014 and got within 566 votes of beating the conservative activist.) This time around, it appears Metcalfe won more easily. 

Rep. Justin Simmons, who ran in 2010 as a Tea Party GOP reformer promising to term limit himself to six years defeated Bill Coyle, a more moderate traditional pro-business Republican who is attacking Simmons for violating his pledge.

Rep. Brian Sims, a vocal member of the LGBT community who talked about challenging for Chaka Fattah’s congressional seat, found himself with three opponents, usually a good sign of future success.  That split paid off with Sims getting the nomination despite earning less than 40% of the Democratic vote.   

In Delaware County, Democratic Rep. Margo Davidson survived a challenge by Upper Darby Councilwoman Sekela Coles.  Coles was Davidson’s greatest supporter in 2014, but this year ran against the Democrat who is known for her independence from the Democratic caucus on charter schools and abortion legislation.