Results Come in For Governor, U.S. Senate Primaries

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

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Yesterday’s primaries brought the 2018 primary season, one of the most vitriolic and combative in recent memory, to an end. Like the local elections taking place at the same time, results in the statewide primaries were a mixture of predicted and surprising. Up for grabs were the Republican nomination for Governor, nominations in both parties for Lieutenant Governor, and the Republican nod for Senator. 

As current governor Tom Wolf retained Democratic support for a second term, the three candidates in the Republican field- Laura Ellsworth, Paul Mango, and Scott Wagner- waged a virtual war in hopes of amassing Republican votes. Many of Mr. Mango’s ads were viciously negative, calling Mr. Wagner (who received the Republican nod to run) a “slumlord” for his career as the owner of a garbage collecting business. While the two duked it out over the airways, Ms. Ellsworth laid low until about two weeks ago, when she began releasing ads portraying herself as the most civil candidate of the three. Despite this, Mr. Wagner retained a lead as yesterday’s election approached, polling at 47% support from Republicans, while Mr. Mango and Ms. Ellsworth had only 32% and 18%, respectively. The combination of institutional support and higher name-recognition seems to have worked for Mr. Wagner, who was announced as the winner of the GOP primary shortly after 10 o’clock last night. His victory is a success for President Trump, who strongly endorsed Mr. Wagner. Whether Mr. Wagner’s strategies and policy positions will appeal to a broader swathe of the electorate in November remains to be seen; Gov. Wolf has the twin advantages of being the incumbent and being relatively moderate in a purple state.

The race for Lieutenant Governor was one of the most crowded in memory, with 9 candidates from the two parties vying for a nomination. The Democratic field included incumbent Mike Stack -whose relation with Governor Wolf was tenuous, at best-, former Philadelphia mayor’s aide Nina Ahmad, Chester County commissioner Kathi Cozzone, Braddock mayor John Fetterman, and political advisor Ray Sosa. Mr. Fetterman pulled off an upset victory in the cluttered field, making Mr. Stack the first Lt. Governor in Pennsylvania history to lose in their party primary, and potentially propelling Mr. Fetterman from the mayor of a shrinking steel town to the second highest elected position in the state this November. The Republican candidates were Jeff Bartos, a businessman, Kathleen Coder, a consultant, Peg Luksik, a political advisor, and Diana Irey Vaughan, the Washington County Commissioner. Mr. Bartos and Ms. Vaughan were running on unofficial joint tickets with Mr. Wagner and Mr. Mango, respectively. The success of Mr. Bartos is good news for Mr. Wagner, who will be able to present a unified front to voters over the next several months as he campaigns across the state. In a change that could shake up Pennsylvania politics, 2018 may be the last year that the Lt. Governor is on a separate ticket from the Governor, pending elections reform later this year that would allow gubernatorial candidates to select their own Lt. Governors. 

Finally, former Hazleton mayor and anti-immigrant representative Lou Barletta won the Republican nomination to run against Senator Bob Casey in November. He easily beat his primary opponent, Jim Christiana, and secured both the President’s support and the Republican nod to run. Bob Casey, who is one of the more moderate Democrats in the Senate, has served two terms and will likely be able to beat back a challenge from Mr. Barletta.

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