A Look at Last Tuesday's Down Ticket Primary Outcomes

Besides presidential primaries in five Northeastern states last Tuesday, congressional district and Senatorial primaries were held in Maryland and Pennsylvania.  The following is a look at the outcomes in those races.

Maryland Senate:  In a race that did not end up as close as most believed, Chris Van Hollen defeated fellow Democratic representative Barbara Edwards.  He will go on to face state delegate Kathy Szeliga of the GOP in the fall.  Van Hollen had the unstated backing of the Democratic establishment while Edwards drew support from most feminist groups.  Near the end of the contest, she questioned the Congressional Black Caucus for not endorsing her.  Szeliga was the favorite of the GOP going into the primary.  She is considered one of the most powerful women in Maryland politics regardless of party.  This may be a sleeper of a race and although Van Hollen is clearly the favorite, things could change.  If so, it would be a huge shift in the Senate partisan breakdown.

Maryland 4th:  Former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown won the Democratic primary for this suburban DC seat.  In 2014, he surprisingly lost to Larry Hogan in the Governor’s race.  Many Democrats criticized his effort in that race claiming Hogan defined the race with social rather than economic issues.  Brown was also responsible for Maryland’s disastrous roll out of Obamacare.  He will face off against former Democrat George McDermott in the fall.  One will have to see whether he will use the same tactics against Brown that Hogan used.

Maryland 8th:  Democrats like to rail against money in politics and how it perverts the system.  By intimation, they assume he who spends the most invariably wins.  The Democratic race in the 8th to succeed Barbara Edwards destroys those optics.  David Trone, a wealthy businessman, spent an incredible $12.75 million on this race in the primary alone making it the most spent by any single candidate EVER in a House race.  And he LOST to Jamie Raskin 34-27 with Kathleen Matthews, wife of MSNBC leg tingler Chris Matthews, coming in third.  Perhaps Trone and Matthews cancelled each other out, but $12.75 million to lose a race is somewhat ludicrous.

Other races in Maryland:  There were no surprises in the other congressional district races.  The only two races of interest were on the Republican side.  In the 7th District, William Newton won his primary by less than 100 votes of over 25,000 cast and will face Blubberer Elijah Cummings in the fall.  If the GOP has any chance of flipping a seat in Maryland, it is the 6th District where GOP favorite/endorsed Amie Hoeber won a surprisingly close race.

Pennsylvania Senate:  In the end, a case can be made that Kate McGinty’s Democratic primary race was not that close- she won by 10 points.  However, she also failed to come anywhere near 50%.  Some voters were inevitably turned off by the “I’m more progressive than the other guy/gal” commercials that inundated the airwaves and opted for long shot John Fetterman instead.  Regardless, within hours two conservative groups launched ads against McGinty.  The Club for Growth and the Chamber of Commerce- two groups often at heads with one another- are running the ads.  One shows McGinty as part of the revolving door lobbyist-to-politician apparatus, while the other features supporters singing the praises of Pat Toomey.

Pennsylvania 2nd:  State representative Dwight Evans defeated incumbent Democrat Chaka Fattah in this Philadelphia-based district.  Fattah’s racketeering charges obviously played an important role and his trial will begin this month.  If Fattah had been convicted and removed from office after winning in November, there would be no special election and his replacement would have been chosen by power brokers in the area.  Consider this an upgrade for the House as a whole.

Pennsylvania 7th:  In a stunning rebuke to the national Democratic Party, voters chose local favorite Mary Ellen Balchunis over their favorite, Bill Golderer.  The DCCC had even listed him on their “Emerging Star” list, but that star fell out of the sky losing by 48 points.  The 7th is one of those swing Philadelphia suburban districts currently held by GOP incumbent Pat Meehan who many consider a “moderate.”  Interestingly, many local Democratic officials are actually supporting Meehan’s reelection.

Pennsylvania 8th:  In another stinging rebuke to the national Democrats, Steve Santasiero, the favorite of local Democrats, crushed Shaunessey Naughton.  The DCCC tried to convince Santasiero to drop out of the race at one point for this open Republican-held seat being vacated by Mike Fitzpatrick who stuck to his own term-limit pledge (good for him).  Instead, his brother Brian, a former FBI agent, will be the GOP nominee who easily won his primary.

Pennsylvania 9th: Republican incumbent Bill Shuster narrowly defeated Art Halvorson by only 1,009 votes.  Halvorson ran a close race in 2014 against Shuster also.  Shuster is known for securing pork spending for his Altoona-based district and that did not play well with many.  A last minute burst of spending likely won this race for Shuster.  Last year, Shuster fast-tracked a piece of legislation favorable to the airline industry while dating an airline industry lobbyist.  The Democrats failed to field a candidate in this race.

Pennsylvania 16th: Republican Lloyd Smucker narrowly defeated fellow Republican Chet Beiler, who happens to be his second cousin.  Smucker will defend this open GOP seat in the fall for the retiring Joe Pitts.  He will face Christina Hartman, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.  This is one of those borderline, interesting districts where although pinkish to red may be vulnerable with the right set of circumstances (e.g., a disastrous Trump at the top of the ticket).  This writer will be keeping a close eye on this race as it unfolds.

Other congressional races in Pennsylvania:  There were no surprises in other races.  In fact, four Republican incumbents will run unopposed against Democrats in 2016 while one Democrat (Mike Doyle in the 14th) will not draw a Republican opponent.