Pennsylvania Democrats pick their candidates in key House battlegrounds

What to watch for in PA primaries

The Pennsylvania US House primaries — the first elections on a new court-imposed congressional map — were the main event on a day that included primary elections in Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon.

In the hotly contested Democratic primary for the Lehigh Valley House seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, former Allentown solicitor Susan Wild, who was backed by EMILY’s List, claimed victory. The best known candidate in the race, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, conceded to Wild. Morganelli was a target of progressives over his stances on abortion, illegal immigration and a series of now-deleted tweets that included praise for President Donald Trump.

In the new 1st District, Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick — one of the most endangered Republicans in this year’s midterm elections — survived a primary challenge and is now set to face Democrat Scott Wallace, a multimillionaire who has spent $2.5 million of his own money on the race. Wallace held off Rachel Reddick, an EMILY’s List-endorsed 33-year-old former Navy prosecutor, to win the primary.

Democrats also picked Mary Gay Scanlon, a local school board member, in a packed primary in the 5th District, an area vacated by former GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan, where the Democrats are all but certain to make one of the 23 pickups they will need to take control of the House.

Rep. Lou Barletta won Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary and is now set to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in November. The race is one of 10 Democratic-held Senate seats on the ballot this fall in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

Barletta was an early backer of Trump — and Trump has backed Barletta, recording a robocall for him days ahead of the primary against state Rep. Jim Christiana.

Barletta, who was elected in the tea party wave of 2010, has taken a hard line on immigration in the Senate. Republicans sought a more moderate candidate for the race but were unable to persuade other prospects to run. Barletta has lagged in the fundraising race, collecting nearly $1.3 million in 2018’s first quarter and ending with $1.6 million on hand, compared to Casey’s nearly $10 million on hand.

A familiar name — Rick Saccone, the former state lawmaker who lost to Conor Lamb in March — lost his second House race in three months. This time, he was defeated by state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler in the GOP primary for the deep-red 14th District in western Pennsylvania.

To the west, Democrats are headed toward a photo finish in Nebraska, where former Rep. Brad Ashford — a conservative “Blue Dog” who lost to Republican Rep. Don Bacon in 2016 — is locked in a razor-tight race against progressive Kara Eastman.

In Idaho, Rep. Raul Labrador — an influential member of the House Freedom Caucus — is one of three front-runners in a crowded gubernatorial primary.

And in Oregon, Republicans are choosing their candidate to take on Democratic Gov. Kate Brown in the fall.

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