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      •  Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye
      •  Guest Columnist: On the Front Lines in Pennsylvania

Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye

It was a heck of a Tuesday for politics watchers, with dozens of high-profile races on the ballot in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon, Idaho, and Kentucky. Some stars continued their rise, while others came crashing to the ground (at least for now). Let's get right to it:

U.S. Senate
  • Pennsylvania: The Senate is what most people care about, what with the 50-50 split and all, so we will begin there. On the Democratic side of this contest, things went according to form, excepting that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat Rep. Conor Lamb and Malcolm Kenyatta by an even larger margin than expected, taking 59% of the vote as compared to 26.4% and 10.3%. The Lieutenant Governor won every county, and did particularly well in Pennsyltucky (i.e., the more rural part of the state between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—the part James Carville famously called "Alabama"). Lamb seemed to be a world-beater a couple of years ago, but... where does he go from here? Actually, he could be a potential Cabinet secretary if someone like Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough decides to pack it in. Other than that, however, it's probably lobbying or talking-head work.

    On the Republican side, things are much more interesting. The one thing we can tell you is that Kathy Barnette was just a little too out there, even for the GOP base, and so she will not be the nominee, having collected only 24.8% of the vote. Beyond that, it's too close to call. With 94% reporting, Mehmet Oz has 31.3% of the vote while David McCormick has 31.1%. A little over 1.3 million ballots have been counted so far, so what that means is that Oz is up about 2,500 votes with about 25,000 votes still to be counted. And it's close enough that once those 25,000 votes are tallied, then everything will be recounted (Pennsylvania law mandates it if the margin is less than 0.5%). The likelihood is that Oz will get the nod, but we won't know for certain for a week or so. At least it's not Iowa; if it was we wouldn't know until, oh, sometime in 2028, probably.

  • North Carolina: In the Tar Heel State, there were zero surprises on either side of the contest. Rep. Ted Budd (R) won his party's primary easily, with 58.6% of the vote to 24.6% for runner-up Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory. (And yes, just like Neville Chamberlain and appeasement, the bathroom bill will be mentioned anytime McCrory's name comes up, in perpetuity, and even beyond his earthly demise.) On the Democratic side, former NC Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley won even more easily than Budd, with 81.1% of the vote. She currently trails Budd in polls by 5-6 points, but she had an easy primary and he didn't, and she banked a bunch of money and he didn't, so this could turn into a barnburner.

  • Kentucky: Another one that went according to script. Sen. Rand Paul (R), who hates the government, won the right to run for 6 more years helping to run the government, with 86.3% of the vote. We're guessing his next-door neighbor was not part of that 86.3%. He will be challenged by former state representative Charles Booker, who is Black and progressive, and who got 73.2% of the primary vote. Booker's a longshot, but it will be interesting to see if he can do better than the more centrist Amy McGrath, who got trounced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2020.

  • Oregon: Sen. Ron Wyden (D) is up this year, but he's popular in Oregon, as reflected in his claiming 90% of the vote yesterday. He is likely to face Jo Rae Perkins (up 32.5% to 30.6% with 82% reporting), who is a prominent QAnon advocate, and who is making her fifth bid for a seat in Congress (thrice for the Senate, twice for the House). You presumably don't need us to tell you she's going to run her record to 0-5 in November.

  • Idaho: Idaho is the mirror of Oregon, in that a popular incumbent is up this year, but a Republican, namely Mike Crapo (R). He was renominated with "only" 66.9% of the vote because there's a pissing contest going on in Idaho right now between Republicans, far-right Republicans, and absolute whackadoodle Republicans who are so far right they might fall into the Mississippi River. Now that Crapo can dispense with that, he can move on to the relatively easy task of crushing Democratic nominee David Roth (no, not the one from Van Halen). Roth seems like a decent fellow, and he's focused on some important issues, like fentanyl addiction. However, he's got as much chance in Idaho as a narc has at a biker rally.
U.S. House
  • North Carolina: The biggest news of the night, when it comes to the U.S. House, is that our long national nightmare is over, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R) has been sent packing by the Republican voters of NC-11. He got 31.9% of the vote as compared to 33.4% for establishment-backed state Sen. Chuck Edwards (R). That's close enough that the Representative could throw a hissy fit, demand recounts, claim he was robbed, etc., but instead, he's already conceded. Some are speculating that this is proof that "stop the steal" only works for Donald Trump, but our guess is that Cawthorn, who clearly has no interest in governance, is eyeing some lucrative private-sector gig. It is not clear if a member has to turn in his cocaine orgy pass as soon as he's a lame duck, or if he gets to keep it until his term's up. We'll have to put the staff gigolo on that so we can find out. In any event, NC-11 is quite red, so Edwards will be the new representative for the good people of (far) western North Carolina.

    Oh, and this would be a prime candidate for "This Week in Schadenfreude," but it's just too delicious to wait that long:

    Those who live in glass houses should not send out snotty tweets. Oh, and thanks to reader E.R. in Irving, TX, for bringing this to our attention.

    Meanwhile, over in the state's one true toss-up district, NC-13, moderate Democrat Wiley Nickel claimed 51.7% of the vote and will face off against Republican Trump-backed football player Bo Hines, who got 32.1% of the vote in his primary. Hines lives pretty far from the district, and has made no secret of his view that this job is just a stepping stone on the path to the presidency. We'll see how that plays with NC-13 voters.

    There are also NC-01, which is open due to the retirement of Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D), and NC-04, which is open due to the retirement of Rep. David Price (D; not the Dodgers pitcher). In both cases, progressives came up short, with Don Davis (D) defeating Erica Smith (D) 63.2% to 31.1% in NC-01, and Valerie Foushee (D) defeating both Nida Allam (D) and Clay Aiken (D) 46.1% to 36.9% to 7.4%. NC-04 is pretty safely Democratic, so Foushee can start looking for a place to lease in Washington. NC-01 only leans Democratic, but the Republicans ended up with Sandy Smith, who barely overcame a last-minute skeletons-in-the-closet blitz from her main opponent Sandy Roberson, beating him 31.4% to 26.8%. The skeletons are real, and Smith was pretty badly damaged, so the Democrats have a pretty good chance of hanging on here.

  • Oregon: Madison Cawthorn isn't the only incumbent who was knocked off last night. Well, maybe he wasn't. There was some sort of processing error in OR-05, so only about half the vote is in, but at the moment progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D) is leading Rep. Kurt Schrader (D), 60.2% to 39.8%. The Democratic establishment tried to prop Schrader up, thinking him more likely to hold this swingy district, but it looks like they will fail. The establishment also tried to prop up the ostensibly more electable Carrick Flynn (D) in OR-06, but that didn't work at all. He got smoked by State Rep. Andrea Salinas, with 37.8% of the vote for her and just 19.0% for him. And in that district, nearly three-quarters of the vote is in, so the result figures to hold.

    On the Republican side of those contests, it's likely going to be Lori Chavez-DeRemer in OR-05, who has 41.9% of the vote to 30.9% for Jimmy Crumpacker. We are thus going to be denied the opportunity to make numerous remarks about the latter plotting strategy with Sydney Carton, having a beer with Martin Chuzzlewit, and celebrating Christmas with Bob Cratchit. Bah, humbug. In any event, OR-05 is barely Democratic, so this is going to be a closely watched race.

    In the slightly more Democratic OR-06, meanwhile, the Republican will be Mike Erickson, who easily defeated all comers with 34.6% of the vote, and who can afford to buy all the commercial time he needs. In other words, people in the Salem area are going to get thoroughly sick of seeing his face, even if they like his politics.

  • Pennsylvania: In PA-06, PA-07, and PA-08, three unopposed Democratic incumbents, namely Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright, found out the identities of their November opponents. They will face, respectively, Guy Ciarrocchi (33.2% of the vote), Lisa Scheller (51.3%), and Jim Bognet (68.8%). All three are Trumpy, but only Bognet embraced the former president by name, and only Bognet had his endorsement. The Democrats will need to hope that such close association with The Donald is toxic in the Keystone state, as Bognet's opponent Cartwright is far and away the most endangered of these three Democrats.

    Over in PA-17, which Conor Lamb vacated, the race will be between the Lamb-like (but not lamblike) military veteran Chris Deluzio (D), who claimed 63.2% of the vote and Trumpy-but-not-crazy-about-it computer scientist Jeremy Shaffer (R), who got 58.7% on his side of the contest. This one could go either way.

  • Kentucky: Republican incumbents, five of them, won renomination and will easily win reelection. They will be joined by one Democrat, Kentucky State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, who took 63.3% of the vote and will certainly be elected to succeed Rep. John Yarmuth (D), who is retiring after 8 terms representing the D+8 KY-03.

  • Idaho: Ibid., except with only two Republican incumbents and no Democrat.
  • Pennsylvania: As expected (feared?), the Republicans got state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who took 44.4% of the vote, easily more than alleged "unity" candidate Lou Barletta, who got just 20.3%. There are actual photographs of Mastriano at the 1/6 insurrection. He also took the lead in trying to overturn the state's election results, and admits that with pride. And if he's elected governor, he would appoint the secretary of state, who oversees elections in Pennsylvania. "I get to appoint the secretary of state," Mastriano said gleefully at one of the candidates' debates. "We're going to reset registration. You're going to have to re-register. We're going to start all over again."

    Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro (D), who was unopposed, has already sent out fundraising e-mails warning that Mastriano would be the most extreme governor in America, and that if he's elected he would roll back abortion rights, voting rights, and would wreak all sorts of right-wing havoc. The AG's probably not wrong about that, and from where we sit, Mastriano looks all-but-unelectable. It's true that people, including us, said that about Donald Trump. However, Mastriano is considerably further right than Trump, and that talk of completely redoing the state's voter registration is both scary and highly impolitic. We also assume that Pennsylvanians will see the pictures of Mastriano at the insurrection approximately 100 million times in the next 6 months. Oh, and since Shapiro was able to cool his jets during primary season, he's banked $20 million. Early last year, Shapiro and John Fetterman made an agreement about who who run in each race so they wouldn't compete head on for either governor or senator. It worked and both win their primaries.

  • Oregon: Progressives got their woman in former speaker of the Oregon House Tina Kotek (D), who rode roughshod over the more moderate state treasurer Tobias Read (D), 57.4% to 33.0%. Perhaps the extent of Oregonians' exasperation with liberal policies has been greatly exaggerated. Kotek will match up against her former colleague Christine Drazan (R), who succeeded Carl Wilson (not the Beach Boy) as minority leader of the Oregon House while Kotek was speaker. Drazan got 23.8% of the vote, 5% more than anyone else in the crowded 18-person field, and will be running on a platform of "Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR) sucks." Also in the race, remember, is independent former Democrat Betsy Johnson. With a pretty far lefty on the Democratic ticket and a pretty far righty on the Republican ticket, maybe there's a lane for Johnson.

  • Idaho: Gov. Brad Little (R) easily handled his Trump-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin (R), 53.3% to 31.5%. That sound you hear is egg dripping down the former president's face; maybe he will learn not to take sides against incumbents, especially after the thrashing that's coming down the pike in the Georgia governor's race next week. Little will face off against Stephen Heidt (D), who got zero votes yesterday because his race was uncontested. That might well be the total he gets in November, too.
Other Storylines
  • Takin' It to the Streets: Turnout was pretty high by the standards of primary elections, which loosely correlates with voter enthusiasm (more on this below). In the two states that are going to have national implications, namely Pennsylvania and North Carolina, about 55% of the voters who showed up were Republicans while about 45% were Democrats. That could be an ill omen for the blue team in November. On the other hand, the full effects of the Roe decision are not yet known, and the races at the tops of the Democratic tickets in those two states were all slam dunks, while the Republican races were not. "Settled" races tend to produce lower turnout.

  • Fight the Power: Progressives had a very solid performance last night. They've got a gubernatorial nominee in Oregon; Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and North Carolina; and House candidates in at least one, and very possibly two key Oregon districts. Also, we didn't mention it above because the district is not in doubt, but progressive Summer Lee is up on moderate Steve Irwin (not the Crocodile Hunter) by 446 votes with about 1,000 left to count in the very blue PA-12.

  • We Built This City: On the other hand, the establishment on both sides of the aisle had mixed results yesterday. The Republican pooh-bahs rid themselves of some troublesome folks, like Kathy Barnette and Madison Cawthorn, but they're still stuck with some candidate they tried hard to derail, most obviously Doug Mastriano. The Democrats, meanwhile, tried to sway a few races in an establishment direction and came up short each time. Maybe, and we're just spitballing here, the Democratic muckety-mucks should stay out of the primaries and let the voters decide? The Republicans, too.

  • Won't Get Fooled Again?: Donald Trump is going to brag that he endorsed 23 (possibly 24) winning candidates yesterday. However, most of those were unopposed or else won in landslides. In terms of endorsements where he was actually risking something, he was right about Bo Hines and Ted Budd, he was wrong about Janice McGeachin and Madison Cawthorn, and we don't know yet about Mehmet Oz (we're not counting Mastriano, because Trump only made that endorsement this weekend, after the outcome was no longer in doubt).

    You can be certain that Republican office-seekers are watching very closely to see what happens with Trump endorsees, and that they only care about the races where his endorsement might be determinative. There's limited value in kissing the ring if you're going to win by 30 points either way. Anyhow, the former president was 2-2-1 in such races yesterday, which is the same rate of accuracy as flipping a coin (assuming that there's a way to generate a tie from a coin flip). It grows harder and harder to see him as any sort of kingmaker, and that's before we consider the potential costs of having his support in the general election.

  • Money for Nothing: When it comes to politics, it's better to have money than to not have it. However, as we pointed out this weekend, it's not a panacea if you're not a great candidate. Yesterday provided an object lesson in that. Steve Irwin, Kurt Schrader, Carrick Flynn, and Lou Barletta, among others, had considerably more money than the candidate they were challenging, and all appear to have lost.

  • Hey Ladies!: We notice that in nearly every race last night where a male and a female candidate were facing off, the female candidate won. Is this a preview of how the upcoming Supreme Court decision will affect the midterms? We report, you decide.

In case you're wondering: The Doobie Brothers, Public Enemy, Jefferson Starship, the Who, Dire Straits, and the Beastie Boys.

That's what we've got for now; undoubtedly other storylines will shake out once there's been time to examine the results more closely, and once the final totals are in. And then, next week, it's Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia. (Z)

Guest Columnist: On the Front Lines in Pennsylvania

We are, for reasons that will be made clear, running guest columns each day this week. Today, we intended to run a de facto counterpoint to the anti-Roe piece from yesterday. However, this report from the field makes more sense today. We'll get to the counterpoint tomorrow.

This comes from reader J.F. in East Allen, PA, who served as a volunteer poll worker in east-central Pennsylvania yesterday, about 70 miles north of Philadelphia. Take it away, J.F.:

It was as beautiful a day as eastern Pennsylvania is capable of, 72 degrees of breezy sunshine. East Allen (East) is a pretty white, Republican district to begin with, and tonight I was sad that out of 478 votes cast, I saw only 13 people of color.

I also saw about an 80/20 split Republican/Democrat. Not sure if that's "average" or not for this district, since this was my first time working. The polling place is located in, literally, a trailer park. A nice one, but a trailer park nonetheless, called "Greenbriar Estates." I was astounded by how many of the residents of the actual trailer park were voting against their own economic interests (in my view, of course).

There was definite "anger in the air" towards the Biden/Harris administration in general, and Joe Biden in particular. I heard nary a single comment from anyone, at any time, about a reason they were voting for any candidate. I heard many a comment about why they were voting against various candidates, however.

I also had the impression that many people who were there to vote were following instructions. Other experienced poll workers, both at my precinct but also while chatting in line turning in documentation, remarked how "newbie" a lot of the turnout seemed to be, and that many had detailed notes on whom to vote for. "Assistance requests" in the booth for those needing assistance from others to complete their ballot were also higher than usual—we twice ran out of the forms and needed a runner from the courthouse (seriously) to deliver more.

As far as turnout, the 478 ballots cast were out of 1895 registered voters. A dozen or so were voters who turned out only to vote on a referendum question, and were not major-party affiliated, so had no primary to vote on. The rest, as I said, were at least 80/20 in favor of the Republicans.

Three of us were noobs, the other was an experienced worker from prior elections who said the Biden/Trump election was "the most turnout this district has ever seen"—499 voters. So, we came very close to that, and in an off-year, primary election.

However red the district is, though, I will say that there was not a MAGA hat or rude T-shirt in evidence at any time; I saw one QAnon hat ("WWG1WGA") and a "Let's Go Brandon" hat but otherwise everyone followed the "no political statements on clothing" rules. So red we may be, but rule followers too. I'm not saying that's good. It's basically lawful evil, in my view. I also consider the "owning the libs is the most important thing" crowd to be chaotic evil, which is like, the worst of all alignments.

John Fetterman beat Conor Lamb by about 3:1 on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, Mehmet Oz beat Teresa Barnette by about 12 points, with David McCormick 12 points further back. Doug Mastriano beat Lou Barletta 2:1. These are rough numbers.

Finally, the most pissing and moaning—er, carping and criticizing, that is—about anything was that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require a photo (or any) ID to vote. At least two-thirds of people had something negative to say about this. I must have said some version of, "I understand how you feel, but it's your legislators that need to hear your thoughts, not us here, please," 100 times.

And that's all I can recall from notes taken as I slogged through the day. As a first time worker, I was apprehensive about a day that began at the polls at 6:00 a.m. and ended at the courthouse dropping everything off at 10:30 p.m., but it was a breeze. I had a nice time being part of it all and recommend it to anyone.

Thanks for your report, and for your service, J.F.!

We're up to about 4,000 words on the day, and non-election stories can be an awkward fit with election results. So, we're going to leave it there and get back to our more regular stuff tomorrow. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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