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Midterm primaries Scandal-plagued Rep. Cawthorn loses in N.C. GOP primary

Welcome to special coverage of Tuesday’s North Carolina, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Idaho primaries from Post Politics Now.

Scandal-plagued Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has lost in the Republican primary to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who had the backing of establishment Republicans. GOP leaders in the state, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), had grown tired of Cawthorn, who was chastised for questionable statements about invitations to an “orgy” and cocaine use by senior Republicans, traffic violations and weapons offenses. In the campaign’s closing days, Cawthorn did get the endorsement of former president Donald Trump, but it wasn’t enough.

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the burly, 6-foot-8 liberal with a shaved head, won the Democratic nomination for Senate and will face the winner of a GOP primary that’s still too close to call. The primary win came on the same day that Fetterman had a pacemaker implanted after suffering a stroke last week. On the Republican side, former president Donald Trump is all-in for celebrity-turned-politician Mehmet Oz, who faces insurgent conservative candidate Kathy Barnette and businessman David McCormick.

Here’s what to know

  • Polls have closed in Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Polls closed in Idaho and Oregon at 11 p.m. (all Eastern time).
  • Here’s every scheduled election we’re watching in 2022.
  • As voters headed to the polls in five states, President Biden visited Buffalo to meet with grieving families in the wake of Saturday’s massacre that left 10 people dead.
11:33 p.m.
Headshot of Mike DeBonis
Congressional reporter
Barnette’s fade is likely to please McConnell — If anyone is breathing a sigh of relief tonight, it’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has articulated a single qualification for this year’s Republican Senate candidates: electability. Scarred from the losses of flawed GOP candidates such as Todd Akin in 2012 and Christine O’Donnell in 2010, he pledged to intercede if any such candidate appeared likely to win the party’s nomination.That was very suddenly put to the test over the past couple of weeks by the rise of Pennsylvania Senate candidate Kathy Barnette, who has a long history of extremist rhetoric that gave even former president Donald Trump qualms. Yet McConnell’s forces never stepped up to do anything significant about it, even as late polls this month showed her contending for victory despite her shoestring budget.The well-financed Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, for instance, did not dip into its hefty coffers to run ads attacking Barnette or boosting her competition. No matter: With Barnette slipping to a distant third in late-night returns behind David McCormick and Mehmet Oz — both of whom McConnell had previously signaled as acceptable candidates — the dire threat to electability appears to have abated.
11:28 p.m.
Headshot of Marianna Sotomayor
Congressional reporter covering the House of Representatives
Many Republicans are relieved as Cawthorn loses — Many Republicans breathed a huge sigh of relief after Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) lost his reelection race. Many of his House colleagues were hoping voters would oust Cawthorn rather than them having to spend the next several months considering how to punish him if he continued to find himself mired in controversy. Cawthorn conceded to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, another move that surprised congressional aides who had assumed the freshman would echo former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was rigged. Colleagues, state Republicans and constituents had soured on the scandal-plagued Cawthorn for his repeated mistakes and immaturity. As one GOP aide noted, “Well, that solved itself.”
11:15 p.m.
Headshot of Paul Kane
Senior congressional correspondent and columnist
Schumer’s new approach evident in Pa. — If Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has a political M.O. when it comes to big races, it’s always play it safe.His preferred candidates have tended to be former governors or former senators who already have name recognition with voters and a donor database. Think former senators Evan Bayh (Ind.), Russell Feingold (Wis.) and Bob Kerrey (Neb.), or former governors Phil Bredesen (Tenn.), Ted Strickland (Ohio), Steve Bullock (Mont.).Each of them lost Senate races in 2012, 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections.To be sure, Schumer's recruits of Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) paid off as those onetime governors won previously GOP-held seats in 2016 and 2020, respectively.When neither of those options existed, Schumer found nominees who were very generic Democrats, such as he did in 2016 with political neophyte Katie McGinty and pushed her to the nomination over less trustworthy candidates. She also lost.Enter John Fetterman.Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor has never won a statewide general election in his own right — that post runs as a ticket with the top of the ticket — and he hails from the more progressive wing of his caucus. His consultants are not aligned with Schumer’s political orbit.But Schumer stayed out of the Pennsylvania primary this year, part of a new approach to let the candidates fight it out among themselves to see who were the best candidates.
8:44 p.m.
Headshot of Mike DeBonis
Congressional reporter
Budd, Beasley secure party nominations with relative ease — The early Senate calls Tuesday night in North Carolina come as quite an anticlimax for two primaries that started out with the potential to be nail-biters. On the Democratic side, former state Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley faced off against state Sen. Jeff Jackson, who pledged to run an energetic grass-roots campaign that drew curious Democrats throughout the state. But Beasley’s institutional support — including from Emily’s List and other national groups eager to back a Black woman in a state where White male Democrats had fallen flat in consecutive Senate races — overwhelmed Jackson, who ended up switching to run for a Charlotte-area House seat. On the GOP side, Rep. Ted Budd emerged from a field that included former congressman Mark Walker and former governor Pat McCrory on the strength of an endorsement from former president Donald Trump and millions of dollars in ad spending from the Club for Growth. While McCrory showed some resilience due to his base of support among establishment Republicans, earned during his years as Charlotte mayor and governor, Budd’s backing from the most powerful forces in modern GOP politics won out.
7:29 p.m.
Headshot of Rhonda Colvin
Senior Reporter and Producer covering Congress
North Carolina’s largest voter base? The unaffiliated — One factor making the North Carolina primary one to watch is the sizable share of voters who are registered as unaffiliated with a party.The total number of unaffiliated voters is just slightly higher than those who are registered as Democrat or Republican, respectively, according to data from North Carolina’s secretary of state office.“It’s the largest base of voters in the state of North Carolina right now. And there’s always a question about how they vote, and particularly on a primary night where they can choose which party’s primary to participate in,” Sarah Treul Roberts, political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tells me. “It’s really interesting to sort of see what candidates entice them enough or what party platform is of interest to these unaffiliated voters. It also can make elections very challenging to forecast.”
6:04 p.m.
Headshot of Paul Kane
Senior congressional correspondent and columnist
Fetterman will try to buck the trend — John Fetterman, the Democratic front-runner for the nomination in Pennsylvania’s closely watched Senate race, is trying to channel the political ghost of Joseph F. Guffey.Who? Guffey is the only Democrat from western Pennsylvania to ever win a Senate race.Guffey began his political career in Pittsburgh on the Democratic National Committee, then claimed the party nomination in 1934 for the Senate. He defeated a GOP incumbent, winning again in 1940. He lost the seat by 20 percentage points in 1946.Democrats have nominated seven candidates from the western part of the state since then, all losing, most recently Ron Klink, a Pittsburgh-area member of the House who lost to then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in 2000.Fetterman’s political career started as mayor of Braddock, a small city east of Pittsburgh.Eastern Democrats fare better probably because they perform better in voter-rich Philadelphia and its suburbs. In the post-World War II era, just two Democrats won Senate races, current Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Scranton, and Joseph S. Clark Jr., the Philadelphia mayor who won a Senate race in 1956. In gubernatorial races, Democrats have won 11 times in the past 100 years, 10 of them candidates from the eastern half of the state.David L. Lawrence, the mayor of Pittsburgh in the 1940s and 1950s, is the only western Pennsylvania Democrat to ever win a governor’s race, in 1958. Josh Shapiro, the attorney general running unopposed for the gubernatorial nomination, was born and raised in Upper Dublin Township, just outside Philadelphia.
5:37 p.m.
Headshot of David Weigel
National reporter covering politics
Ad slams Barnette for a law … signed by Trump — Scrambling to halt Kathy Barnette’s surge in the U.S. Senate primary, a PAC supporting Republican candidate David McCormick is attacking his rival over her praise for a bill that “released criminals from prison.” The twist: That bill was signed by former president Donald Trump. “Extreme Views,” an ad from the Honor Pennsylvania super PAC, criticizes Barnette as soft on crime and cites her support for releasing “criminals” to her recent book “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain,” on Page 178. In that part of the book, which says Trump did more for Black voters than opponents want to admit, Barnette says that they cannot deny “the significant impact of prison reform through the First Step Act.”In a tweet Tuesday, Ohio pastor and Trump campaign surrogate Darrell Scott wrote that “Republicans are just as or more dirty than Democrats when it comes to politics and power,” and that Barnette’s foes wanted to end her campaign with “lies and smears.”
4:45 p.m.
Headshot of Marianna Sotomayor
Congressional reporter covering the House of Representatives
All eyes on Democratic race in Oregon — There is one primary in Oregon that could go a long way to determining the makeup of the House Democratic conference. Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a far-left candidate, has emerged as a serious challenger to seven-term Rep. Kurt Schrader (D), whose moderate views have angered Democrats back home. Schrader voted against the coronavirus relief American Rescue Plan and pushed for leadership to decouple the infrastructure bill from the social spending plan formally known as Build Back Better. The district has changed significantly, removing the city of Salem and expanding south to the state’s border. It remains a competitive district, worrying senior Democrats that a more liberal nominee could make it easier for Republicans to flip the district in November. Even though Schrader has opposed parts of Biden’s legislative agenda, he was one of the first members Biden endorsed. “We don’t always agree, but when it has mattered most, Kurt has been there for me,” Biden said in an April 23 statement.