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In tough Senate races, Democrats shift away from centrists and toward progressive and diverse candidates
Tuesday's midterm elections in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon, are the closest thing to a Super Tuesday so far this midterm cycle as election contests are shaping up for November.
We'll have more on the Republican primary winners — and open races — below.
But first, the Democratic primaries are revealing a shift in strategy for the party as it chooses candidates for tough races in purple and red states.
Rather than go with a moderate white candidate who could appeal to swing voters as the party has done in several races in recent election cycles, voters chose candidates Tuesday more in tune with the party's base in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Kentucky.
In North Carolina, former North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley, a progressive Black woman, easily won after clearing the field early in the election cycle. In Kentucky, Charles Booker, a Black state senator who ran without a challenge after surprising the Democratic establishment when he nearly defeated its chosen candidate two years ago. In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman ran an aggressive, outside the box campaign, beating Rep. Conor Lamb, a cautious and moderate candidate.
All three candidates are more progressive than candidates Democrats usually run in swing states. It's unclear how well they'll do in a statewide general election, but their primary wins are a sign party leaders and Democratic voters no longer see centrism as the only or best path to victory in purple and red states.
For years, the profile of candidates recruited by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer fit a mold: moderate Democrats with a compelling story, preferably with military experience.
For instance, in 2020, Booker lost to establishment-backed Amy McGrath, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot. But she was no match against Sen. Mitch McConnell. In North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, lost to Sen. Thom Tillis. In Texas, M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran, lost to Sen. John Cornyn.
But this election cycle has proven different. In Florida, moderate Rep. Stephanie Murphy was strongly considering a run for Senate. But when Rep. Val Demings, a Black former police chief who served as a manager in President Trump's first impeachment trial, was persuaded to run, Murphy's fundraising immediately dried up, sources close to Murphy said. She opted not to run.
Democrats face tough contests in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and winning in Kentucky is an extreme long shot, particularly in a midterm year that looks highly favorable to Republicans. But the party rallied around its candidates Tuesday night, calling them serious leaders who can offer a stark contrast to their Republican foes.
“It's clear that Democrats want problem solvers, not problem seekers for their nominees,” Democratic political consultant and former DCCC official Meredith Kelly said. “We are choosing common sense Democrats who have a record of legislating and getting things done for families, rather than nominating those who think Twitter is a reality.”
About last night: “Republican candidates who sought to overturn the 2020 election won statewide primaries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina on Tuesday, reflecting the lingering influence in the GOP of former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the vote was rigged against him,” our colleagues Annie Linskey and David Weigel report.
👀 A nail-biter: The results of Pennsylvania’s closely watched GOP Senate race were still trickling in as of early Wednesday morning. Trump-endorsed television personality Mehmet Oz is currently leading by 2,672 votes with the vast majority of votes counted, and David McCormick, an ex-hedge fund chief with strong ties to Trump’s team, following closely behind. (An estimated 95 percent of votes have been counted as of this morning).
- The race could trigger a recount, as Pennsylvania election law requires an automatic recount if the difference between the top two candidates for a statewide office is 0.5% of the vote or less, which both candidates are well within.
Of the 27 candidates Trump endorsed in Tuesday’s primaries, 23 have won. Here are his biggest wins:
- Governor: “State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed candidate who led an effort to overturn the election in his state and attended the Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a pro-Trump mob attacked U.S. Capitol, won the Republican nomination for governor,” Linskey and Weigel write. “He will face state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in November — a showdown Democrats were eager to embrace.”
- Senate: “Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), who was backed by Trump and among House members who supported at least one objection to certifying the election, will be the GOP Senate nominee in North Carolina,” Linskey and Weigel report. “He will face former state Supreme Court chief justice Cheri Beasley, who made history as the first Black woman nominated for the Senate in the state.”
Trump’s biggest loss
Kingmaker, interrupted: “A deluge of scandals cost Rep. Madison Cawthorn his seat Tuesday, as state Sen. Chuck Edwards narrowly defeated the first-term incumbent for the Republican nomination in the Western North Carolina district that sent him to Congress two years ago,” the News and Observer’s Avi Bajpai and Danielle Battaglia report.
- “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,” our colleagues Mariana Alfaro, Amy B Wang, John Wagner and Eugene Scott report. “In the campaign’s closing days, Cawthorn did get the endorsement of Trump, but it wasn’t enough.”
- “Cawthorn generally underperformed relative to the winner … in precincts with a larger percentage of female registered voters,” our colleague Lenny Bronner writes. “Edwards did better than Cawthorn by an average of 8 percentage points in precincts that contained a majority of women compared to those where men were more prevalent.”
- “More prominent, however, was the relationship between Cawthorn’s support and voters’ education level. In precincts in which 10 to 20 percent of registered voters had a bachelor’s degree or more, Cawthorn received between 60 and 80 percent of the vote compared to Edwards. In precincts where 40 percent of registered voters had a bachelor’s degree or more, he nabbed only 25 percent of the vote relative to Edwards.”
🗳️ More election results:
- Governor: Incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little successfully beat back a challenge from his lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. “McGeachin, who has clashed repeatedly with Little over his response to the coronavirus pandemic and twice unsuccessfully tried to overturn his policies when he briefly left the state, ran a flashy but chaotic campaign that emphasized her endorsement by Trump,” the Idaho Press’ Betsy Z. Russell reports.
- 2nd District: “Rep. Mike Simpson (R), a longtime House member who was among the handful of Republicans to cross the aisle and support Biden’s infrastructure bill, [successfully fended] off a challenger running to his right,” our colleagues Linskey and Weigel report.
- 3rd District: “Democrats nominated state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey to replace retiring Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) … The eight-term congressman endorsed McGarvey, who soundly defeated Rep. Attica Scott, who’d been active in the city’s racial justice movement.”
- 4th District: Rep. Thomas Massie won the Republican party’s nomination after securing “the endorsement of Trump, despite Trump previously calling him a ‘third-rate grandstander,’” the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Austin Horn reports.
- Governor: “In Oregon, term limits are forcing Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, to leave office. Republicans hope to seize the seat for the first time in 35 years because of Brown’s deep unpopularity and the emergence of a Democratic candidate [Oregon House speaker Tina Kotek] running as an unaffiliated candidate,” per Linskey and Weigel. Nearly two dozen Republican candidates were vying for the party’s nomination and former Oregon House Republican leader Christine Drazan was leading in the polls as of Wednesday morning.
- 5th District: Biden-endorsed Rep. Kurt Schrader was losing by 22.6 percentage points to Jamie McLeod-Skinner with an estimated 55 percent of the vote counted as of Wednesday morning.
- 12th District: Summer Lee, running for a House seat in Pennsylvania left open by Rep. Mike Doyle’s retirement, maintained a slight lead over Steve Irwin in a closely watched race. Annie and Dave report that Lee “fought against wave of money from centrist Democratic groups who painted her as a risky choice. She has been hailed a potential new member of the ‘Squad’ by Vox because of her support for Medicare-for-all and a Green New Deal.” Irwin was backed by a centrist super PAC.
- 13th District: Bo Hines, a 26-year-old former college football player who was endorsed by Trump, won the Republican nomination.
On the Hill
House Democrats strike deal on Preventing Domestic Terrorism Act
President Biden “delivered a defiant and at times emotional speech” in Buffalo on Tuesday, calling white supremacy a “poison,” our colleagues Matt Viser and Tyler Pager report. “In America, evil will not win,” Biden said. “I promise you, hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word.”
With the top rungs of the Democratic Party focusing on the aftermath of Saturday's shooting and the racist beliefs that police say motivated the alleged shooter and have been endorsed or echoed by some high profile conservatives, an agreement was reached Tuesday by Democrats on the Preventing Domestic Terrorism Act, a bill that would create domestic terrorism offices in the departments of Justice and Homeland Security as well as the FBI. It is expected to pass the House as early as Wednesday.
The bill had been stalled because of concerns from some progressives that the new offices could target people of color. But after the Tops shooting, negotiations ensued between the ACLU, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and bill author Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and House Democratic leadership quickly found a resolution.
The change to the bill is that it would create a mandatory civil liberties check on investigations and prevent protesting from being an activity that qualifies for surveillance. House Republicans are expected to oppose the bill with GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) encouraging a “no” vote.
Democrats are failing to find consensus on another priority for the week: A gasoline price gauging bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to tackle gas prices amid fears the pain at the pump will hurt vulnerable Democrats in November.
She dismissed a federal gas tax, saying that there's no guarantee that oil and gas companies will pass the savings on to consumers. Instead, Pelosi has backed a bill by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) that would prohibit increasing gas and home energy prices by an “exploitative and excessive” amount during a Federal Energy Emergency Declaration. But as of now, she doesn't have the votes.
At a meeting on Monday, Pelosi expressed anger at members who don't back the bill, a person who attended the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the event told The Early.
Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas), who represents parts of Houston, is opposing the measure, her office tells The Early, and sources said that other members of the Texas delegation, including Rep. Henry Cuellar, also oppose the bill.
A lobbyist who speaks with some moderate House Democrats said the opposition stems from the belief it won't do anything to increase production and that some members were also influenced by comments on Bloomberg TV by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers who compared the bill to President Trump saying ingesting bleach could cure covid-19. Both Fletcher and Cuellar have been advocates of the oil and gas industry, proposing measures to bolster the industry during the pandemic.
If you don’t know, now you know: Curious about which district you’re in? Check out The Post’s latest midterm tool from our colleagues Kevin Schaul and Garland Potts.
What we’re reading:
- Biden assails bigotry after Buffalo attack, says ‘white supremacy is a poison.’ By The Post’s Jacob Bogage, Mark Berman and Annie Gowen.
- Justice Dept., states seek transcripts of House Jan. 6 interviews. By The Post’s Devlin Barrett and Jacqueline Alemany.
- This doctor was killed saving his mother’s congregation in Laguna Woods church shooting. By the Los Angeles Times’ Anh Do, Hannah Fry, Christopher Goffard and Hailey Branson-Potts.
- Fearing ‘extinction-level event,’ N.Y. Democrats turn against each other. By the New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos.
*cue Twilight Zone music*