Election 2022: Pennsylvania and North Carolina hold key elections

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FILE – Mehmet Oz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, meets with an attendee during a tour of a car show in Carlisle, Pa., on May 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Former President Donald Trump faces the toughest test yet of his ability to shape a new generation of Republicans on Tuesday, as Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina decide whether to back his handpicked picks. for critical seats in the US Senate.

As this year’s midterm primary season enters its busiest stretch with races also taking place in Kentucky, Oregon and Idaho, Trump is poised for several easy wins. In North Carolina, US Rep. Ted Budd is expected to topple a field packed with Republican challengers, including a former governor. And in the Republican race for governor of Pennsylvania, far-right contender Doug Mastriano was already leading before Trump endorsed him over the weekend.

But Trump’s preferred Pennsylvania Senate candidate, Mehmet Oz, has divided conservatives, who are typically on par with Trump. Some are suspicious of the ideological leanings of the celebrated heart surgeon who gained fame as a frequent guest on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show but has come under fire for millions of dollars in TV ads from another rival, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. That benefited Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who faced little scrutiny for most of the campaign before resonating in the final stretch with a fierce message opposing abortion in all circumstances.

Trump, who has held campaign-style rallies with Oz, insists he is the best candidate to keep the Senate seat in Republican hands in the fall. Given his level of participation in the race, including a virtual event on behalf of Oz on Monday night, a loss would be a notable setback for the former president, who is exerting endorsements as a way to demonstrate his dominance over the GOP ahead of a possible 2024. presidential race.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have their own high-profile primaries. In Pennsylvania, progressive Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has dominated the Senate race, but a stroke forced him off the campaign trail. Fetterman, 52, remains hospitalized, though he said he is expected to make a full recovery.

In North Carolina, Cheri Beasley is the clear favorite in her 11-way primary for the Democratic Senate nomination. If she wins in November, Beasley would be the state’s first black senator, and only the third African-American woman elected to the chamber.

Tuesday’s contests could ultimately determine how competitive the general election will be this fall, when control of Congress, governors’ mansions and key electoral posts are up for grabs. That’s especially true in the perennial political battleground of Pennsylvania, where some Republicans already worry that Mastriano is too extreme to court the moderates who are often decisive in general elections.

“There is definitely some concern in large factions of the party,” said Pennsylvania Republican strategist Vince Galko. “Especially those in the suburban areas.”

A Barnette victory could give Democrats a Senate seat, making the GOP’s effort to retake the chamber that much more difficult.

More fundamentally, Tuesday’s primaries could test voters’ commitment to democratic principles. Barnette runs even further to the right than Oz and participated in the January 2021 rally that turned into an insurrection at the US Capitol.

Then there’s Mastriano, who was also outside the Capitol during the mob attack and would appoint Pennsylvania’s top election official if he becomes governor. He has pledged to take the extraordinary step of requiring voters to “re-register” to vote, even though that is prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act and likely violates significant protections under federal and possibly state law.

“We’re going to start all over again,” Mastriano, who has barred reporters from attending his campaign events, said in a recent debate. He has made Trump’s lies about the widespread voter fraud that cost him the presidency a centerpiece of his campaign, and has even been subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Capitol unrest following his efforts to appoint a list of alternate Electoral College electors in favor of Trump.

Trump’s safest bet on Tuesday could be Budd, who has overcome a slow start to emerge from 14 Republican primary candidates, including former Gov. Pat McCroy, as the favorite in the Republican primary for the North Carolina Senate.

“Trump is the biggest factor,” said David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College in the state capital of Raleigh, who also pointed out that another conservative group, the Anti-Tax Club for Growth Action, has paid for advertising pro- Budd. . “Trump’s endorsement turned the tide for him.”

While much of the attention during the early phase of the primary season has focused on Trump’s control of the Republican Party, the races also serve as a referendum on Biden’s leadership of the Democratic Party. In Pennsylvania, the president’s home state, US Rep. Conor Lamb, a Biden-style moderate, is at risk of being defeated by Fetterman.

Known for his towering 6-foot-8 height and tattoos, and for championing causes that include universal health care, Fetterman has attracted many Democrats with an outsider image, and that might hold up despite his failing health.

Another race testing Biden’s national appeal with Democratic primary voters comes in Oregon. That’s where the president used his first endorsement of the offseason to endorse incumbent Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader against progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

But Trump’s influence in the Republican primaries extends much further.

In Idaho, Trump-backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is trying to unseat Republican Gov. Brad Little. McGeachin issued executive orders banning mask mandates during the height of the pandemic when Little was out of state.

The former president’s endorsement may also turn U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s race to keep her North Carolina seat despite recent missteps and political novice Bo Hines’ efforts to win the House nomination for a seat representing a district. covering parts of Raleigh and points south.

On Tuesday it even features a Kentucky lawmaker seeking re-election who benefited from a Trump recall. The former president now hails Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie as a “front-line defender of the Constitution,” just two years after he suggested the Republican should be removed from the GOP for opposing $2 trillion in funding. COVID-19 help.

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