5/17: Primary Roundup

Senate

In North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, coasted to the Democratic nomination, facing only token opposition. Beasley’s smooth path following state Senator Jeff Jackson’s early exit has enabled her to pivot to the general election early, and she begins with a formidable cash advantage over Republican Ted Budd, who defeated former governor Pat McCrory and congressman Mark Walker for the GOP nomination. However, given the national environment’s current Republican lean, the state’s Republican bias, and the traditional midterm election dynamics, this race is one that Budd should still win. Split Ticket’s rating for North Carolina is lean Republican; while Beasley is a formidable challenger, this is a very difficult election cycle for Democrats, and flipping a Trump-won state may be a bridge too far in 2022.

Previous rating: Safe Beasley (D), Likely Budd (R). Result: Exactly Correct

In Pennsylvania, while much of the early pre-election talk revolved around insurgent candidate Kathy Barnette’s rise in the GOP primary, the election is currently poised on a knife’s edge between Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, with Oz expected to hold the slimmest of leads (less than 1000 votes) heading into a recount. While Barnette did end up surging considerably from her position three weeks ago, polls appear to have overestimated her threat to Oz and McCormick both, and she finishes in third place with just over 24% of the vote. Barnette’s greatest strength came in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which is of little surprise considering the heavy regionalism inherent in Pennsylvania primaries.

The bigger surprise in the primary was McCormick’s significant overperformance; while pre-election polls and prognostications pegged him as the least likely of the three frontrunners to win, his significant strength in western Pennsylvania and affluent Philadelphia suburbs seem to have done enough to bring him to within a thousand votes of victory. While Oz, backed by the Trump endorsement and strong margins in eastern and central Pennsylvania, is currently the favorite to prevail, this election will almost certainly head to a bitterly litigated recount, given that the margin falls comfortably within the 0.5% recount threshold.

On the Democratic side, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman swept the state, winning every county in a dominant 33-point victory over Rep. Conor Lamb, with state representative Malcolm Kenyatta in a distant third. Fetterman is a popular official and a strong fundraiser and has an excellent chance of winning in November. However, his odds of victory will greatly depend on the GOP nominee; against Oz, the race is poised to be a dead heat, while against McCormick, the Republicans probably hold a slight advantage. Split Ticket rates this race as a Tossup for November for now.

Previous rating: Safe Fetterman (D), Tossup (R) [Projected order: Oz, Barnette, McCormick]. Result: Mostly Correct

In the other statewide primaries, things went exactly as expected and as projected. Senators Ron Wyden (D), Mike Crapo (R), and Rand Paul (R) cruised to re-nomination in Oregon, Idaho, and Kentucky respectively, setting the stage for what currently appear to be comfortable re-election campaigns. All 3 races are rated as safe for the incumbent party by Split Ticket, and we do not anticipate those ratings changing barring something truly unforeseen.

Governor + Ratings Change

In Pennsylvania, highly controversial state senator Doug Mastriano marched to a convincing victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary and will face Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election. Mastriano has made a series of highly controversial statements and promises, ranging from his vocal support of Trump’s baseless election fraud claims to his attendance at the January Capitol riots. There appears to be no pivot to moderation in the general election either; following his victory, news broke that he had doubled down on his vow to decertify all voting machines in 2024 if needed. The state senator also vocally supports a blanket ban on abortion with no exceptions, which is another policy that appears significantly out of step with the stances of Pennsylvanians.

On the flip side, Shapiro is the single strongest Democratic candidate, having outrun virtually every Democratic candidate in 2020 en route to his re-election as Attorney General and gaining significant crossover with voters of all demographics. He begins with a prohibitive fundraising lead against Mastriano, and polling shows him at a significant advantage as well. In a sign of how the race is viewed internally, the RGA also appears somewhat reluctant to get involved without a sea change in the race’s dynamics.

This race was previously rated as a tossup, but we now are moving it to Leans Democratic. While Mastriano can win, especially in a red year, statewide races are significantly more volatile than federal races, and the relative strength of the two candidates makes us believe Shapiro is the favorite in this race as of now.

Previous rating: Safe Shapiro (D), Safe Mastriano (R). Result: Exactly Correct

Meanwhile, in Oregon, former House speaker Tina Kotek defeated State Treasurer Tobias Read for the Democratic nomination, while former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan beat former state party chair Bob Tiernan for the GOP nod. The general election is complicated by Oregon’s history of close gubernatorial races, the red lean of the environment, and the presence of former Democratic state senator Betsy Johnson, who is now running as a moderate independent and could siphon votes off from both parties. However, with a strong candidate in Kotek and little polling, we hold the race as Likely Democratic for now, at least until evidence to the contrary emerges; Oregon is still a very blue state, and while Republicans have a shot at winning it, Democrats are still clearly favored here.

Previous rating: Likely Drazan (R), Likely Kotek (D). Result: Exactly Correct

Lastly, in Idaho, things went exactly as predicted, with incumbent Republican governor Brad Little comfortably fending off his far-right Lieutenant Governor Janice McEachin in the primary and setting the stage for a comfortable re-election in November. This race is safe Republican.

House + Plus Ratings Changes

North Carolina

Previous Rating: Tilt Davis, Result: Slightly Correct

In NC-01, St. Sen. Don Davis beat progressive Ex-St. Sen. Erica Smith 63-31%. Davis, endorsed by Congressman Butterfield and the CBC, performed well throughout the district, supplementing his base in Snow Hill and Greenville. He faces 2020 Republican nominee Sandy Smith this fall. The 1st is Biden +7, but Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s strong 2021 performance in similar coastal plain territory across the border gives the GOP hope of a competitive race amid a wave environment. Leans Democratic

Previous Rating: Lean Foushee, Result: Exactly Correct

State Senator Valerie Foushee, also endorsed by the CBC, defeated progressive County Commissioner Nida Allam 46-37% to secure NC-04’s Democratic nomination. She won by combining her existing base in Orange County with the Durham black vote. Foushee is a strong favorite in the Safe Democratic race to replace veteran incumbent David Price.

Previous Rating: Leans Haywood, Result: Slightly Wrong

Congresswoman Kathy Manning will face off against Republican Christian Castelli in the Greensboro-area NC-06 this fall. Castelli narrowly beat 2020 nominee Lee Haywood to take the GOP nomination. At Biden +12, Split Ticket rates this seat Likely Democratic.

Previous Rating: Leans Cawthorn, Result: Slightly Wrong

The most-watched results of the night came from the western NC-11, where controversial freshman Republican Madison Cawthorn lost renomination to state Senator Chuck Edwards in an upset. Despite divided opposition and a low statewide runoff threshold, Edwards drew enough votes out of his Senate district and Buncombe County (Asheville) to win 33-32%. With that surprise, any Democratic hopes of bringing the 11th onto the board vanish. Safe Republican

Previous Rating: Tilt Hines, Result: Exactly Correct

In NC-13, Trump-endorsed ex-football player Bo Hines won the GOP nomination with 33% of the vote despite residing hundreds of miles west of this Wake/Johnston-based district. His nearest competitor was DeVan Barbour, who performed well enough in Johnston to take 22% district-wide. Hines advances to take on St. Senator Wiley Nickel in a race that is currently rated Tossup. Despite its Biden +2 status, the 13th could move into the GOP column soon given its down ballot Republican lean and the national environment.

Previous Rating: Leans Harrigan, Result: Slightly Correct

The Mecklenburg/Gaston-based 14th district should be State Senator Jeff Jackson’s for the taking. But the national environment encourages Split Ticket to keep this Biden +16 seat on the edge of our board at Likely Democratic. Jackson is set to face Republican businessman Pat Harrigan after his easy primary victory.

Pennsylvania

Previous Rating: Safe Fitzpatrick, Result: Exactly Correct

Republican Brian Fitzpatrick is the perfect fit to hold the Biden +5 PA-01 in any environment. He won his primary with 69%, a slightly higher figure than those that he posted in 2018 and 2020. After losing handily two years ago, it is unlikely Democrats will target Fitzpatrick at all in a Biden midterm. Safe Republican

Previous Rating: Safe Evans, Result: Exactly Correct

In the majority-black PA-03, incumbent Democrat Dwight Evans trounced white challenger Alexandra Hunt to win renomination. Hunt’s quixotic run had drawn attention due to her former sex work. Safe Democratic

Previous Rating: Leans Ciarrocchi, Result: Exactly Correct

Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan will face ex-Cawley CoS Guy Ciarrocchi in the Chester/Berks-based PA-06. Ciarrocchi had the support of the Chester County GOP, allowing him to beat Stephen Fanelli 33-30%. The Biden +15 6th is rated Likely Democratic.

Previous Rating(s): Safe Scheller, Safe Bognet, Safe Shaffer, Safe Deluzio, Result(s): Slightly Correct, Exactly Correct, Exactly Correct, Exactly Correct

The following rundown concerns Pennsylvania’s three most competitive seats. In PA-07 and 08, frontrunners Lisa Scheller and Jim Bognet won rematch nominations to challenge incumbent Democrats Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright. Those races are rated Leans Republican and Tossup. Establishment favorites (R) Jeremy Shaffer and (D) Chris Deluzio will also be contesting the Biden-won PA-17, which is also rated Tossup.

Previous Rating: Leans Irwin, Result: Slightly Wrong

With 95% in according to the NYT, progressive legislator Summer Lee defeated establishment pick Steve Irwin 41.8-41.2%. The 12th district’s outcome became certain following a new dump of ballots from Allegheny County. Lee’s victory can be traced back to a stronger-than-expected performance among both black and white voters in Pittsburgh proper. At Biden +20, this seat is probably too blue to be competitive in even the reddest of red waves. Safe Democratic

Oregon

Previous Rating(s): Likely Hoyle, Tilt Salinas, Tilt Erickson, Result(s): Exactly Correct

The nominations in OR-04 and 06 aligned with expectations. In the 4th, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle will face off against 2020 GOP nominee Alek Skarlatos for the seat of retiring Transportation Chairman Pete DeFazio. The race in the newly-created 6th pits state Representative Andrea Salinas against businessman Mike Erickson. Both seats are roughly Biden +13 and start at Likely Democratic.

Progressives claimed another victory in the Biden +8 OR-05, where Jamie McLeod-Skinner beat incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader. Though the remaining Clackamas County votes have not been counted as of this writing, our math suggests no path for the incumbent with his current margins. Schrader joins Cawthorn in becoming the second incumbent of the cycle to lose to a non-incumbent challenger.* McLeod-Skinner faces former Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer in a general election that would have shifted to Tossup regardless of the primary winner.

*TX-03 Republican Van Taylor is excluded because he withdrew

Honorable Mentions (Likely McGarvey, Safe Massie & Simpson)

In Kentucky and Idaho, the frontrunning candidates easily secured renomination. State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey dispatched his progressive opponent Attica Scott by a 2:1 margin in KY-03. He moves on to the Safe Democratic general election to replace Budget Chairman John Yarmuth in his Louisville-area seat.

Trump-endorsed Republican Thomas Massie also survived his primary in the neighboring KY-04, defeating real estate developer Claire Wirth by a similarly-large margin. That race is rated Safe Republican.

Long-time Republican Congressman Mike Simpson completed the trio after besting attorney Bryan Smith 54-32% in ID-02. Smith had previously challenged Simpson from the right in 2014, losing by a similar amount. As would be expected for either House seat in Idaho, the November election is Safe Republican.

General Election – Ratings Changes

CA-26: This Ventura County-based seat is Biden +20, but it is historically more Republican down ballot. GOP attorney Matt Jacobs has notably kept pace with incumbent Democrat Julia Brownley in the fundraising game, justifying the NRCC’s placement of the 26th on its target list as a reach seat. Read more here.

NV-03: All three of Nevada’s Democratically-held seats are winnable for Republicans this year after redistricting attempted to share Las Vegas’s Democratic wealth. At Biden +6, Susie Lee’s NV-03 is the reddest of the state’s competitive districts. The primary here has not happened yet, but Republican frontrunner April Becker seems formidable enough to merit a Tossup rating.

NJ-05: Josh Gottheimer’s new seat is Biden +12, but Bergen County is traditionally more Republican down ballot. The GOP also has a top recruit in Nick De Gregorio, who has tried his best to compete with Gottheimer’s fundraising prowess. If the election were held today Democrats would probably win by around 5 points, suggesting a Leans Democratic rating.

NJ-07: Tom Kean Jr. has secured the Republican line in each part of his district, all but assuring his primary victory. That’s bad news for Tom Malinowski, the embattled incumbent whose district became redder in redistricting. Kean, a prolific attractor of crossover votes, came within 1 point of winning the current Biden +11, Ciattarelli +6.5 seat in 2020.

Since the new seat is only Biden +3.5 and voted for Jack Ciattarelli by double digits, it is difficult to see Democratic trends in Somerset and Hunterdon counties keeping the race especially competitive in this year’s Republican environment. In our view, Malinowski’s path to victory is simply too narrow to merit a Leans Republican rating. He joins Arizona’s Tom O’Halleran in the ranks of highly vulnerable incumbent Democrats.

OR-05: This seat is only Biden +8, placing it within Tossup territory under current environmental conditions. Split Ticket would like to stress that this move would have happened regardless of the primary outcome. Why? Lori Chavez-DeRemer is a strong Republican recruit, the GOP has down ballot appeal in the district, and there is no evidence to suggest that Schrader would be more electable than McLeod-Skinner.

PA-07: Republicans Lisa Scheller and Jim Bognet both secured their rematch nominations in neighboring Congressional seats on Tuesday. Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild’s 7th is narrowly Biden-won, making it more favorable on paper than Matt Cartwright’s 8th. But we consider Wild more vulnerable because Cartwright has a history of outrunning fundamentals to achieve victory. Carbon County, trending toward Republicans, should be especially disadvantageous to Wild this fall. Leans Republican

I’m a software engineer and a computer scientist (UC Berkeley class of 2019 BA, class of 2020 MS) who has an interest in machine learning, politics, and electoral data. I’m a partner at Split Ticket, handle our Senate races, and make many kinds of electoral models.

My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, and fitness.

Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or harrisonwlavelle1@gmail.com

I make election maps! If you’re reading a Split Ticket article, then odds are you’ve seen one of them. I’m an engineering student at UCLA and electoral politics are a great way for me to exercise creativity away from schoolwork. I also run and love the outdoors!

You can contact me @politicsmaps on Twitter.

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