Wagner will take on Wolf in November
HARRISBURG — Republicans on Tuesday picked their party’s challengers to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, setting the stage for what is expected to be a hotly contested general election two years after Pennsylvania helped deliver the White House to Donald Trump.
The Republican candidates for governor spent more than $20 million on the primary ballot’s marquee race. The GOP contest for U.S. Senate was sleepier but could still play a role come November in deciding whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber.
Polls closed at 8 p.m.
The state hosted contested primaries for lieutenant governor, and a slew of crowded U.S. House races following Pennsylvania’s court-ordered redrawing of congressional maps. The new districts are expected to give Democrats their best shot in years of picking up seats long held by Republicans.
Voters also chose candidates for a host of open seats in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Bad weather knocked out power to a handful of polling stations near Scranton, delaying the counting of paper ballots, while a storm-related gas leak temporarily closed a polling place in the tiny borough of Delaware Water Gap, in the Poconos, according to the Pocono Record. Officials there were keeping it open until 10:30 p.m.
Another threat — hacking — was not expected to be a factor in Tuesday’s election.
Pennsylvania was one of the 21 states targeted by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to federal authorities, but the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday said there were no credible threats to the state’s election system.
Republican voters decided among three candidates to challenge Wolf, who ran uncontested and is seeking a second term.
On the Republican ballot for the nomination were Laura Ellsworth, a commercial litigation attorney and former chairwoman of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce; Paul Mango, a former health care systems consultant and ex-Army paratrooper; and Scott Wagner, a state senator from York County who has made millions in the waste-hauling industry.
Both Mango and Ellsworth were first-time candidates from suburban Pittsburgh. Wagner was the party’s endorsed candidate.
Lt. Gov. Mike Stack fought for another four years in office after a first term in which he had a chilly relationship with Wolf.
Stack, a former Philadelphia state senator, had four Democratic challengers.
They were Nina Ahmad, a former deputy mayor under Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney; Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone; Montgomery County activist Ray Sosa; and John Fetterman, who is something of a national media darling for his efforts to revive the down-on-its-luck steel town of Braddock, where he is mayor.
Stack sought to avoid becoming the first lieutenant governors beaten in a primary election since Pennsylvania allowed lieutenant governors to run for a second term in the 1970s.
Four Republicans ran in the primary: Jeff Bartos, a real estate investor from suburban Philadelphia; Diana Irey Vaughan, a Washington County commissioner; Kathy Coder, a Republican State Committee member from Allegheny County; and Marguerite “Peg” Luksik, a longtime conservative activist from Cambria County.
Pennsylvania hosted 21 contested primary races for the state’s 18 U.S. House seats, the most since 1984. The fact that seven seats came open this year helped spur the unusually high number of contested races. Also contributing: Democrats’ anti-Trump fervor and a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s congressional maps to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans. The court mandated a redrawing of the maps.
Three incumbents — Democrats Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh, and Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans of Philadelphia — turned back primary challenges in heavily Democratic districts. Doyle will run uncontested in November.
Republican incumbents Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, Tom Marino of Lycoming County, and Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County also faced primary challenges.
In Havertown — a Philadelphia suburb that used to be in a majority-Republican congressional district but is now in a newly reshaped majority-Democratic district — Republican voter Eileen McCormick cast her ballot at a Presbyterian church on Tuesday but seemed resigned to her party’s chances in November.
“I shouldn’t say this, but that was a wasted vote. That’s going Democratic,” she said.
Another voter, Julie Nelson, said she voted for Democrat Greg Vitali in the crowded 5th District primary. She said of the political shift with redistricting: “It’s about time. It’s what we need.”
There were dozens of primaries for 228 legislative seats on the ballot, as Republicans looked to defend huge majorities in the House and the Senate.
There were also are three special elections to fill three House vacancies.
Associated Press writer Claudia Lauer contributed from Havertown, Pennsylvania.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.