Published On: Wed, May 18th, 2022

High-stakes for GOP’s Oz, Barnette, McCormick


Doug Mastriano, known for advancing debunked claims that the 2020 election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump, has won Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for governor, NBC News projects.

Mastriano, a state senator, had been leading in polls when he scored a last-minute endorsement over the weekend from Trump. He will face Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, in the general election.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania’s closely watched Senate race, NBC News projects that Democrats have nominated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who was hospitalized in the final days of the campaign after suffering a stroke.

The GOP Senate primary, which also drew heavy interest from Trump, is too close to call. With 84 percent of the expected ballots counted late Tuesday, former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick led Trump-backed Mehmet Oz — a celebrity physician known for his nationally syndicated daytime talk show — by fewer than 2,000 votes.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to have resolution tonight,” McCormick predicted in remarks to his supporters late Tuesday, asserting that mail-in votes tabulated Wednesday would seal a victory for him.

Oz also urged patience when addressing supporters.

“When all the votes are tallied,” he said late Tuesday, “I am confident we will win.”

A statement from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s office around midnight indicated that it could take “a few days” to report unofficial results.

“Ahead of the primary, more than 900,000 applications for mail-in and absentee ballots were requested,” the statement said. “We expect to have unofficial results within a few days. Given the possibility of recounts and the need for official certifications, it is unlikely that final results in all races will be available tonight.”

Follow live results on NBCNews.com.

In North Carolina, Trump-endorsed Rep. Ted Budd has won the GOP Senate primary and will face Democrat Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, in the general election, NBC News projects.

The contests in both states are among a slate of Tuesday primaries.

The brightest spotlight is on Pennsylvania, where after months of vitriol and tens of millions of dollars worth of TV ads, the results will bring further clarity about the future of the Republican Party and Trump’s hold over it.

In the battle there to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, Oz found himself locked in a three-way fight for the GOP nomination. He and McCormick had bombarded the state’s airwaves with commercials. Polls had shown Kathy Barnette — a conservative commentator who has spent far less money and would be the first woman and Black candidate to win a Senate seat in Pennsylvania — surging late, though she ended up trailing both Oz and McCormick on Election Day.

In the GOP race for governor, Mastriano had led in polls and former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta had attempted to consolidate support among Republicans who argued that Mastriano is too extreme to be elected this fall. But Trump’s late endorsement likely fortified Mastriano against such efforts to stop him.

Mastriano and Barnette, who campaigned as a tandem, both traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over Trump. Both also have denied that they participated in the violent riot that breached the Capitol that day.

“I feel about Jan. 6 the way the left feels about the summer of 2020, when you have Black Lives Matter and antifa and other groups out there looting and robbing and and everyone was calling it mostly peaceful protests,” Barnette told NBC News in an interview this week.

There was less suspense Tuesday on the Democratic side. Fetterman had held a sizable lead in polls of the Senate race, though his stroke kept him off the campaign trail in the final days and away from his victory party.

“We feel very good about today,” Fetterman’s wife Gisele said after voting in their hometown of Braddock on Tuesday morning. “I think he will get to celebrate soon.”

Shapiro was unopposed in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is term-limited.

“Pennsylvanians need a governor who can meet this moment, but Republicans just nominated a dangerous extremist who wants to take away our freedoms,” Shapiro, who also had to skip a victory party Tuesday after testing positive for Covid, said in a statement Tuesday night. “The contrast in this election could not be clearer – Doug Mastriano wants to ban abortion without exceptions, restrict the right to vote and spread conspiracy theories, and destroy the union way of life for hard-working Pennsylvanians. “

Primaries in North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon

The GOP Senate primary in North Carolina, where Republican incumbent Richard Burr is retiring, had particularly high stakes. Trump endorsed Budd over former Gov. Pat McCrory. Budd also had the backing of the Club for Growth, a big-spending conservative group that split with Trump in this month’s rowdy Senate primary in Ohio as well as in Pennsylvania, where the group was behind Barnette.

Also in North Carolina, first-term Rep. Madison Cawthorn has lost a GOP primary to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, ending his bid for re-election, NBC News projects. Cawthorn became a vocal supporter of Trump and was seen as a rising star in that wing of the Republican Party.

Voters are also nominating candidates Tuesday in Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon. 

In contests that tested the mood inside the Democratic Party more than a year into Biden’s presidency, several left-wing congressional candidates flamed out after facing a late barrage of attacks from moderate Democratic and pro-Israel super PACs.

National progressives decided this year to focus on Democratic-leaning congressional districts where there was no incumbent on the ballot, but left-wing candidates Tuesday ended up losing by wide margins in two North Carolina districts and one in Louisville, Kentucky.

The left still has a chance to notch a victory in a Pittsburgh congressional district, where Bernie Sanders-backed Summer Lee is running neck-and-neck with Steve Irwin, who is supported by retiring Rep. Mike Doyle. And they could still oust moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader in Oregon, where results are expected to take some time to be finalized.

National Democrats backed Schrader while the local party supported progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner, arguing that Schrader is not a real incumbent since the heavily redrawn district is now composed mostly of new voters.

In a crowded primary for the neighboring 6th District, a PAC linked to a cryptocurrency billionaire has spent $10.5 million — a virtually unheard-of sum, making it by far the most expensive House race of the cycle so far, according to Open Secrets.

In Idaho, Republican Gov. Brad Little, who has signed strict anti-abortion and anti-transgender measures into law, survived a Trump-backed primary challenge from his own lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, NBC News projects. McGeachin had courted the far-right and been in a more or less open war with Little for years.

But it was Pennsylvania — with its chaotic and Trumpy primaries and swing-state status — that commanded most of the national attention. The Senate race is expected to be one of the most expensive in the battle for control of the chamber this fall. The two parties have a 50/50 split in the chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote for Democrats.

Trump inserted himself into the Senate race there early, endorsing Sean Parnell, an Army veteran and unsuccessful congressional candidate in 2020. But Parnell dropped out last fall after losing a child custody dispute that included allegations — which he denied — of abuse. 

Oz and McCormick quickly jumped into the race. And McCormick, whose hedge fund history clashed with Trump’s economic nationalism and anti-China rhetoric, quickly surrounded himself with high-level veterans of the former president’s White House administration and campaigns. McCormick’s wife, Dina Powell, served in the Trump administration and was featured prominently in her husband’s campaign ads. Oz’s dual citizenship in Turkey and the occasionally liberal positions he advanced before entering politics became fodder for McCormick and other rivals. Oz has vowed to renounce his Turkish citizenship if he wins the Senate race. And he had two influential champions who helped him score Trump’s endorsement: former first lady Melania Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Barnette, meanwhile, was perhaps best known for an unsuccessful 2020 congressional bid in the Philadelphia suburbs — a landslide loss that she baselessly attributed to voter fraud

She stood out, though, at candidate forums and debates, earning free media coverage that offset the fact that Oz and McCormick were outspending her exponentially on TV. And Barnette’s personal story — she speaks often about how she was conceived when her mother, then 11 years old, was raped — has resonated on the right at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court might soon overturn the constitutional right to an abortion.

On the Democratic side, the populist Fetterman had long outpolled centrist U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who would have been the state’s first openly gay and first Black senator. Fetterman has built a national profile through his support for legal marijuana and LGBTQ rights while eschewing labels like “progressive” and pushing back on comparisons with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the democratic socialist he has aligned with in the past.

Lamb and Kenyatta both criticized Fetterman for a 2013 incident in which he pulled a shotgun on a Black jogger after hearing what he thought was gunfire and detaining the man until police arrived. Fetterman, who is white and was mayor of the Pittsburgh-area borough of Braddock at the time, has said he couldn’t tell the man’s race at the time. The jogger was unarmed.

The attacks from Lamb and Kenyatta did not harm Fetterman in a primary that polls showed him leading from the start.

“Democrats need to be unequivocally united in our defense of this democracy, and we will be,” Lamb said in a concession statement emailed late Tuesday. “John’s vote in the Senate is essential to protect this democracy, and he will have my vote in November. I will do everything I can to help Democrats win.”





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