Is this primary election Pennsylvania's oddest ever? | John Baer
With new congressional districts, some unusual races and tons of candidates, Pennsylvania's Primary Election is one for the history books.
Like being part of history?
Well, if you're voting Tuesday, and I hope you are, you'll be part of what is arguably Pennsylvania's most extraordinary election ever.
Thanks largely to new, controversially created congressional maps, the state's often somnambulant self is suddenly shaking in ways formerly unimagined.
A record number of candidates, especially among women. Reported high energy. Maybe record turnout. And races that challenge political norms, some setting the stage for oddness this fall.
Take Western Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District. It's the only congressional race without primary competition. The lone Democrat and the sole Republican on the ballot both are incumbents.
Come November? Incumbent v. incumbent.
Yep. Democratic U.S. Rep. (from the old 18th District) Conor Lamb, who won a special election in March, faces Republican U.S Rep. (from the old 12th) Keith Rothfus in the general election in a brand-new district.
Might confuse some. But nice and easy for headline writers the night of Nov. 6: "Incumbent Congressman Ousted."
Oh, and that special election Lamb won amid a flood of national attention? You may recall he beat GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone.
Well, Saccone is running in a contested primary in the new 14th District. So, it's possible the region ends up sending both winner and loser of its world-watched special election to Washington.
Only in Pennsylvania.
And how about an incumbent lieutenant governor with same-party opposition?
Philly's Mike Stack, he of controversy over reported mistreatment of staff and security, has four Democratic opponents — and no love from his boss, Gov. Wolf.
Last time an incumbent LG seriously was challenged? I'm thinking never.
And Stack is vulnerable. A former Philly deputy mayor with money, Nina Ahmad, could grab some of his hometown base to help herself and the race's only Western Pennsylvania candidate, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
(Also, a colleague suggests, longtime same-party Stack rivals, the Brothers Boyle — U.S. Rep. Brendon Boyle; state Rep. Kevin Boyle — might offer to drive Northeast Philly Stack voters to polling places in Berks County. Hey, stranger things happen.)
And what of the slew of wannabes across the commonwealth?
A total of 84 candidates are running in our 18 congressional races, seven of which are open seats.
The Fifth District, covering Delco, some of South Philly and a piece of Montco, features 10 Democrats and a single Republican. And the sprawling 13th District, seven counties and parts of three others in Southcentral/Southwestern Pennsylvania, has nine candidates: eight Republicans, one Democrat.
I wonder how many voters don't know what district they live in, find themselves facing a ballot filled with names, wonder whatever happened to names they know, and end up randomly casting a vote or dejectedly walking away?
Speaking of which, there are special elections in the fall, concurrent with the general election, to fill unexpired terms of resigned U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent (in the old 15th, now the Seventh) and Pat Meehan (in the old Seventh, now the Fifth) to serve for a whopping two months.
Presumably, primary winners in those districts will run both in the special and general (hey, a chance for extra pay, benefits and a jump on seniority), giving some voters the rare (Philly-like?) opportunity to vote for the same person twice.
What a state.
Finally, this election is notable for diverse, credentialed candidates. And not just in Philly and its burbs.
Take the Dem primary in the 10th Congressional in South-Central Pennsylvania. Candidates are Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, a woman of color who worked in the Obama White House and holds degrees in international affairs from Georgetown and George Washington Universities; Alan Howe, a decorated Air Force Iraq War veteran with a summa cum laude degree in Middle East studies from George Mason University; Eric Ding, an Asian American scientist and health economist, a Johns Hopkins grad with dual doctorates from the Harvard School of Public Health; and George Scott, a former Army Lt. Col. intelligence officer who graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown in international politics, and later in life became a Lutheran minister.
So, check who's running in your neighborhood. And don't let history pass you by.