By Alex Fabian, PICPA manager of government relations
The Pennsylvania elections are receiving national attention this year since the winner of the state’s open U.S. Senate seat is one of the few races that could determine control of the Senate. In October 2020, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announced his planned retirement, and Democrats see the seat as an opportunity to defend the party’s 50-seat majority. Republicans, on the other hand, want to hold the seat in their quest to regain control of the Senate. It will be one of the most closely watched elections this year.
The state-level races are a hot commodity as well. In what is expected to be one of Pennsylvania’s most competitive and costly election seasons in years, statewide elections include a gubernatorial race, 203 state House seats, and 25 state Senate seats, with control over both chambers in play. A changing political climate partnered with an extraordinarily high number of legislator retirements promise to bring a whole new cast to Harrisburg in 2023.
The May 17 primary will determine which candidates will represent Republicans and Democrats as each of their party’s nominees in the November general election. This blog provides an overview of your primary election options, at both the state and federal levels. Since Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, only registered Democrats may vote for contending Democrats and only registered Republicans can vote for Republican candidates. Third-party and unaffiliated voters may only vote on ballot questions during the primary. If you are registered, please remember to vote. If you are not currently registered to vote, the last day to register before the primary is May 2. If you prefer to vote by mail, the last day to request a mail ballot for the upcoming elections is May 10.
State-Level Primary Guide
As mentioned above, this year’s primary election kicks off a campaign season that is expected to be one of Pennsylvania’s most competitive and costly in years. Adding another layer of complexity to this election cycle is the fact that the state legislative races will be in newly drawn districts. Reapportionment is always a contentious process, and this year has been no exception. Every 10 years, following the release of U.S. Census data, the state is required to redraw its congressional and state legislative districts.
Pennsylvania’s redistricting process included a court battle, as expected, which led to shortened timelines for candidates to submit ballot-inclusion petitions. The normal, three-week process was limited to 11 days, forcing candidates to scramble to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot.
While a bit chaotic, the signature gathering and petition challenges did not result in a delay to the primary, which had already been scheduled for later than usual.
Current Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has served two terms and cannot run for a third. That means control of state government for the next four years hangs in the balance. The stakes are high, and an array of candidates from both sides of the aisle are making strong bids.
Josh Shapiro, who is in the midst of serving his second term as Pennsylvania attorney general, has filed to be the Democratic Party’s nominee. He has a clear lane to the party's nomination with no opposition.
There are 10 candidates who have filed to run on the Republican side:
- Lou Barletta, the GOP's nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and a former congressman
- Jake Corman, the top-ranking state senator
- Joe Gale, a Montgomery County commissioner
- Charlie Gerow, a marketing consultant and longtime conservative activist
- Melissa Hart, a lawyer and former congresswoman
- Doug Mastriano, a state senator and vocal in Pennsylvania's right-wing politics
- Bill McSwain, a lawyer who was the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Philadelphia
- Jason Richey, a Pittsburgh-based lawyer specializing in commercial and contract litigation
- Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman who runs a large plumbing and HVAC firm
- Nche Zama, a heart surgeon who has directed units at various hospitals in Pennsylvania
In addition to governor, voters will be asked to elect a lieutenant governor. Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, is making a run for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania is second in the gubernatorial line of succession and has only a few (mostly ceremonial) responsibilities. Pennsylvania is one of 18 states that elects the lieutenant governor and governor on separate ballots.
Josh Shapiro has named state Rep. Austin Davis of McKeesport in Allegheny County as his preferred Democratic running mate. Davis is being challenged by Brian Sims, a state representative from Philadelphia, and Raymond Sosa, of Cheltenham in Montgomery County, who has served on state-level committees.
The Republican contenders for the post include John Brown, of Bangor, Northampton County executive; Jeffrey Coleman, former state representative from Lemoyne, Cumberland County; Teddy Daniels, of Lake Township, Wayne County, a veteran and retired police officer; Carrie DelRosso, a state representative from Oakmont, Allegheny County; Russ Diamond, state representative from Annville, Lebanon County; Christopher Frye Jr., mayor of New Castle, Lawrence County; James E. Jones, a business strategist and human resources professional from Hatboro, Montgomery County; Rick Saccone, a former state lawmaker from Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County; and Clarice Schillinger, of Horsham, Montgomery County, executive director of Back to School PA.
In the state House and Senate, 203 seats are up for grabs in the House and 25 in the Senate. According to City and State Pennsylvania, there are at least 49 instances in which a current elected official is facing a challenger in the primary, including 27 Republicans and 22 Democrats. Nearly 20% of the 253-member General Assembly are facing a challenger, in addition to the 37 lawmakers who aren’t running for reelection. More than a third of the seats in the legislature are being hotly contested.
Of note, five of our CPA legislators are up for reelection this year: Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Reps. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster), Ben Sanchez (D-Montgomery), and Nick Pisciottano (D-Allegheny). Two other CPA legislators, Reps. Mike Peifer (R-Pike/Wayne) and Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), announced that they will not seek reelection this year.
All the official candidates can be found on the Department of State website.
Federal-Level Primary Guide
In October 2020, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announced his planned retirement. The battle for his seat will be fierce, with control of the U.S. senate potentially hanging in the balance. Twelve candidates from the two major parties are vying for their respective party’s nomination to take the fight to the November general election.
Five candidates have filed for the Democratic Party's nomination: emergency room physician Kevin Baumlin; Lt. Gov. John Fetterman; second-term state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Philadelphia; liberal activist Alex Khalil; and third-term U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb of suburban Pittsburgh.
There are seven candidates on the Republican side: conservative activist Kathy Barnette; real estate investor Jeff Bartos (the party's nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018); lawyer George Bochetto; lawyer Sean Gale; former hedge fund CEO David McCormick; Mehmet Oz, health and wellness guru and author and host of daytime TV's eponymous “The Dr. Oz Show;" and Carla Sands, former President Trump's former ambassador to Denmark and California commercial real estate manager.
Data collected from the 24th U.S. census concluded that Pennsylvania would lose a congressional seat going from 18 to 17, making the keystone state one of seven states to lose seats, along with California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Fred Keller, incumbent congressman for the current 12th District, ultimately decided not to seek reelection as a result of the seat loss and alterations to his district. Fifteen incumbents, eight republicans and seven democrats, are running for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in newly drawn districts. At least 56 candidates have filed, and most incumbents will have a primary or general election challenge.
There are two open seats – a new 12th District anchored in Pittsburgh, where longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle is retiring, and the adjacent 17th District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb is running for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat. In southeastern Pennsylvania, all seven incumbents are running for reelection.
One incumbent, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-14th District), has no opposition registered and will likely be reelected barring a successful write-in nomination or an independent candidacy.
Of particular note, Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick (R-1st District), a CPA and champion for the profession, is seeking a fourth term. He faces four challengers for the Republican nomination.
The full list of congressional primary candidates is as follows:
- Ashley Ehasz (D) from Bucks County
- Caroline Avery (R) from Bucks County
- Alex Entin (R) from Northampton County
- Brian Fitzpatrick (R) from Bucks County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- Bradley Lanning (R) from Bucks County
- Dasha Pruett (R) from Delaware County
- Brendan, Boyle (D) from Philadelphia (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2014)
- Gilberto Gonzalez (D) from Philadelphia
- Aaron Bashir (R) from Philadelphia
- Michael Cogbill (D) from Philadelphia
- Dwight Evans (D) from Philadelphia (Incumbent who has served in the House since 2016)
- Alexandra Hunt (D) from Philadelphia
- Melvin Johnakin (D) from Philadelphia
- Madeleine Dean Cunnane (D) from Montgomery County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- Daniel Burton Jr. (R) from Lancaster County
- Christian Nascimento (R) from Montgomery County
- Louis Lanni Jr. (D) from Delaware County
- Mary Gay Scanlon (D) from Delaware County (Incumbent who has served in the House since 2018)
- David Galluch (R) from Delaware County
- Christina Houlahan (D) from Chester County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- Guy Ciarrocchi (R) from Chester County
- Stephen Fanelli (R) from Chester County
- Regina Mauro (R) from Chester County
- Ronald Vogel (R) from Chester County
- Susan Wild (D) from Lehigh County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- Kevin Dellicker (R) from Lehigh County
- Lisa Scheller (R) from Lehigh County
- Matthew Cartwright (D) from Lackawanna County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2012)
- James Bognet (R) from Luzerne County
- Michael Marsicano (R) from Luzerne County
- Amanda Waldman (D) from Lycoming County
- Dan Meuser (R) from Luzerne County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- Richard Coplen (D) from Cumberland County
- Shamaine Daniels (D) from Dauphin County
- Scott Perry (R) from York County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2012)
- Robert Hollister II (D) from Lancaster County
- Lloyd Smucker (R) from Lancaster County (Incumbent who had held this seat since 2016)
- Gerald Dickinson (D) from Allegheny County
- Steven Irwin (D) from Allegheny County
- Summer Lee (D) from Allegheny County
- William Parker (D) from Allegheny County
- Jeffrey Woodard (D) from Allegheny County
- Michael Doyle (R) from Allegheny County
- John Joyce (R) from Blair County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- Jeffrey Manns (R) from Adams County.
- Guy Reschenthaler (R) from Washington County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2018)
- George Rathmell (R) from Jefferson County
- Glenn Thompson (R) from Centre County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2008)
- Daniel Pastore (D) from Erie County
- Richard Telesz (D) from Lawrence County
- George “Mike” Kelly (R) from Butler County (Incumbent who has held this seat since 2010)
- Christopher DeLuzio (D) from Allegheny County
- Sean Meloy (D) from Allegheny County
- Kathleen Coder (R) from Allegheny County
- Jason Killmeyer (R) from Allegheny County
- Jeremy Shaffer (R) from Allegheny County
Remember, the last day to register to vote before the May 17 primary is May 2, and the last day to request a mail ballot for the upcoming primary election is May 10. You can request one here.
Don’t miss out on the chance to influence national politics in a big way. Make sure you get to the polls on May 17 and vote!
Want more insight on PICPA's government relations efforts? Be sure to attend the free-for-members webcast on May 26 where the PICPA and the CPA-PAC will be joined by state House Democratic Appropriations Committee Chair Matt Bradford to discuss the spring legislative session, the upcoming fiscal year state budget, and much more. Also, if you are planning to attend PICPA's 125th Annual Meeting and Celebration, be sure to sign up for the optional Legislative Update session on June 1.
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