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2022 Primary Preview: Pennsyltucky, May 17

A look at Pennsylvania and Kentucky's May 17th primaries

On May 17th, Oregon, North Carolina, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky hold primary elections. In this third post, we cover Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

May 17 (continued): Pennsylvania, Kentucky


Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman

PA-Sen: As previously discussed, the retirement of Sen. Pat Toomey (a far-right Republican who has been a key figure in thwarting climate financial action) has created one of the most important Senate races in the country. Frontrunner Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is running as an environmental justice advocate but has softened his earlier opposition to fracking. Seemingly comfortable with his lead in the polls, Fetterman skipped his first scheduled debate against Rep. Conor Lamb, a fracking booster, and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who favors a moratorium on fracking.

On the Republican side, Trump has endorsed television doctor Mehmet Oz, who shares Trump’s proclivity for denying climate science and is considered a potentially weaker general election candidate because he actually lives in New Jersey. Hedge fund CEO David McCormick is competing with Oz for the Republican nomination by challenging him over who loves fracking more and abandoning his previous establishment Republican positions in favor of a more, uh, strident tone.

PA-Gov: Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is termed out, and the race to succeed him on the Democratic side will not be competitive, since Wolf anointed his preferred successor as Attorney General Josh Shapiro, long seen as a rising star. Late last year, Shapiro’s office finalized a rule to abide by Wolf’s decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), but only after Shapiro threw major shade against the RGGI’s approach to addressing climate change and suggested he would come up with an unspecified better approach.

On the Republican side, the race is between former US Attorney Bill McSwain, who seems to believe the “spigot” of natural gas in Pennsylvania has somehow been turned off over the last decade, state senator/Capitol stormer Doug Mastriano, former Rep. Lou Barletta, known for being a fiercely anti-immigrant demagogue as Hazleton mayor, and state senate majority leader (and Big Lie enabler/yelling guy) Jake Corman, though there are numerous other people in the field. Shapiro seems to want to face Mastriano, who is a QAnon conspiracy theorist, in the general election.

PA-12 candidate Summer Lee

PA-12: Rep. Mike Doyle announced his retirement after representing Pittsburgh/Allegheny County in Congress since 1995. Pittsburgh has seen progressives make major gains recently, with Ed Gainey ousting the incumbent mayor last year and state representative and GND champ Summer Lee defeating a member of a Pittsburgh political dynasty in 2020. Now, a wide range of progressive groups and figures, including Gainey, the Sunrise Movement, the Working Families Party, and the Justice Democrats, are rallying around Lee as the candidate to succeed Doyle. Lee’s main competitor is lawyer Steve Irwin, who has support from the former mayor that Gainey beat, as well as several more conservative labor unions. Irwin’s campaign has been accused of some somewhat shady practices.

PA-03: Center City Philadelphia Rep. Dwight Evans is nominally part of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but is facing a challenge to his left from activist and public health researcher Alexandra Hunt. Hunt is a GND champ and has raised a considerable amount of money, but hasn’t yet secured much progressive institutional support. While Hunt doesn’t issue many specific contrasts with Evans’ voting record, she argues that Evans is a backbencher who has not delivered change.


KY-Sen: Sen. Rand Paul, a climate change-denying, mask-flouting libertarian buffoon, is running for a third term. The heavy favorite in the primary contest to face Paul in the general election is former state representative Charles Booker, who has earned endorsements from the Sunrise Movement and many other labor and progressive organizations. In 2020, Sunrise and other progressive groups strongly backed Booker in nearly pulling off an upset primary victory over party-backed Amy McGrath, who failed to get 40% of the vote in her general election loss to Sen. Mitch McConnell. (A point of editorial privilege: While Booker is a charismatic progressive with a potentially bright political future, the clear prioritization by Sunrise of his 2020 candidacy over others seemed strategically misguided. At the same time that the primary in Kentucky was taking place, another Senate primary in Colorado was heating up. Left climate groups did little to promote their endorsed candidate Andrew Romanoff, whose loss led to the election of former petroleum geologist John Hickenlooper.) 

Attica Scott for KY-03

KY-03: Kentucky Republicans opted against carving up Louisville in redistricting, leaving the 3rd congressional district being vacated by retiring House Budget Chair John Yarmuth as the only safe Dem seat in this state. State Rep. Attica Scott is a strong supporter of the GND and a just transition, and is endorsed by Our Revolution, DFA, and the PCCC, but she has trailed in fundraising. Since Scott was challenging Yarmuth before he announced his retirement, it probably isn’t too surprising that Yarmuth has endorsed State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, who has emerged as the frontrunner, with many endorsements from unions and elected officials. He is also a Green New Dealer and outspoken on climate change.

KY-06: The only nominally vulnerable Republican in the Kentucky delegation is Rep. Andy Barr, a Financial Services Committee Member who has led the charge against climate financial action by the Biden administration and seems to believe fossil fuel companies have a fiduciary obligation to burn every last drop of reserves. Barr’s Lexington-based congressional district can be competitive in good years for Democrats (he nearly lost to McGrath in 2018), but Republicans made it safer for Barr by removing the state capital of Frankfort.  Just transition advocate Chris Preece and perennial candidate Geoff Young are vying for the Democratic nomination.

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