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G.O.P. Senate Primary in Pennsylvania Stays a Tossup


Doug Mastriano, a far-right Republican state senator who marched on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and emerged as a number one denier of the 2020 election results, won his party’s nomination for governor of Pennsylvania on Tuesday, because the battleground state’s hotly contested Senate Republican primary remained too near call.

The rise of Mr. Mastriano, the Republican front-runner even before a bandwagon-boarding endorsement by Donald J. Trump over the weekend, had the old guard of his party scrambling to derail him and pointing fingers as that became unimaginable, fearing that the conspiracy-promoting legislator would prove too extreme to win this fall.

“God is nice, on a regular basis,” Mr. Mastriano said in his victory speech, outlining “day one” goals that included “mandates are gone,” “any jab for job requirements are gone,” critical race theory is “over,” “only biological females can play on biological female teams” and “you may only use the lavatory that your biological anatomy says.”

The Republican Governors Association issued a tepid response after the race was called, not promising financial support. “The RGA stays committed to engaging in competitive gubernatorial contests,” the group’s executive director, Dave Rexrode, said in a press release.

Within the Senate race, the celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, the previous chief executive of the world’s largest hedge fund, had bludgeoned one another on the airwaves and on the campaign trail for months within the Republican primary. With greater than 90 percent of the vote counted, they were knotted together — and possibly inside range of a recount, which is triggered under state law if the margin is 0.5 percent or less of the whole vote.

Each Mr. McCormick and Dr. Oz said in speeches to supporters that there could be no immediate result.

“We have now tens of hundreds of mail-in ballots which have not been counted,” Mr. McCormick told the gang at his election night watch party in Pittsburgh late Tuesday night, leaving unsaid that top Republicans have systematically sought to undermine faith in such ballots since 2020.

Kathy Barnette, a far-right commentator who has a history of expressing homophobic and anti-Muslim views, made a surprising late surge on the strength of her compelling personal story but was farther behind.

In an indication of the race’s importance this fall, President Biden congratulated the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, and said of the G.O.P. field that “whoever emerges shall be too dangerous, too craven, and too extreme.”

Mr. Mastriano’s victory sets up a fall clash with Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was unopposed within the Democratic primary, a matchup with vast potential consequences each for state-level issues like abortion rights and for election certification within the 2024 presidential race.

Pennsylvania Republicans who fully control the Legislature are more likely to try to restrict abortion rights if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as expected. Meaning whoever occupies the governor’s residence in Harrisburg would determine whether such a bill becomes law. And the Pennsylvania governor appoints the secretary of state, whose office will oversee the 2024 election.

Mr. Mastriano and Ms. Barnette formed something of a hard-right ticket, endorsing each other as they attempted to fend off their better-funded rivals. Dr. Oz relied heavily on the conservative credibility he gained from Mr. Trump’s endorsement while Mr. McCormick’s Wall Street allies flooded the airwaves with attack ads.

Five states — Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Oregon and Idaho — held primaries on Tuesday, with the outcomes signaling the relative strength of the ideological factions in each political parties.

In North Carolina, Representative Madison Cawthorn, a Trump-backed Republican who has created a string of controversies and mini-scandals, including his comment that some colleagues in Washington had indulged in cocaine and orgies, conceded defeat to his primary challenger on Tuesday night, State Senator Chuck Edwards. He became the primary incumbent who was not facing one other member of Congress to lose a primary in 2022.

Also in North Carolina, Representative Ted Budd handily won the Republican nomination for an open Senate seat, riding an early Trump endorsement and hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside spending to best former Gov. Pat McCrory, in one other sign of the diminished standing of the party establishment. Mr. Budd will face Cheri Beasley, a Democrat who’s a former chief justice of the State Supreme Court and who would develop into North Carolina’s first Black senator if elected.

In Idaho, one other Trump-backed candidate, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, lost her challenge to Gov. Brad Little, a fellow Republican. And in Oregon, Representative Kurt Schrader, a top moderate Democrat, was trailing his progressive challenger, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, in early vote tallies.

But Pennsylvania was the focal point, a perennial presidential battleground that’s seen as a bellwether of the nation’s political mood. The retirement of Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican, and term limits for Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, meant rare simultaneous open races for each governor and Senate — and the latter could tip control of a chamber now evenly split 50-50 between the 2 parties.

Mr. Mastriano’s election denialism has been a key a part of his appeal to the Republican base. Pennsylvania is one among three top presidential battlegrounds with a current Democratic governorship up for grabs in 2022 and a Republican-led Legislature that has promoted voter-fraud myths. The 2 other states are Michigan and Wisconsin.

Within the Pennsylvania Senate race, Mr. Fetterman, whose progressivism and campaign-trail uniform of shorts and hoodies helped earn him the support of grass-roots voters and a passionate online donor base, won the Democratic primary, easily defeating Representative Conor Lamb, a moderate from outside Pittsburgh who was endorsed by Democratic officials statewide as essentially the most electable candidate.

Mr. Fetterman was leading in every county on the state.

The Democratic primaries got here to an unusual finish, with each leading candidates absent from the trail. Mr. Shapiro, 48, tested positive for the coronavirus and was isolating at home while Mr. Fetterman, 52, suffered a stroke on Friday and his campaign announced he had a procedure on Tuesday “to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator.”

Each Democrats solid emergency absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania is outwardly a swing state, but Democratic strength has eroded lately. That has been clear within the difference between former President Barack Obama’s five-point victory in 2012 within the state and the much narrower, one-point presidential races in 2016 and 2020. Democrats, who’ve long led in party registrations, have seen their advantage slip to 550,000, down from 815,000 through the May 2018 primaries.

Whomever Mr. Fetterman faces, the Pennsylvania Senate race is anticipated to be among the many fiercest and most costly of the autumn, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in television ads already reserved.

A hulking figure with a shaved head, tattoos and a goatee, Mr. Fetterman has cultivated an outsider image partially by refusing to court elected party officials and campaigning in rural counties where Democrats have suffered huge losses. When he met President Biden at the positioning of a collapsed bridge, he wore shorts. When he attended the White House Easter Egg Roll, he sported a sweatshirt.

Democratic voters embraced that style and Mr. Fetterman’s promise to win back support within the state’s conservative interior counties over the centrist polish of Mr. Lamb, in addition to Malcolm Kenyatta, a liberal state legislator from the Philadelphia area.

“He looks like a gruff working-class Western Pennsylvania dude,’’ Brendan McPhillips, who ran Mr. Biden’s campaign within the state in 2020, said of Mr. Fetterman. “When he walks into a neighborhood dive bar, there’s a resonance there.”

Mr. Fetterman, who endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016, ran for Senate that very same yr, ending a distant third in the first.

The political climate nationally for Democrats in 2022 looks bleak. But many Pennsylvania Republicans are still openly apprehensive about their party’s probabilities with a Mastriano-led ticket.

Mr. Mastriano, who has been subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, made his own failed effort to subpoena voting machines to “audit” the 2020 election. Last month he spoke at a conference organized by QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Understand the 2022 Midterm Elections

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Why are these midterms so necessary? This yr’s races could tip the balance of power in Congress to Republicans, hobbling President Biden’s agenda for the second half of his term. They may also test former President Donald J. Trump’s role as a G.O.P. kingmaker. Here’s what to know:

What are the midterm elections? Midterms happen two years after a presidential election, on the midpoint of a presidential term — hence the name. This yr, a number of seats are up for grabs, including all 435 House seats, 35 of the 100 Senate seats and 36 of fifty governorships.

What do the midterms mean for Biden? With slim majorities in Congress, Democrats have struggled to pass Mr. Biden’s agenda. Republican control of the House or Senate would make the president’s legislative goals a near-impossibility.

What are the races to observe? Only a handful of seats will determine if Democrats maintain control of the House over Republicans, and a single state could shift power within the 50-50 Senate. Listed below are 10 races to observe within the House and Senate, in addition to several key governor’s contests.

When are the important thing races happening? The first gauntlet is already underway. Closely watched races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia shall be held in May, with more happening through the summer. Primaries run until September before the overall election on Nov. 8.

Go deeper. What’s redistricting and the way does it affect the midterm elections? How does polling work? How do you register to vote? We’ve got more answers to your pressing midterm questions here.

“He’s very far right,” said Tom Marino, a former Republican congressman within the state. “There shall be moderate Republicans and independents and maybe even some moderate Democrats in Pennsylvania that is not going to vote for Mastriano.”

Last-minute efforts to consolidate a deeply splintered Republican field and unite behind the leading Mastriano alternative within the polls, former Representative Lou Barletta, had mostly flopped even before Mr. Trump issued his endorsement. Mr. Mastriano was leading in a landslide, roughly doubling Mr. Barletta’s vote total.

Mr. Marino lashed out at Mr. Trump for not backing Mr. Barletta. Each Mr. Marino and Mr. Barletta had supported Mr. Trump in 2016. Mr. Marino said he was frustrated that the previous president would spurn an early Trump supporter in favor of Mr. Mastriano. “With Trump, loyalty is a one-way street,” Mr. Marino said in an interview, “and I’ve learned that now.”

Mr. Shapiro made clear his preference, meddling within the Republican primary in the ultimate weeks to spice up Mr. Mastriano, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, by running television ads that highlighted a few of his conservative stances popular with the Republican base.

As of May 2, the Shapiro campaign had $15.8 million; the Mastriano campaign had lower than $800,000, in response to state records.

Mr. Shapiro has said he’ll make the autumn election partly a referendum on abortion rights, given the likelihood that, in a post-Roe world, the Republican-led legislature will pass a bill strongly restricting abortion. Mr. Shapiro has said he would veto such a measure while Mr. Mastriano, who has made his Christian faith central to his candidacy, favors banning abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s health.

For much of 2022, the Republican Senate primary had been dominated by Dr. Oz and Mr. McCormick, who spent, together with allies, greater than $45 million on television advertisements. Ms. Barnette spent lower than $200,000 but used debates and her biography as a Black woman who was a “byproduct of rape” and who became an unabashed right-wing Republican to attach with the conservative base.

The Club for Growth, an anti-tax group, spent greater than $2 million to provide Ms. Barnette a late boost but an intense set of last-minute attacks, including from Mr. Trump appear to take a toll. “When she’s vetted, it’s going to be a catastrophe for the party,’’ the previous president warned Monday.

She has notably not committed to backing her G.O.P. rivals in November. “I haven’t any intention of supporting globalists,” she said on a Breitbart podcast on Monday.

Mr. Trump had originally endorsed Sean Parnell, a failed congressional candidate, for the seat last yr, but Mr. Parnell quit the race after his estranged wife accused him of abuse. In April, Mr. Trump endorsed Dr. Oz after a heavy lobbying campaign by each Mr. McCormick, who served within the George W. Bush administration, and Dr. Oz.

A key figure in Dr. Oz’s camp was Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who repeatedly had the doctor on his program.

In his election night speech, Dr. Oz thanked, so as, his wife, Mr. Trump and Mr. Hannity. “He understands exactly make a difference and he’s been doing that this complete campaign,” Dr. Oz said of Mr. Hannity.

Mr. McCormick, whose wife was a senior Trump White House official, brought a bevy of Trump alumni onto his campaign team — a incontrovertible fact that Mr. Trump ridiculed at his lone rally with Dr. Oz.

“If anybody was inside 200 miles of me, he hired them,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. McCormick.

Each Mr. McCormick and Dr. Oz were accused of carpetbagging. Mr. McCormick, who’s from Pennsylvania, lived in Connecticut while leading Bridgewater, the hedge fund. Dr. Oz, who attended medical school on the University of Pennsylvania, moved back to the state from Latest Jersey in late 2020, in response to his campaign, originally renting a house from his wife’s parents.

Dr. Oz faced hesitancy from conservative voters about his residency, his dual Turkish citizenship and former positions that he took in interviews, on his TV show and in columns along with his byline for gun restrictions and abortion rights. Those issues — together with the image of him kissing his Hollywood star — were aired relentlessly by a pro-McCormick super PAC.

Mr. Trump, who traveled to the state to carry a rally for Dr. Oz, was instrumental in build up the right-wing bona fides. At a rally on the eve of the election, Dr. Oz put Mr. Trump on speakerphone and held it near the microphone, nodding along as the previous president said, “He’s a loyal MAGA person.”

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting from Chambersburg, Pa. Jazmine Ulloa contributed from Hendersonville, N.C.

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