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Image: Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and former President Donald Trump shake hands at a rally in Greensburg, Pa.,  on May 6, 2022.
Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and former President Donald Trump shake hands at a rally in Greensburg, Pa., on May 6, 2022.Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

Primary election races to watch: Oz in Pennsylvania, Cawthorn in North Carolina

Tuesday will be the biggest day for primaries so far in 2022, and the results will likely answer several questions — including those about Trump's power.


Sure, there were some noteworthy primaries in Ohio and Indiana two weeks ago. And sure, there was plenty for campaign watchers to scrutinize after the contests in Nebraska and West Virginia last week.

But I think we can all agree that Tuesday's Primary Day is qualitatively and quantitatively more interesting. As an Axios report summarized yesterday:

The full political tensions expected during the 2022 campaign season will play out in primaries occurring Tuesday, when voters in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania go to the polls.... The largest group of primary contests to date will include tests of former President Trump’s endorsement, highly competitive bouts between moderate and progressive Democrats — and a make-or-break moment for one of Congress’ most controversial members.

Let’s dig in, going state by state, in alphabetical order:

In Idaho, the marque contest is at the top of the ballot, where incumbent Gov. Brad Little is facing a GOP primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. (In Idaho, these offices are elected separately. The governor is not facing off against his own running mate.) This is a race in which a very conservative Republican is running against a cartoonishly conservative Republican — Little is the former, McGeachin is the latter — and Donald Trump endorsed the challenger.

On a related note, incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson is also facing a GOP primary against personal injury attorney Bryan Simpson, who has slammed the congressman for certifying the results of the 2020 elections.

Also keep an eye on some of the down-ballot races: Former Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador is launching a comeback, taking on incumbent state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden — who notably balked when asked to endorse anti-election lawsuits after Election Day 2020 — while several election deniers are running to become Idaho’s new secretary of state.

By most measure, Tuesday’s races in Kentucky won’t be nearly as interesting as the other states, though I’ll be keeping an eye on a few things. In the state’s Democratic Senate primary, Charles Booker appears well positioned to win the opportunity to take on incumbent Sen. Rand Paul in the fall, and Rep. Thomas Massie faces a few GOP rivals, though with Trump’s endorsement, he’s all but certain to succeed.

In North Carolina, all eyes are on the Republicans’ U.S. Senate primary, where former Gov. Pat McCrory appeared to be the likely nominee, before Trump and the Club for Growth rallied behind Rep. Ted Budd, who now appears to be leading both McCrory and Rep. Mark Walker.

While congressional primaries tend to generate less interest than statewide affairs, more than a few campaign watchers will have their eyes on North Carolina’s 11th district, where freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn has several Republican opponents. That might very well dilute the anti-incumbent vote, though several GOP insiders, including Sen. Thom Tillis, have backed state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who appears to be the controversial congressman’s principal foe.

Also keep an eye on the state’s 13th congressional district, where Trump is backing a 26-year-old former college football player named Bo Hines — who briefly filed to run in this and another district. The primary includes former Rep. Renee Ellmers, who’s attempting a comeback after losing in a GOP primary in 2016, and attorney Kelly Daughtry, who’s spent heavily in support of her candidacy.

In Oregon, the top contests are clearly the gubernatorial primaries. On the Democratic side, in the wake of Nick Kristof’s disqualification, the top contenders appear to be former state House Speaker Tina Kotek and state Treasurer Tobias Read. On the Republican side, the field is enormous — by some counts, there are 21 GOP candidates — but the contender with the most money and most endorsements is state Rep. Christine Drazan.

There’s also interest in two Democratic congressional primaries. In Oregon’s 5th district, centrist Rep. Kurt Schrader has received President Joe Biden’s backing, but the incumbent is facing a spirited challenge from his left, where former House candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner is looking for an upset. In the 6th district, Democratic leaders sparked an intra-party controversy by backing Carrick Flynn over two Latina primary rivals.

And finally, there’s Pennsylvania, which may be last alphabetically, but not in order of significance. We can start with the Republicans’ gubernatorial primary, where party insiders believe former Rep. Lou Barletta stands the best chance of success in a general election, but where Trump has endorsed election denier Doug Mastriano.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination — and he’s quietly tried to boost Mastriano, seeing him as easy to beat in the fall.

In the Keystone State’s Republican Senate primary, the contest appeared to be a two-person affair featuring celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and hedge fund executive David McCormick, but everyone seems to agree that far-right commentator Kathy Barnette is coming on strong as the race comes to a close. Trump made a controversial move backing Oz, and it’ll be worth watching to see whether this proves to be enough to decide the outcome.

In the Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has led in every poll for months, though he is currently hospitalized after having a stroke.

There will also plenty of interesting congressional primaries Tuesday, including competitive Republican races in Pennsylvania’s 7th, 8th, and 17th districts.

Watch this space.