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Lee, Fitzpatrick win primaries as fall matchups set in PA

Democrat Janelle Stelson will will take on Scott Perry in battleground seat

Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., arrives at the Capitol for votes on May 18, 2023.
Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., arrives at the Capitol for votes on May 18, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic Rep. Summer Lee and Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick fended off primary challengers from the right Tuesday as voters in Pennsylvania’s congressional primaries also picked nominees to challenge two battleground incumbents, Democrat Susan Wild and Republican Scott Perry. 

Pennsylvania will be a critical state for both parties in November, but several races expected to be most competitive this fall had no contests in the primary.

Neither Democratic Sen. Bob Casey nor Republican businessman David McCormick faced primary challengers as they gear up for what should be one of the most high-profile Senate races this year. 

Similarly, 8th District Rep. Matt Cartwright will face Republican Rob Bresnahan as he defends one of five Democratic seats that Donald Trump would have won in 2020. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Tilt Democratic.

And outside of Pittsburgh, Democratic Rep. Chris Deluzio will face Republican state Rep. Rob Mercuri in a race Inside Elections rates Lean Democratic. Deluzio was throwing shade minutes after the polls closed.

“Corporate jagoffs spent millions trying to defeat me in 2022, and I can’t wait for Rob Mercuri and his corporate bosses to take another ‘L’ this year,” Deluzzio said in a statement. “See you in November, Rob.”

Here are the results of Tuesday’s competitive primaries in Pennsylvania:

1st District: Fitzpatrick easily defeated anti-abortion activist Mark Houck. He led by 65 percentage points when The Associated Press called the race at 8:13 p.m.

The four-term Republican greatly outspent Houck, spending $2 million as of April 3 compared to Houck’s $145,000. Houck sought to paint Fitzpatrick as not conservative enough for the district, an argument which Fitzpatrick has beaten back in previous primary challenges that he won with roughly two-thirds of the vote. 

Fitzpatrick received outside support from groups including the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House GOP leadership, and Defending Main Street PAC. 

He’ll face Ashley Ehasz, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November. A co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Fitzpatrick defeated Ehasz by 10 percentage points in 2022. He’s one of 17 Republicans in the House who represent a district Biden would have won in 2020. Inside Elections rates the race as Likely Republican. 

Fitzpatrick, who has built a reputation as a moderate in his four terms in Congress, has assembled a war chest. He had $3.7 million on hand as of April 3, while Ehasz had $820,000. 

3rd District: Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans also easily won his primary Tuesday night, defeating former Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey Gordon.

Evans had 89 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 8:14 p.m. 

Evans will not have a Republican challenger in November, since no one in the party filed to run against him. 

7th District: State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie will face Wild in November after winning the Republican primary with 43 percent of the vote when the AP called the race Tuesday at 9:41 p.m. 

Mackenzie defeated Army National Guard veteran Kevin Dellicker, who had 30 percent of the vote and Maria Montero, a co-founder of the Lehigh Valley’s Power of Women Networking Initiative, who had 27 percent.

Mackenzie calls himself an “America First conservative.” During the primary campaign, he had outside help from Americans for Prosperity Action and the GOPAC Election Fund, which helps to elect state legislators to Congress. 

Republicans view Wild, who won a third term by two points in 2022, as vulnerable. But she has a significant head start on fundraising and reported having $2.7 million as of April 3, compared to Mackenzie’s $117,000. Inside Elections rates the race as Tilt Democratic. 

10th District: Janelle Stelson, a former broadcast journalist, won the Democratic nomination to challenge Perry, a former House Freedom Caucus chair.

Stelson led the six-way primary race with 45 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 9:28 p.m. Mike O’Brien, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, had 22 percent and the other four candidates shared the rest of the vote.

Democrats are hopeful they can paint Perry as too conservative for the central Pennsylvania district, which according to Inside Elections Trump would have won by 4 points in 2020. Inside Elections rates the race as Lean Republican. 

Stelson, who is backed by EMILY’s List among other groups, has criticized Perry for his stance on abortion and for backing a bill that declares life begins at “the moment of fertilization.” She ran an ad criticizing Perry for that support during the primary.

Perry, who did not face a primary challenger, starts the general election with a cash advantage. He had $513,000 on hand as of April 3, compared to Stelson’s $192,000. 

12th District: Lee, a freshman who joined the group of progressive House members known as “the Squad,” won her primary on Tuesday, defeating Edgewood Councilwoman Bhavini Patel.

Lee was leading with 59 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 9:21 p.m. 

Lee far outraised Patel and outspent her. FEC filings show she spent $1.2 million through April 3, compared to the $469,000 Patel spent. 

The 12th District primary put a spotlight on Democratic divisions over Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza. Lee was among the first members of Congress to call for a cease-fire in Gaza, but her campaign argues that other Democratic lawmakers have moved to join her and the base. But pro-Israel groups, such as AIPAC, which spent heavily to try to prevent Lee from becoming the district’s Democratic nominee in 2022 didn’t wade into the race this year.  

Lee had outside support from progressive groups to counter the more than $600,000 the Moderate PAC Inc. spent to support Patel. Lee criticized Patel for that support, since the group received donations from Jeffrey Yass, a billionaire and TikTok investor who typically donates to Republicans. 

“Our victory is a rejection of right-wing interests and Republican billionaires using corporate Super PACs to target Black and brown Democrats in our primaries,” Lee said in a statement. “Western PA is the blueprint for the future all of America deserves.”

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