Voters in several states head to the polls for their respective primary elections on Tuesday, May 17, setting the stage for November elections. Pennsylvania, Idaho, North Carolina, Kentucky and Oregon hit the polls Tuesday with several elections at stake, including state Supreme Court races.
As Bolts Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Daniel Nichanian, formerly of The Appeal, tweeted, these races are often overlooked but are increasingly important with the shift in the courts nationally. (Check out this comprehensive primary guide from Bolts Magazine).
It’s not too late to pull up your local election board or secretary of state’s website to find out more about Tuesday’s elections and locate your polling location. If you are voting by mail, check your state’s rules for returning a ballot. There are limited exceptions for who can handle another person’s ballot in some states.
Secretaries of state and local election officials play a critical role in administering their respective primary elections. During a conversation with NewsOne, Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman shared that while some people may have concerns after the noise around the 2020 elections, the process can be trusted.
“We understand that people have concerns, but they can be confident in the security of our elections,” Chapman said. “There’s checks and balances. Election administrators and election officials at the county level are professionals.”
She noted that the state’s 2020 election results were upheld. None of the widespread discrepancies or alleged fraud claims were upheld despite the numerous lawsuits filed. Keep an eye out for a special conversation with Chapman and New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way next week!
For those who may not see the point of engaging in the process, voting in primaries is often an opportunity to choose your champion. A primary race in a “safe blue” district is, in many ways, the general election, so showing up means you are directly deciding who is going to represent you at the local, state or federal level.
News of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s stroke could shake up the tight race for U.S. Senate. Fetterman has been seen as the favorite to win, with state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Rep. Conor Lamb working to overcome the lieutenant governor’s lead.
On the Republican side, celebrity “wellness” expert Mehmet Oz snagged Trump’s endorsement in a three-way race against David McCormick and Kathy Barnette. Barnette, a Black conservative commentator, has tried to build support for her candidacy, making a “strong closing performance,” according to U.S. News. Reports indicate Barnette allegedly marched with the Proud Boys on January 6, the same day as the Capitol attack.
State Rep. Summer Lee is running a fierce five-way race to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District at the House level. Her primary competitor Steve Irwin has previously come under fire for attacks levied at the representative. Lee has been hammered by outside spending in the race.
Despite the lack of local Democratic party support, and prior attempts by Irwin to make Lee seem “difficult” to work with or ineffective, she maintains a healthy amount of support from state and local leaders, including Pittsburgh’s Black Mayor Ed Gainey.
Lee has defeated outsized support before. During her re-election in 2020, Lee was the only incumbent in Allegheny County’s legislative caucus to have the local party run a candidate against her. Working with her allies and the community, she won.
Flipping Kentucky’s Senate seat may be viewed as a long shot by some punditry, but that has not deterred former state Rep. Charles Booker’s quest to unseat Sen. Rand Paul. Booker made a valiant run in 2020 but fell short in the final primary tally. But the momentum from his late 2020 primary surge and continued organizing through efforts such as “Hood to the Holler” could provide Booker the boost needed to become the Democratic nominee and give Paul a fierce fight come November.
In Kentucky’s Third Congressional District race, state Rep. Attica Scott is giving it all she got to be the first Black woman to represent the district in Congress. Scott launched her campaign against Rep. John Yarmouth last summer who later announced his retirement. A community organizer by trade, Scott became the first Black woman to enter the Kentucky legislature in more than two decades when she was elected in 2016.
According to local outlet WFPL, state Sen. Morgan McGarvey launched his campaign the same day Yarmouth announced his retirement. Check out this primary guide from WFPL for more information on elections in the Bluegrass state elections.
And even where a high profile race may not have a competitive primary, down-ballot races still depend on voter engagement ensuring the strongest candidate makes it to the general election in November. Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley cruised into Tuesday as the presumptive Democratic nominee. Still, several other races including the state Supreme Court and congressional districts are up for grabs.
A race to watch is the hotly contested race to replace Rep. David Price in the Fourth Congressional District is underway. Progressive Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam is facing off with state Sen. Valerie Foushee and several other candidates to replace Price.
Former state Sen. Erica Smith is hoping to replace Rep. G.K. Butterfield in the state’s first Congressional district. Smith has stiff competition from state Sen. Don Davis. While local reporting notes an internal poll from Davis’ campaign shows him leading by double digits, no win is final until all the ballots are cast and votes counted.
Check out the state’s board of elections’ site to find your sample ballot.
In Idaho’s race for governor, a far-right candidate leaning into the worst rhetoric is gearing up to unseat current Gov. Brad Little. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin is Trump’s chosen candidate and has a history of undermining Little. As reported by NPR, McGeachin took advantage of her brief stint as acting governor issuing executive orders banning masks and preventing the government from implementing vaccine or testing mandates.
While some may see the election as a referendum on Little’s handling of the pandemic, a McGeachin win would be representative of the mainstreaming of extremist ideologies. McGeachin was criticized after speaking at the America First Political Action Conference organized by white nationalist Nick Fuentes.
In light of the Buffalo supermarket massacre, candidates like McGeachin, who lean into hateful rhetoric or give their tacit support through appearing at events etc., should raise concern and can no longer be seen as simply the “fringe” of the Republican party.