An ally of President Donald Trump claimed the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, as energized Democrats settled crowded primaries that will shape the party's chances in November's midterm elections.
The win for U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., came as voters cast ballots Tuesday in four states where primary outcomes were expected to provide fresh signs about voters' mood less than six months before Election Day. In addition to Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon held nominating contests.
Barletta defeated state Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Pa., in the Republican Senate primary. Trump had recorded an automated telephone message praising Barletta in the final hours of the race. The GOP congressman will run against two-term Sen. Robert Casey Jr., a Democrat who has stockpiled nearly $10 million for his campaign.
Shortly after 10 p.m., Barletta declared victory at a party in Hazelton, the city where his tenure as a tough-on-immigration mayor started his political rise.
"We've got a big election in November. We've got one more to go," said Barletta. "I'd like to thank God for putting me in this position."
Democrats were leading Republicans on turnout across the state, despite having only one competitive statewide race -- the lieutenant governor contest. In that race, Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, became the first holder of the office to lose in a primary election.
John Fetterman won in the five-way Democratic Party primary race. The Braddock mayor, who had the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will face real estate executive Jeff Bartos, who won the Republican nomination, in the fall.
Early in the counting process, with 40 percent of precincts reporting, Democrats had cast more than 100,000 more votes than Republicans; Republican turnout at that point was roughly even with 2014, when the party had no competitive statewide primaries.
The general election in Pennsylvania will serve in part as a test of Trump's appeal two years after he stunned Democrats by edging out Hillary Clinton and becoming the first Republican presidential nominee to win the state in nearly three decades.
Still, the state has shown signs of trending Democratic since Clinton's defeat; in March, Democrat Conor Lamb won in a special election in a Pittsburgh-area district where Trump beat Clinton by 20 percentage points.
Encouraged by a redrawn congressional map and a string of House Republican retirements, Democrats are hoping to build on their success and gain as many as a half-dozen House seats in November. They need to pick up 23 seats to win control of the House.
Trump met with Senate Republicans at the Capitol on Tuesday and spoke optimistically about the party's Senate prospects in November. The GOP holds a razor-thin 51-49 advantage, but leaders are increasingly bullish about adding to their majority as Trump's approval ratings have ticked up.
The president used Twitter to urge Nebraska Republicans to "make sure you get out to the polls and VOTE" for U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., who beat four little-known challengers. Fischer's race was called at 8:30 p.m. Central time.
In Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District, a pickup opportunity for Democrats, former Congressman Brad Ashford, a Democrat, was trying to make a comeback. He ran against nonprofit executive Kara Eastman. The winner will face U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, a Republican.
Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts faced a primary challenger, but he won his party's nod nonetheless.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will face state Sen. Scott Wagner, who hopes to win by capitalizing on Trump's 2016 success in the state.
The retirement of U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello and the resignation of U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, both Republicans, and a revised map ordered by the state Supreme Court have led Republicans to effectively cede two House districts in the Philadelphia area. Democrats Chrissy Houlahan and Madeleine Dean secured the party's nominations, virtually assuring that there will be two women in the next Pennsylvania congressional delegation.
In the Delaware County-based 5th District, Democrats were voting in a competitive, crowded primary in which Sanders endorsed Rich Lazer, who ultimately lost to attorney Mary Gay Scanlon. Sanders also picked sides in an Allentown-area district that Democrats are aiming to pick up in November.
Elsewhere, Democrats were trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican, who was running for re-election in a swing district and won his party's nomination against a single challenger. Philanthropist Scott Wallace won the Democratic nomination in that district.
Republican Rick Saccone, who lost to Lamb, was seeking redemption in a primary for a Pittsburgh-area district that favors the GOP. He lost, however, to state legislator Guy Reschenthaler. Lamb opted to run in a different district near Pittsburgh that is less conservative. He will face U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Republican, in November.
In Idaho, a competitive Republican primary for governor featured three leading candidates: U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, a founding member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus; Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who had the support of outgoing Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter; and Tommy Ahlquist, a businessman and physician who ran with the backing of 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The leading Democratic candidates heading into the day were Paulette Jordan, a former state lawmaker who would be the country's first American Indian governor; and A.J. Balukoff, the party's 2014 nominee.
"People are ready for something new," Jordan said. "I'm not about the party; I'm not about the system."
Farther west in Oregon, incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown drew a pair of primary challengers but advanced to the general election. The governor's race attracted a crowded field of Republicans, among whom state Rep. Knute Buehler won the nomination.
Oregon is a heavily Democratic state, and Brown is favored to retain the governorship this fall.
Information for this article was contributed by Elise Viebeck of The Washington Post and by staff members of The Associated Press.
Voters in Oregon’s primary elections drop off ballots Tuesday in Portland. Oregon also allows mail-in ballots. Primaries were also held Tuesday in three other states — Idaho, Nebraska and Pennsylvania.
A Section on 05/16/2018
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