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Pennsylvania

5 takeaways from Tuesday's primary elections

Tom Fontaine
| Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 1:33 p.m.
Pictured clockwise from upper left are Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner, Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Fetterman, GOP congressional candidate Rick Saccone, Democratic state House nominee Summer Lee and GOP U.S. Senate nominee Lou Barletta.
Staff and wire photos
Pictured clockwise from upper left are Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner, Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Fetterman, GOP congressional candidate Rick Saccone, Democratic state House nominee Summer Lee and GOP U.S. Senate nominee Lou Barletta.

Tuesday's primary elections in Pennsylvania set the stage for some intriguing political match-ups in November and sent several longtime incumbents packing.

Here are five key takeaways:

Wagner gets GOP nod to challenge Wolf

State Sen. Scott Wagner and Gov. Tom Wolf are millionaires from York County. That's about where the similarities end.

The brash, conservative Wagner won a contentious three-way race for the Republican nomination against two first-time candidates from Allegheny County. Wagner and Pine's Paul Mango, who finished second, targeted each other with brutal attack ads throughout the primary campaign.

Such attacks could come to define the general election campaign as well. On Wednesday morning, with the mud that was slung during the GOP race barely dry, Wolf's campaign launched a website called worstofharrisburgwagner.com that accuses Wagner of being beholden to special interests, particularly the natural gas industry. It didn't take long for Wagner's campaign to respond in kind.

Braddock's Fetterman to run with Wolf

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman finished third in the 2016 Democratic primary in what would become the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history, but he surpassed all polling projections on a shoestring campaign budget and gained valuable statewide name recognition and political allies. It paid off Tuesday as the towering, tattooed progressive won a five-way race for lieutenant governor .

The embattled Mike Stack finished a distant fourth to become the first sitting lieutenant governor to lose a primary, according to The Associated Press.

Suburban Philadelphia businessman Jeff Bartos won the GOP nomination to be Wagner's running mate.

Barletta sets sights on well-funded Casey

Lou Barletta's primary race against Beaver County's Jim Christiana didn't offer much excitement — Barletta, a staunch supporter of President Trump, won by 26 percentage points and outspent the 34-year-old state representative by a 10-to-1 margin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The race against the heavily funded incumbent Casey figures to be different. The Scranton Democrat's campaign has spent $6.6 million so far this election cycle despite being unopposed Tuesday, and had $9.9 million in the bank to Barletta's $1.3 million as of April 25, the center said.

Incumbents handed pink slips

Ross Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer dumped Shaler's Randy Vulakovich , who was Pennsylvania's only incumbent state senator to face a primary challenge, and two women endorsed by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America trounced incumbent state Reps. Dom Costa and Paul Costa , cousins with a combined 30 years in Harrisburg between them. Shaffer, who won by 17 percentage points, will face Democrat Lindsey Williams in November.

No Republicans sought their party's nomination to run against the DSA-endorsed women, Sara Innamorato of Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood and Summer Lee of Swissvale.

Rough couple of months for Saccone

Guy Reschenthaler defeated Republican rival Rick Saccone in Tuesday's primary election to deliver Saccone his second loss in a congressional race in just two months. He lost to Democrat Conor Lamb in a March special election to fill a seat vacated by disgraced former Congressman Tim Murphy, who resigned last year over reports that the pro-life Republican from Upper St. Clair asked a mistress to get an abortion during a pregnancy scare.

Coincidentally, Reschenthaler took time in his victory speech Tuesday to thank Murphy for his support and said the ex-congressman has “really become a good friend.” Murphy also has been a big financial supporter: He gave $200,000 to a political action committee that bought ads and mailers supporting Reschenthaler.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review assistant news editor.

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