The biggest winners and losers in Pennsylvania’s 2018 primary election
Every Pennsylvania election since President Trump won office has been transformative — and Tuesday’s primary was no different. Trumpism won. Women won. Socialists won. Women socialists won.
And two major kingmakers — building trades chief John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty and Northwest Coalition leader Marian Tasco — suffered defeats.
Here are the top power brokers, interest groups, and ideologies that notched victories, or got licked, on Primary Day.
Many politicos privately wondered: Is the “Year of the Woman” real? Now we know, at least in Pennsylvania’s 2018 primary. Eight women won their party’s nominations for Congress. Women are now virtually guaranteed to break into the state’s all-male delegation in the U.S. House.
Trump Republicans triumphed in the GOP’s top two primaries. Lou Barletta, one of Trump’s earliest supporters, easily captured the GOP nomination for the Senate. Republican Scott Wagner, a brash businessman who compares himself to Trump, won the primary for governor.
In a suburban congressional race, though, Trumpism wasn’t so successful. Dean Malik, a Trump supporter, lost to the more moderate incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick in Bucks County.
3. ‘New Philly’
New Philadelphians won state House primaries they were supposed to lose — according to conventional wisdom in political circles, anyway. Elizabeth Fiedler, a former public radio reporter, defeated Jonathan “J.R.” Rowan, a ward leader and state Senate aide with support from Dougherty’s electricians union. Fiedler has lived in the city for 15 years, she said.
State Rep. Chris Rabb, also originally from outside Philly, fended off a challenger backed by the powerful Northwest Coalition.
Nina Ahmad, a Bangladeshi immigrant, lost the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. But she finished ahead of incumbent Mike Stack, a former ward leader and the grandson of a congressman.
4. Democratic Socialists of America
In the Trump era, socialism is making a comeback. Fiedler and three other candidates endorsed by local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America won state House primaries.
5. Ed Rendell
Former Gov. Ed Rendell was a major supporter of Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon, who won a 10-person primary in the Fifth Congressional District. He appeared in her TV ad, calling her “Trump’s worst nightmare.” Rendell also endorsed primary winners Madeleine Dean in Montgomery County’s Fourth District and John Fetterman for lieutenant governor.
6. Delaware County Democrats
When the state Supreme Court drew a new congressional district map this year, Delaware County Democrats were thrilled. It gave them a district that was almost entirely based in their county. But then they got worried. The district includes parts of South Philly, leading many to think that a city candidate could win the primary. That didn’t happen: Scanlon, a Swarthmore resident, took home the prize.
1. John Dougherty
John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, the leader of the city’s building trades, has long been one of the city’s most powerful political forces. But Fifth District candidate Rich Lazer, whom Dougherty encouraged to run, lost, though Dougherty launched a super PAC for him that spent nearly $1 million on TV ads.
The socialist-backed Fiedler defeated the electricians union-backed Rowan. And she did it in Dougherty’s backyard: The state House district she ran in includes his home neighborhood, Pennsport. Sean Kilkenny, another electricians-supported candidate, lost a state legislative race in Northeast Philly.
One Dougherty-backed candidate who won was Montgomery County’s Dean.
2. The Northwest Coalition
The Northwest Coalition is another kingmaker in Philadelphia. Former Councilwoman Marian Tasco, a leading figure in that group, backed Rabb’s challenger, Melissa Scott. But Rabb won.
3. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders is America’s most popular politician. But that didn’t translate to a win for his preferred candidates in two congressional primaries. He backed Lazer in the Fifth District and Greg Edwards in the Seventh, both of whom lost. Sanders did back Fetterman in the primary for lieutenant governor.
4. Philly’s Democratic Establishment and ‘Old Philly’
Several former and current Democratic ward leaders — Stack, Tasco, Rowan, and Rowan’s uncle, Matthew Myers — lost key races. (Rabb is also a ward leader.)
“I’m bitter today,” wrote one lifelong Philadelphian on Facebook about the race Fiedler won. “The 184th is now Hipster heaven. Bye bye, median parking on Broad, hello bike lanes. … Let’s have a moment of silence for the South Philly we once knew.”
5. Rick Saccone
Republican Rick Saccone, who has supported anti-union “Right-to-Work” laws, lost not one but two bids for Congress this year. Ouch. The first was a special election against Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb. On Tuesday, he got his butt kicked by Guy Reschenthaler in the 14th District.
6. Philadelphia’s Voter Turnout
For all the city’s apparent new energy, turnout stunk: Only 17 percent of registered voters cast ballots, according to a preliminary tally. In a year when analysts think Democrats could make major gains, you have to wonder: Could that be a bad sign for the party?