Tuesday’s primary election will determine, among many other things, whether US Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz — who has one foot in medicine and the other in television celebrity — can ride a Donald Trump endorsement to victory and carry the Republican banner into November’s general election.
It’s no sure thing, despite his name recognition. Oz is one of six GOP candidates and four Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination in the bid to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, so it’s a crowded, well-funded field.
Other major races include the gubernatorial contest, in which nine Republicans are vying to face off against Democrat Josh Shapiro, the only candidate on the Democratic ballot. Then there is the lieutenant governor race, with nine Republicans and three Democrats, and a half-dozen US and state House contests of interest to Lehigh Valley voters.
If you plan to vote, polling places open at 7 am and close at 8 pm Make sure you’re registered (if not, you have procrastinated too long and missed the deadline, which was May 2) and that you know where you’re going by visiting the state’s voter services pages at www.pavoterservices.pa.gov
It’s too late to request a mail ballot from a county election office, but you can go to your county election office, request a mail ballot there, fill it out, and return it on the spot.
Voters can return their own ballot to a local election office in person (find the address here). Some counties have set up satellite offices and drop boxes. Look up those locations here.
Ballots must be received by the county election office before 8 pm on Election Day.
And remember, Pennsylvania is a closed primary state, meaning only registered party members can participate in a political party’s primary election.
If, somehow, you have escaped the incessant television ads or otherwise neglected to learn much about the candidates, you’ll need a primer, so here it is.
Mehmet Oz entered the national eye as a surgeon who parlayed appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show into a syndicated program of his own, The Dr. Oz Show. His stances dovetail with many of Trump’s concerns — immigration and election security, getting tough on China — and he describes himself as anti-abortion and pro-gun. Oz drew derision for running in Pennsylvania despite living much of his life in New Jersey and only recently claiming residency in Montgomery County.
Dave McCormick, who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager, is a Pennsylvania native, though he lived in Connecticut for many years. He says America has to stand up to China in the economic realm, achieve energy independence and finish the border wall favored by Trump to restrict immigration. He has opposed government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.
Kathy Barnette is a conservative commentator and author of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America, a book that argues liberal policies have failed Black America. She opposes abortion and gun restrictions, supports a border wall and has advocated against teaching critical race theory in schools. Despite a low-budget campaign, she is virtually neck-and-neck with the lavishly funded Oz and McCormick.
Other Republican candidates are Philadelphia attorney George Bochetto; Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos; Montgomery County attorney Sean Gale; and Cumberland County business owner Carla Sands.
John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor and the longtime mayor of the borough of Braddock, near Pittsburgh, made an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2016. He is pro-union, pro-choice, favors a $15 minimum wage and wants to legalize recreational marijuana. He is also a proponent of clean energy, criminal justice reform and LGBTQ rights.
Conor Lamb represents Western Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District in the US House. The former federal prosecutor favors a $15 minimum wage. He wants to eliminate or reform the filibuster and supports federal legislation to ease state-level restrictions on voting. He also favors overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which removed restrictions on corporate spending on elections.
Malcolm Kenyatta is a state representative from Philadelphia. As the first openly gay person of color elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, he is an advocate for LGBTQ rights. He supports unions, raising the minimum wage and strengthening the digital infrastructure. He also wants to reduce the price of prescription drugs.
Alex Khalil serves borough council in Jenkintown, Montgomery County. She supports reducing health care costs by passing Medicare for All, reducing infant mortality by strengthening pre- and postnatal care programs and instituting paid family and medical leave. She is pro-choice and favors increasing the minimum wage to $15 and using proceeds from potential recreational marijuana sales to fund mental health programs and aid communities most affected by drugs.
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general is the lone Democratic candidate. A former state representative and Montgomery County commissioner, he gained national recognition for his investigation of sexual abuse among Roman Catholic clergy. He is pro-choice, supports LGBTQ rights and wants to increase economic opportunities and health care access in Black communities. He favors protecting and expanding workers’ rights to organize.
Lou Barletta, former US Representative and former mayor of the Luzerne County city of Hazleton, came to prominence in 2006 when he pushed an ordinance that penalized Hazleton landlords for renting undocumented immigrants and businesses for hiring them. The law was voided by a federal judge the following year. Barletta made restricting immigration a major part of his campaigns for the House; he was elected in 2010 and served three terms, then made an unsuccessful bid for US Senate in 2018, losing to incumbent Democrat Bob Casey.
State Sen. Douglas Mastriano, R-Franklin, is a retired Army colonel who has promoted Donald Trump’s election fraud theories by pushing for an investigation of Pennsylvania’s 2020 outcome. He was subpoenaed to testify before the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Mastriano attended Trump’s “Save America” rally that preceded the Capitol violence but denied taking part in the unrest. Mastriano appears to be the front-runner in the crowded field.
Dave White, a former member of Delaware County Council, owns an electrical contracting company. The former union pipefitter advocates for less government regulation, greater police funding and lower taxes. He is opposed to abortion and to schools teaching critical race theory.
Bill McSwain of Chester County is the former US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Appointed by Donald Trump, he came under fire from the former president for failing to investigate unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. McSwain wants to reduce government regulation, increase energy production and bolster the state’s crime-fighting resources.
Others in the Republican field are former US Rep. Melissa Hart, state Senate leader Jake Corman, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, heart surgeon Nche Zama, and consultant Charlie Gerow.
Austin Davis was an Allegheny County government worker before his election a state representative from the Mon Valley area outside Pittsburgh in 2018. He is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro’s pick for the job.
Brian Sims is an attorney and LGBTQ rights advocate from Philadelphia. He was elected to the state house in 2012, becoming the Legislature’s first openly gay member.
Ray Sosa of Montgomery County, who works in financial services, has served on state task forces under three governors. If elected, he would become the highest-ranking Latino in Pennsylvania history.
John Brown, the former Northampton County executive, is the lone Lehigh Valley resident in the field. Brown also served as mayor of Bangor and works in the private sector. He ran for auditor general in 2016 but lost to Democrat Eugene DePasquale.
Jeff Coleman served two terms in the state House beginning in 2000, then founded a political strategy firm.
Teddy Daniels is an Army veteran and former police officer. He is a Trump booster and the preferred candidate of GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.
Carrie DelRosso was elected to the state House in 2020, representing parts of Allegheny County. She opposed COVID-19 mandates and supports election integrity initiatives.
Russ Diamond is a state representative from Lebanon County who fought to limit the Wolf administration’s emergency COVID power and advocates against vaccine mandates. He also supports limits on voting by mail.
Chris Frye is the mayor of New Castle, Delaware, and is the first Black person elected to that office. He is a Christian who describes his approach as “servant-based leadership.”
Other candidates are James Jones, a Navy veteran and business owner; Rick Saccone, a four-term state representative from Western Pennsylvania; and Clarice Schillinger of Franklin County, a public sector employee.
This is the Lehigh Valley’s highest-profile race, with Republicans Lisa Scheller and Kevin Dellicker vying for the right to take on Democratic US Rep. Susan Wild in Nov.
Scheller, a Schuylkill County native, is a former Lehigh County commissioner and CEO of her family’s company, Silberline Manufacturing. She tried unsuccessfully to unseat Wild in 2020. Scheller says she wants to reduce government spending, tighten immigration restrictions and the opioid epidemic.
Dellicker, a native of New Tripoli, considers himself a grassroots challenger to the establishment-backed Scheller. He has hardline stances on controversial issues, opposing critical race theory, the transgender identity movement and abortion.
Three Republicans and three Democrats are facing off in the 14th District was created by the once-a-decade redrawing of Senate maps. The old 14th in Carbon and Luzerne counties was jettisoned and replaced by the “new” 14th in the heart of the Lehigh Valley. Its borders encompass all or part of 20 municipalities — including nearly all of Allentown — and more than 267,000 people.
The Republican candidates are former Lehigh County commissioner Dean Browning of South Whitehall; veteran and consultant Omy Maldonado of Allen Township; and Lehigh Township Supervisor Cindy Miller.
The Democratic candidates are Yamelisa Taveras, Allentown; Nick Miller, Allentown; and Tara Zrinski, Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Veteran state Sen. Pat Browne of Allentown is facing off against Jarrett Coleman of Upper Macungie Township, a Parkland School Board member, in the Republican primary. Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley of South Whitehall Township is the sole Democratic candidate.
Candidates Saeed Georges and Josh Siegel are competing for the Democratic nomination in the newly drawn 22nd House District, which covers the eastern end of Allentown and part of Salisbury Township.
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Siegel, 28, ran unsuccessfully for Allentown mayor in 2017 then won a seat on City Council in 2019.
Georges, 32, an East Allentown resident, is a political newcomer who describes himself as “a born and bred kid who wants to make a difference.”
Two years after they faced off in the 2020 Democratic primary, Enid Santiago and Rep. Peter Schweyer are in a rematch, albeit in a different district.
In the 22nd District Schweyer currently represents, he beat Santiago by 55 votes in the 2020 Democratic primary. Both of their residences ended up in the new 134th District when the map was redrawn. The district covers parts of Allentown and Salisbury Township and all of Emmaus in Lehigh County.
Schweyer is a four-term state representative who previously served on Allentown city council. Santiago is a community activist with particular interest in LGBTQ and Latino affairs and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Republican State Reps. Ryan Mackenzie and Gary Day are among the incumbents facing off because of the legislative map changes. Mackenzie has been representing the 134th District but ended up in the 187th district represented by Day.
Both candidates tout conservative credentials that include opposition to abortion and excessive government regulation.