Primaries In 4 States Could Impact Battle To Control Congress
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There is another round of primary elections today, elections that could have a big impact on the battle to control Congress. Voters in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon will choose their candidates for the fall. Pennsylvania alone has five seats that Democrats are hopeful about picking up in November. And if they pick candidates who can win over Republicans and independents, that could go a long way in getting them the votes they need to take back the House. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is here for more.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So Republicans are on defense in the state of Pennsylvania. What's made this state so important in 2018?
DETROW: Pennsylvania's always pretty close. And the Philadelphia suburbs were being viewed as a key battleground because Democrats feel like they can make a lot of gains in the current political climate in the suburbs, going after higher-education, higher-income voters who are turned off by President Trump but otherwise might typically vote Republican. So this was already a focus. Then a couple of things happened to make the state way more competitive. First of all is a lot of the Republicans representing Pennsylvania in Congress have decided to retire for one reason or another, leaving a lot of seats vacant.
MARTIN: Right. There was also this gerrymandering case in...
MARTIN: ...Pennsylvania that's created new districts, no?
DETROW: Yes. It was quite the frenzy over the last few months. The state Supreme Court threw out the map that had been drawn by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor. They said it was too unfair, too gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The state Supreme Court is controlled by Democrats. And the map they produced - much more favorable to Democrats and made a lot of these districts on the eastern part of the state especially more competitive or a slight edge to Democrats. And as a result, you have Democrats very excited about the chances here, a lot of them running. In one of these suburban Philadelphia races that's been vacated, you have 10 Democrats...
DETROW: ...In today's primary.
MARTIN: That's a lot of people (laughter). Anything else you think is particularly notable in the primaries?
DETROW: Yeah, I think the most interesting House primary to flag in Pennsylvania is the Democratic primary in the 7th Congressional District. This is Allentown, the Lehigh Valley. It's being vacated by Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican. You have a whole range of the Democratic Party in this primary - you have a conservative candidate, you have a candidate backed by Bernie Sanders, several others. So that'll be interesting to watch to see which of these candidates has the momentum.
And then there are some bigger-picture trends, as well. We've seen in a lot of earlier primaries this year that House Republicans are not doing so well when they try to run for statewide office. So Pennsylvania's Senate primary - on the Republican side, Lou Barletta has been criticized for running a lackluster campaign. He's running against a state representative who hasn't been able to gain too much momentum either. But if Barletta has a hard time winning that primary, that might say something.
MARTIN: Also, in Idaho, there's an interesting race. Raul Labrador - he's been kind of this firebrand Tea Party type of guy in Congress. He's running for governor. How's that race looking?
DETROW: Yeah, in your home state. It's an interesting - same trend. Labrador is running against the lieutenant governor, Brad Little, and then Tommy Ahlquist, who's a former physician, a real estate developer who's saying, I'm the outsider in this race - so some of the similar dynamics that you saw in last week's primaries, the West Virginia Senate primary and the Indiana Senate primary. So the question is, if Labrador is another House Republican who makes a hard sell of saying, hey, look at my credentials in Congress as I try to move up...
DETROW: ...Then we might be getting a sense that maybe voters are not in love with Congress this cycle.
MARTIN: Yeah. So before I let you go, there was news about the first lady, Melania Trump. She had some surgery.
DETROW: Yeah. She underwent a procedure - it's actually the most serious procedure that a first lady has undergone since Nancy Reagan - to deal with a kidney issue. She'll be in the hospital for the rest of the week. But President Trump visited her yesterday, says she's in good spirits, she's doing well - a lot of positive signs from the White House in terms of her recovery.
MARTIN: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow for us.
Thanks so much Scott.
DETROW: Thank you.
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