Around the state, a handful of primaries are beginning to really heat up. TV ads, upset alerts, legal troubles and more. Without public polling it’s difficult to say which are the closest in margin – but these are the ten races that have PoliticsPA’s attention.
SD-15, Dauphin/York, Open Seat. D: Taylor v. Teplitz. R: First v. McNally v. Seeds
This district will be one of the hardest-fought in 2012, especially now that Sen. Jeff Piccola has announced his plans to retire. GOP efforts to shore up the seat via redistricting were overturned by the Pa. Supreme Court, and now Democrats have a real chance to add it to their column. The party favorites are Rob Teplitz, chief counsel and policy director for Auditor General Jack Wagner, and John McNally, an attorney and former chair of the Dauphin Co. GOP.
Josh First is the founding owner of Appalachian Land & Conservation Services, William Seeds worked at HIA for years and served as Lower Paxton Township supervisor, and Alvin Taylor is a clergyman and businessman.
This seat is a tossup.
SD-29, Schuylkill, R: Rich v. Argall
Conservative groups clamoring for a Republican scalp have their sights set on Sen. Dave Argall, who helped pass the infamous midnight pay raise in 2005. His challenger Brian Rich is a wealthy businessman and was the first Pa. House of Senate candidate on TV in the state. This one has gotten nasty, with criminal probes and lawsuits on the horizon (see today’s Buzz for details). Argall has support from the NRA and local committees, but the Schuylkill GOP is far from unified even in the best of times. Finally, rumor has it that the GOP Senate caucus is focused on protecting seats from Democrats this cycle, and may not spend in full force to protect Argall.
This is a strong Republican seat; the Democratic candidate is former Pa. Rep. Tim Seip.
SD-31, Cumberland, R: Shaw v. Vance
The Patriot News has a good take on this race – another example of statewide conservative groups seeking to oust a moderate Republican. Sen. Pat Vance, a former nurse, hasn’t had a primary since she won her state House seat in 1990, or her Senate seat in 2004. This year, she faces a challenge from conservative attorney Andrew Shaw – plus the Citizens Alliance for Pennsylvania has spent tens of thousands so far on radio ads (listen to the ad here). Shaw is particularly critical of Vance’s votes against vouchers and a bill to tighten restrictions on abortion clinics. Vance proudly campaigns as a compromiser and a “voice of reason in Harrisburg.”
This is a safe Republican seat; there is no Democratic candidate.
SD-37, Allegheny, R, Open Seat: Means v. Mustio v. Raja
This is likely to be the most expensive race on this list, and could go over a million dollars. State Rep. Mark Mustio had hoped for a quick move up the ladder and replace retiring Sen. John Pippy. He has much of the institutional party support in the district, including Pippy’s endorsement. But Raja, the 2011 GOP candidate for Allegheny County Exec, is running hard for the seat. A wealthy businessman, Raja went on TV a week ago with a positive spot. Mustio followed, with a questionable ad that emphasizes Raja’s Indian background and criticizes his company over outsourcing. However, a Raja internal poll has him leading 43 to 22 percent, based mostly on name ID from 2011. Once again, rumor has it that the GOP Senate caucus is focused on protecting seats from Democrats this cycle, and is unlikely to spend in full force to boost Mustio, who is also running for re-election to the Pa. House. And fresh today, a new Raja TV spot blasts Mustio for voting for the midnight pay raise.
The third Republican candidate is Sue Means, a local party activist and homeschooling advocate with decent name ID, but without the resources to go toe-to-toe with Mustio or Raja financially.
This is a lean/strong Republican district; there is no Democratic candidate on the ballot but there is an effort by locals to run a write-in campaign for Greg Parks, an educator and former Pleasant Hills councilman.
HD-24, Allegheny, D: Gainey v. Preston
Rep. Joe Preston has notable clout in Harrisburg, but he is in trouble. Much of the local party infrastructure is backing Ed Gainey, the Chairman of the Pittsburgh City Democratic Committee who barely lost to Preston in 2006. The Allegheny Dems and the Allegheny Labor Council have endorsed Gainey. And Gainey made good headlines a few weeks ago when he alleged, plausibly, that Preston had forged petition signatures.
This is a safe Democratic seat; the Republican candidate is Chris Crastley.
HD-31, Bucks, R: Bosley v. Chapman
This is a good old-fashioned party vs. grassroots matchup. Helen Bosley, 64, is a longtime party member who has been endorsed by the Bucks GOP and enjoys institutional support. However, she also served as the interim CEO of the Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County, which has riled the base. Anne Chapman, 66, likewise has served in a variety of ways on local and county GOP committees. She has the endorsement of a number of individual elected officials as well as Rob Ciervo, who fell 163 votes short of defeating the incumbent in 2010.
This seat is a tossup; it is currently held by Rep. Steve Santarsiero.
HD-92, Cumberland/York, R, Open Seat
Rep. Scott Perry is running for Congress and five Republicans are vying to replace him: Scott Derr, an investment adviser from Carroll Township; Daniel Johnson of Newberry Township, manager of Holiday Inn in West Manchester Township; Anthony Pugliese of Fairview Township, previously the director of legislative affairs for the state Department of Community and Economic Development; Mike Regan of Carroll Township, a retired U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and William Sieg of Newberry Township, a self-employed consultant and former special assistant to Secretary of Transportation.
The inside track goes to Pugliese, who worked on Governor Tom Corbett’s campaign and at 25 has been politically active for years. His father Rocco Pugliese is one of Harrisburg’s most prominent Republican politicos and very close to the HRCC.
The district is safe Republican; the Democratic candidate is Chuck Comrey.
HD-104, Dauphin, R: Lewis v. Helm
State Rep. Sue Helm is in an unusual situation. An incumbent since she won a four-way GOP primary in 2006, the former real estate broker does not have the support of the Dauphin GOP. Instead, the party is backing Jenna Lewis, a young deputy District Attorney who has been fundraising at a steady clip. The consensus is that the party thinks Lewis is a safer bet in the general election. Helm won in a nailbiter against Gene Stilp (by about 300 votes out of 23,000 cast) in the GOP wave year of 2010 – too close for comfort for many Republicans.
This seat is a tossup; the Democratic candidate is Millersburg Borough Council President Chris Dietz.
HD-182, Philadelphia, D: Sims v. Josephs
This is a battle of two 100 percent liberals. Rep. Babette Josephs is no stranger to primaries; she faced one last cycle, too. But this year is different. Brian Sims, an openly gay attorney and LGBT advocate, is contesting this seat in the district close to Philadelphia’s “Gayborhood.” A strong fundraiser (he was Josephs’ campaign treasurer in 2010), Sims has scored the endorsement of every relevant LGBT political group in the state and several nationally. Josephs, meanwhile, has the argument of Harrisburg clout, and the backing of a litany of women’s rights groups and former Gov. Ed Rendell.
This is a safe Democratic seat; there is no Republican candidate.
HD-188, Philadelphia, D: Muhammad v. Roebuck
How serious are voucher proponents? This race will help to tell. Students First, a PAC that supports school choice proposals, is taking aim at Rep. James Roebuck. They’ve given $25,000 to challenger Fatimah Lorén Muhammad so far, and sent out negative mailers in the district. Muhammad also has the backing of Sen. Anthony Williams, the highest-profile Democratic supporter of the measure. The Philadelphia City Paper has been keeping an eye on the race, and so are we. Muhammad is also the first black, openly gay Muslim woman to run for the state House (that we know of). Ernest Adkins is the third Democrat on the ballot.
This seat is safe Democratic; there is no Republican in the race.