From WTOP’s Election Desk: Va. Republican House races heat up

Welcome back to WTOP’s weekly election update! WTOP’s team of reporters will keep you informed on the latest through November as primary and election races heat up in the District, Maryland, Virginia and nationwide.

Local politics and elections | Nick Iannelli

Big political weekend in Virginia

Things are getting busier in Virginia, where Republicans are selecting candidates for three U.S. House races on Saturday, May 21.

In Districts 5, 8 and 10, Republicans will use party-led events, such as conventions, instead of participating in the traditional state-run primary process.

In District 5, which stretches from Charlottesville to the North Carolina border, the incumbent Republican Rep. Bob Good is facing a challenge from Dan Moy, the chairman of the Charlottesville GOP Committee. The winner will face Democratic candidate Josh Throneburg in November.

District 8, which includes parts of Fairfax and Arlington counties, has five Republican candidates in the race. The winner will advance to November, where they will face the winner of the June 21 Democratic primary between incumbent Rep. Don Beyer and challenger Victoria Virasingh.

District 10, which includes Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, has a whopping 11 Republican candidates. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexton in November.

DC voters — check your mailbox

Elections officials in D.C. are mailing every registered voter a ballot ahead of the primary election, and that process started with ballots going out this past week.

Since it is a primary and not a general election, voters who are registered as independents will not receive a ballot. Only those registered in one of the four major parties — Democrat, Republican, Libertarian and D.C. Statehood Green Party — will be able to participate.

Voters can mail their ballots back in or drop it off at any of the 55 ballot drop boxes that will open around the District starting May 27.

Pay attention, though: As DCist noted, the ballot boxes look “exactly like the boxes where residents can drop off COVID-19 tests.”

If you still want to vote the traditional way, you’ll have plenty of chances. Early voting runs from June 10 through June 19, and primary day is June 21.

Attacks fly in Maryland race for governor

The race for Maryland governor is heating up on the Republican side, as harsh words are being thrown around by the campaign of Republican candidate Kelly Schulz.

Schulz, who was endorsed by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan, is facing Republican Del. Dan Cox.

As reported by Maryland Matters, the communications director of Schulz’s campaign has been sending out attack emails recently, calling Cox “unstable” and a “lunatic,” and criticizing Cox for calling former Vice President Mike Pence a “traitor.”

Cox was endorsed in the race by former President Donald Trump.

Del. Daniel L. Cox and former Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz are vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in the July 19 primary. (Maryland Matters/Danielle E. Gaines)

From Capitol Hill | Mitchell Miller

Pennsylvania GOP primary rolls on

The votes continue to be counted in Pennsylvania and there’s still no winner in the extremely tight race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination between Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.

After the Tuesday primary, the two candidates remain separated by fewer than 1,500 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast.

All the state’s counties are to send in their results to the secretary of state by next Tuesday. If the two candidates remain separated by less than 0.5% of the vote, a runoff could be triggered.

Oz and McCormick both currently have about 31% of the vote.

While mail-in and absentee ballots still need to be counted, that hasn’t stopped Trump from telling Oz to declare victory. Trump had endorsed Oz in the primary.

The former president, in a return to his 2020 political playbook, claimed this week that Oz should say he won.

“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump said on Truth Social, his social media platform.

It’s an echo of 2020, when Trump declared victory in the presidential race before mail-in ballots had been counted and has since lied that there had been widespread fraud.

Doug Mastriano, who was endorsed by Trump and won the GOP nomination for governor in Pennsylvania, has stuck with that campaign theme.

Mastriano continues to argue that the election was stolen from Trump. If elected as governor, he could choose the next secretary of state and exert influence on the election process. Pennsylvania has 19 Electoral College votes and is expected to again be a key state in the 2024 presidential election.

How did Fetterman win?

Many political observers are still scratching their heads over just how poorly moderate Rep. Conor Lamb did against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in Pennsylvania’s race for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination.

Fetterman is a known quantity who has won statewide election, but still, he won with 59% of the votes, more than double Lamb’s total.

Many thought Lamb, 37, looked like a Democratic centrist candidate out of Central Casting: well-spoken, served in the Marine Corps and a former federal prosecutor.

Lamb has voted with Democrats on a host of issues, but did not support progressives’ push for a single-payer health care system. He has distanced himself on messaging related to defunding the police as well.

On energy policy, he has hesitated to go as “green” as some other Democrats. While he acknowledges climate change, he also cites the continuing importance of natural gas, which plays a role in his congressional district’s economy.

But that may have worked against him at a time when many Democrats are frustrated that the party can’t get legislation across the finish line. (Though that’s due in large part to pushback from Republicans in the Senate and the Democrats’ tenuous 50-50 control of the upper chamber).

Fetterman, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, also raised a lot more money than Lamb and has a knack for connecting with voters with his blue-collar style.

I asked Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, himself a centrist Democrat, what his thoughts are about the future of moderate Democrats.

He said he doesn’t want to read too much into the latest primary results, but noted he still feels it’s important for voters to elect candidates who can work with the other party.

“I do hope both parties will get back to nominating mainstream candidates. They can have their ideological differences and they can fight like heck,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we need to get things done for the American public.”

Next up: Georgia

Trump’s endorsed candidates have won the vast majority of their contests, but it’s looking like his backing of former U.S. Sen. David Perdue for the GOP nomination for governor in Georgia is headed for the loss column.

Polls show Perdue trailing Gov. Brian Kemp by double digits and Kemp has been raising a lot more money.

Perdue has hewed to the Trump political litmus test of repeating his bogus claims of election fraud. In fact, he opened a debate last month by declaring “the election in 2020 was rigged and stolen.”

But Kemp, who has faced repeated attacks from Trump, appears to be poised to reclaim the GOP nomination. He would face Democrat Stacey Abrams in the general election.

Also getting a lot of attention in Georgia: a primary race that’s normally a sleepy one — for secretary of state. But given the former president’s attempts to alter the 2020 presidential vote in Georgia, it’s under the microscope.

Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice, who has the backing of Trump and repeats his voter-fraud mantra, is in a tight race with incumbent Brad Raffensperger, who drew Trump’s ire for failing to “find” (Trump’s word) the votes that he claimed would have helped him win Georgia in 2020.

Political flameout

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-NC, at age 26, has plenty of time to rehabilitate his political career.

But after his narrow loss in the GOP primary, he’s the answer to a trivia question: “Who is the youngest person ever to be elected to Congress and also the youngest lawmaker to lose his party’s congressional nomination?”

Even with a last-minute request from Trump for North Carolina voters to give Cawthorn a second chance, they opted to make state Sen. Chuck Edwards the GOP nominee.

Cawthorn’s political missteps are almost too many to mention, but included calling Ukraine’s president a “thug,” claims in a podcast that he’d been invited to an orgy with fellow Republicans in Washington, getting caught with a loaded gun at an airport checkpoint and repeated driving violations.

Worth your time

From Nick Iannelli

From Mitchell Miller

Dates to know

Primary day in Virginia and D.C. is June 21; in Maryland, it’s July 19. Here are some other dates in the near future you’ll want to keep in mind.

May 27: Drop boxes open in D.C.

May 31: The deadline to register to vote in Virginia.

June 10: The deadline to request a mail-in ballot in Virginia, and the day Early Vote Centers open in D.C.

Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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