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Pennsylvania primaries to set match-ups in House battlegrounds

Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania will be a crucial battleground in the presidential race, and the Keystone State will also host a handful of competitive House races in 2020, including some the GOP considers critical to winning back the House.

Republicans need a net gain of 17 seats to win the majority, and they're hoping to get some of them in Pennsylvania, where Democrats are defending two districts that President Donald Trump won and one that he narrowly lost. But Republicans are also on defense, with Democrats targeting three GOP seats.

Since the primaries were postponed from April 28 to Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic, the contests have been fairly quiet. The House primaries haven't attracted much outside spending or involvement, aside from President Donald Trump endorsing two candidates over the weekend.

But the races could pick up once the match-ups are set. Outside groups involved in House races have already reserved more than $18 million in airtime for the fall in Pennsylvania's media markets, with the bulk of those reservations in the Philadelphia market, which also covers competitive races in New Jersey.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted support for two Republicans taking on Pennsylvania Democrats: Army veteran Sean Parnell, who is challenging Rep. Conor Lamb in the 17th District; and former Lehigh County Commissioner Lisa Scheller, who is challenging Rep. Susan Wild in the 7th District.

Parnell does not face a primary in the 17th District, which includes the Pittsburgh suburbs. Trump would have carried the district by 2 percentage points had the current congressional map been in place in 2016. The state's congressional lines were redrawn in 2018 because of a redistricting lawsuit.

 

After winning a high-profile special election in March 2018, Lamb, a Marine veteran, easily defeated GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus by 13 points in the new 17th District that November. Lamb has a sizable financial advantage with more than $1 million in his campaign account as of May 13, while Parnell had $384,000. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Democratic.

In the 7th District, which is based in the Lehigh Valley, Scheller is running against Dean Browning, also a former county commissioner, for the GOP nomination. Trump's endorsement is expected to boost Scheller. She has raised more than $1 million for her campaign, but spent much of it leading up to the primary. Her campaign had $274,000 as of May 13.

Republicans have touted Scheller as a top recruit. She revealed in 2018 that had previously battled drug and alcohol addiction, and opened a coffee shop to help recovering addicts. She has endorsements from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP women's groups including VIEW PAC, Winning for Women and E-PAC, which is led by New York GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik.

Scheller could face a tough race against Wild, who won the open seat race in 2018 in a district Trump would have lost by 2 points. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democrat.

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