What is at stake in the Pennsylvania primary?

What is at stake in the Pennsylvania primary?

Pennsylvania’s primaries take place on Tuesday and although Joe Biden and Donald Trump already have their respective party’s presidential nominations sewn up, there are still plenty of interesting congressional and state races to keep an eye on.

An important swing state come November, the Keystone State’s April primary is expected to offer important insights into two key issues set to define the race for the White House later this year: abortion and Israel’s war against Hamas.

President Biden, who has recently been out campaigning in his hometown of Scranton, won the state in 2020 by a mere 80,000 ballots and could again suffer a protest vote, as he did in Michigan earlier this year, as grassroots organisers call for Democratic voters to write “uncommitted” on their ballot papers as a warning to the incumbent to do more to bring an end to the bloodshed in Gaza or risk losing their support at a more crucial stage.

Mr Trump could also suffer a protest vote, of a sort, should voters decide to mark an X next to the name of Nikki Haley, his former opponent, who suspended her campaign last month but nevertheless picked up 13 per cent of the vote in Wisconsin recently, a warning to the brash former president that not all conservatives can be relied upon to fall into line and back him.

Further down the ballot in Pennsylvania, Democrats hope to hold onto their narrow 102-101 majority in the state House of Representatives and eat into the Republicans’ 28-22 majority in the state senate, with the party needing to flip just three seats in the latter to take it to 25-25 and enjoy a majority thanks to Democratic lieutenant governor Austin Davis’s tie-breaking vote.

All 17 members of the state’s congressional delegation are running for re-election this year and one of the key House races to look out for sees progressive Democratic “squad” member Summer Lee being challenged by local council member Bhavini Patel over her advocacy for a ceasefire in Gaza, which Ms Lee’s more moderate rival argues is a position that could cost President Biden re-election in November and does not best represent the Jewish community of Pittsburgh’s 12th district.

In the 7th district, three Republicans are fighting it out for the chance to take on incumbent Democrat Susan Wild in November and, in the 10th, six Democrats are battling it out with a view to ultimately ousting Scott Perry, former chair of the Republican Freedom Caucus – DC home to such Maga stalwarts as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz – with news anchor Janelle Stelson and fighter pilot Mike O’Brien thought to have the strongest case.

In the 1st district, meanwhile, Republican congressman Brian Fitzpatrick is facing off against GOP anti-abortion activist Mark Houck, who accuses the incumbent of being too centrist.

Joe Biden campaigning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 17 April (Getty)
Joe Biden campaigning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 17 April (Getty)

Pennsylvania’s senate race sees Bob Casey and Dave McCormick running unopposed to be the Democratic and Republican candidates, the latter having lost out to Dr Mehmet Oz in the 2022 midterms, only for the Trump-backed celebrity physician to lose to Democrat John Fetterman when the long-predicted “red wave” failed to materialise.

Seven challengers, five Democrats and two Republicans, are also battling it out to become the state’s next attorney general, a position occupied by Democrat Josh Shapiro until he was elected governor in 2022 and which has since been held by Michelle Henry, who completed his term but has decided not to run again.

All five Democrats for that post have committed themselves to protecting the right to abortion and access to medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, including mifepristone.

Their Republican rivals, however, have said they do not believe the state constitution guarantees the right to an abortion and would leave the issue for the state legislature to decide should either become attorney general.

The polls close at 8pm ET this evening and promise to tell us much about which way the wind is blowing.