Here’s what to know about the Pennsylvania primaries

Voters in the Keystone State will head to the polls Tuesday to cast their votes in several important primaries, including in the presidential race, the race for Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-Pa.) seat and several closely watched House races.

Although President Biden and former President Trump are not expected to face any major primary challengers, their respective primaries will be closely watched as both are likely to see protest votes.

Some Democrats are staging a vote against Biden over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, with advocates urging voters to cast an “uncommitted” write-in vote. Meanwhile, Trump could continue to see protest votes in the form of ballots cast for former rival Nikki Haley.

Pennsylvania will play a critical role in whichever party takes the White House this fall and the Senate majority.

Here’s what to know about the Pennsylvania primaries:

Biden, Trump face potential protest votes

Both of the parties’ presidential nominees are likely to face a protest vote of some kind on Tuesday, yet it’s not quite clear which candidate might bleed more support.

Advocates in Pennsylvania are doing a write-in campaign on the Democratic side that urges primary voters to write “uncommitted” as a way to protest the Biden administration’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

The coalition organizing the write-in campaign, Uncommitted PA, is pushing the White House for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza immediately, as well as ending American aid to Israel and offering more humanitarian aid to Palestinians. The group is looking to get more than 40,000 ballots cast for the “uncommitted” write-in vote.

The president has already seen other protest votes staged in states, like Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. How those protest votes will translate in November remains to be seen, though in Wisconsin, advocates saw more protest votes cast than the margin that Biden won the state by in 2020.

Meanwhile, Trump is likely to see some form of a protest vote in the Keystone State, where GOP voters opt to back Haley or one of his other former GOP rivals. Similar protest votes have taken place in states like Arizona, Michigan and Georgia — crucial to whichever party wins the White House.

It also remains unclear how those Trump protest votes will translate come November.

The Casey-McCormick battle will become official

The Senate primaries are all but wrapped up at this point.

Casey isn’t facing any Democratic primary challengers, offering him a clear path to the Democratic nomination. Meanwhile, former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick is also not facing any challengers on the GOP side, virtually locking up the Republican nomination.

The Pennsylvania Democrat is seeking his fourth term in the upper chamber, and it’s likely to be the most contested race he has faced so far.

Casey won his last Senate reelection bid in 2018 by 13 percentage points to Republican Lou Barletta.

One of Casey’s primary challenges this cycle is running in a presidential election year when Biden has underwater approval ratings.

Still, the nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report has rated Casey’s seat as “lean Democrat,” giving him the edge for now in the race.

Summer Lee faces test over her Israel criticism

Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) is seeking reelection in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, where she faces one primary challenger, Edgewood Councilmember Bhavini Patel.

The politics of the Israel-Hamas war have cast a shadow over much of the race. Lee and a handful of progressives urged the Biden administration for an immediate cease-fire in the days after the conflict started. Lee has criticized Israel, but she also condemned the initial Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

Patel claimed in an interview with The Washington Post that Lee “completely disregards her entire district” and “clearly picked a side” in the conflict.

“I think it’s important that any call for a cease-fire should acknowledge that hostages are still being held,” Patel told the Post.

Unlike last cycle, when Lee faced outspending from pro-Israel groups like an American Israel Public Affairs Committee-aligned (AIPAC) group and Democratic Majority for Israel, neither group is reportedly involved in her primary this cycle. She also enjoys the backing of Democratic leadership — including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and John Fetterman (D-Pa.) — and prominent groups like Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Congresswoman Summer Lee heads into Primary Day in an extremely strong position to be reelected as the democratic nominee,” Lee’s campaign said in a state-of-the-race memo Tuesday.

Still, Lee is still contending with some outside spending. Republican mega-donor Jeffrey Yass has contributed money to one political group, Moderate PAC, that has attacked Lee on air.

There are other notable primaries

In addition to Lee, Pennsylvania Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) in the state’s 1st District; Susan Wild (D) in the 7th District; and Scott Perry (R) in the 10th District are all running for reelection and face primaries of varying competitiveness Tuesday.

Fitzpatrick, a moderate, is facing off against anti-abortion activist Mark Houck in the GOP primary in the district, which sits just north of Philadelphia and includes Buck and Montgomery counties.

Meanwhile, three Republicans are vying for the chance to take on Wild in the eastern Pennsylvania House seat: state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R), small business owner and veteran Kevin Dellicker and Maria Montero, a former executive director of the Pennsylvania Latino Commission in addition to Pennsylvania Commission for Women.

A half-dozen Democrats are also looking to take on Perry this November, including former local news anchor Janelle Stelson, Marine veteran Mike O’Brien, former senior executive of PBS station WITF Blake Lynch, Harrisburg City Council member Shamaine Daniel veteran Rick Coplen and businessman John Broadhurst.

There are signs of lower voter engagement

Pennsylvania’s primary elections are seeing less voter engagement, according to local news outlets in the state.

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted on its live blog that Center City and Delaware County in the Philadelphia area have seen low voting turnout. The Post-Gazette’s live blog noted lack of voter enthusiasm in the Pittsburgh suburb of Ambridge while The Morning Call’s live blog reported that few voters had cast ballots in South Whitehall Township in western Pennsylvania.

Other states across the country have also noticed lower-than-expected primary turnout this election cycle.

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