Five States Hold Primaries: Big Races with Razor Thin Margins

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

Five states held primaries on Tuesday, with some garnering a great deal of national attention. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky, and Oregon held primaries on Tuesday in the busiest primary Tuesday of the election season so far. Some key races are still unresolved with razor-thin margins in some cases after Tuesday's busy primaries. In most cases, it appears endorsements by former President Trump are still somewhat meaningful when it comes to winning elections. 


Some of the most hotly contested races are in the state of Pennsylvania. The Senatorial primary there arguably tops the list of most-watched primaries in the country because of Trump's controversial endorsement of celebrity doctor Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Pennsylvania is a key swing state. The Senatorial race between Dr. Oz and former hedge fund manager and establishment Republican David McCormick is still too close to call. Oz is ahead by only 0.2 percentage points or 2,565 votes (as of this publication). The race will be automatically triggered for a recount if the final tally sits at 0.5%.

With 96% reporting, Republican Senatorial candidate Kathy Barnette sits in third place with about 25% of the vote. She had a strong showing relative to other candidates, had little money behind her, and was up against an establishment Republican and a Trump-backed candidate. Her popularity surged in recent weeks, and she was targeted, in some cases unfairly, for some past comments and videos she posted on social media. For the Democratic Senatorial seat, Lt. Governor John Fetterman handily beat Conor Lamb, a marine and former federal prosecutor. Fetterman suffered a stroke a few days ago and went into surgery yesterday for a pacemaker. 

PA Senate Races/

Republican state Senator Doug Mastriano beat former Rep. Lou Barletta with room to spare for the governor's seat. With 96 percent of the vote already reported, he has 44 percent of the vote. In November, he will face the uncontested Democratic candidate, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Governor's Race PA/

In Pennsylvania's 12th District, progressive candidate Summer Lee declared victory over centrist Lee Irwin with the slimmest of margins. She would be the first Black woman to represent Congress in Pennsylvania if she wins. She allegedly endured over $3 million in attack ads from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during her campaign. Other Pennsylvania House primary results can be viewed here. Eight Trump-backed congressional candidates won in the state—five were unopposed.

Pennsylvania's primary is also notable because of a printing error related to about 22,000 mail-in ballots in Lancaster County. There were approximately 630,000 mail-in ballots in the state.

The problem wasn't noticed until Tuesday morning when ballots failed to scan. According to WGAL, "[m]ore than 50 volunteers, county employees and representatives from both parties are working to remark and count the affected ballots...As of Wednesday, about 14,000 problem ballots still need to be counted." The incorrect printing happened after the elections staff had approved test ballots. Also, in Pennsylvania, multiple polling stations allegedly "turned away thousands of voters due to ballot shortages." Polls in Berks County were ordered to stay open an hour later by Judge James M. Lillis.

The Republican committee convinced the court that voters were being disenfranchised due to issues with new poll books and resulting in long lines. According to the Reading Eagle, new electronic poll books were employed for the first time.

"The request to extend voting hours was made because of technical problems that arose Tuesday morning with new electronic poll books the county was implementing for the first time. After learning of the problem, election officials rushed backup paper poll books to each polling location in the county.

Kevin Boughter, chairman of the Berks County Democratic Committee, said the poll book issue caused delays at some polls and forced some voters to walk away without casting a ballot.

It's been a total disaster at every poll that I've received word from," he said. Boughter said he had heard from committee people from at least 25 precincts where there had been problems with the poll books."

North Carolina

Most notable in North Carolina was the defeat of Trump-backed first-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Instead, the 11th Congressional District primary went to Sen. Chuck Edwards. According to veteran pollster Rich Baris, Democrats were not responsible for his defeat. Baris said the recent "gun story" hurt his prospects. Cawthorn was caught at Charlotte Airport on April 26 trying to bring a loaded gun through security. Cawthorn has been criticized for being too young and irresponsible.

Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd as the projected winner of the Republican primary race for Senate. He was also backed by the Club for Growth. He will likely face the projected winner, Democrat Cheri Beasley. She is a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court in November. If she wins in the fall, it will flip that seat from red to blue.

Bo Hines also won the Republican nomination for the 13th Congressional District in North Carolina. He was not only backed by former President Trump, but he also received more than $2 million from the Club for Growth and a super PAC from the Freedom Caucus. He faced seven other candidates, including the largely self-funded Attorney Kelly Daughtry and former Rep. Renee Ellmers.

While Cawthorn did not pull through with his Trump endorsement, many other endorsed candidates won in North Carolina. Budd won with 59 percent of the vote. Seven congressional candidates won with his endorsement.

Trump Endorsements/NC/

An interesting side note, conservative candidate Sarah Absher won an at-large school board primary in Forsyth County. According to the Triad City Beat:

"[In] most years, there aren't enough candidates running for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board to necessitate a primary election. This year, amid heightened interest in school curricula and social issues, 28 people registered to run, giving us primaries in every race. A dozen candidates have filed to run for three at-large seats: four Democrats and seven Republicans. Three from each party will advance to the November general election, along with Libertarian candidate Regina Garner, who has no primary opponent."

Absher is a registered nurse who has appeared on the Dark to Light podcast multiple times to comment on pandemic-related issues. According to the Winston-Salem Journal:

"In the Republican primary, Sarah Absher with 9,837 votes, Michael Hardman with 9,702, and Allen Daniel with 7,482 will move on to the general election. They beat Robert Capizzi with 7,183 votes, Carolyn Albright with 6,487, Tabitha Hackett with 5,356, and Millie Williams with 3,248. Absher got endorsements from Put Children First Again and Education First Alliance, which bills itself as an organization "fighting for parental rights and against schools radicalizing and sexualizing our children."


It isn't surprising that a school board race in North Carolina necessitated a primary. The state arguably rivals Virginia with its education-related challenges. Lt. Governor Mark Robinson has taken a strong stance on CRT with his F.A.C.T task force, and parents are responding.


In Idaho, Governor Brad Little is projected to win his primary for Governor. He was challenged by Trump-endorsed Janet McGeachin, who currently stands at only 32% of the vote. With 95% reporting, Little currently has 148,566 votes, or 52.8% of the vote. Stephen Heidt, an educational grant administrator, won the Democratic primary for Governor.

In the Senate primary, Trump-endorsed Sen. Mike Crapo is projected to win with his current 67 percent of the vote. David Roth won 57% of the vote in the Democratic senatorial race. Rep. Russ Fulcher won in ID01, unopposed. Michael Simpson will keep his seat in the 2nd Congressional District, where he has been since 1999.

In the GOP primary for Idaho secretary of state, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, an establishment Republican, currently leads Rep. Dorothy Moon just 43 percent to 41 percent. Ada County is Idaho's largest county. While McGrane supported the 2020 election results, his two opponents, Moon and state Sen. Mary Souza allegedly denied Trump lost.


In the Senate race, Rand Paul took the win for the Republican Senatorial primary, and Charles Booker won the Democratic nomination. It was a solid victory for Booker. He won 78% of the vote. It is the first time a Black candidate has won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Morgan McGarvey defeated Attica Scott for John Yarmuth's seat, 63% to 37%. Congressional District 3 is a heavily Democratic district, so McGarvey will likely be the next Congressperson from Louisville. On the Republican side, Stuart Ray only leads by 58 votes against Rhonda Palazzo, according to Rep. Thomas Massie defeated Claire Wirth in CD4 75% to 16%. Other key races are pictured below:

Kentucky primaries/

There were also some notable state legislature races in Kentucky, according to, with some "liberty" leaning candidates scoring wins. However, one liberty-leaning candidate lost in the "most expensive primary contest in Kentucky this year." Many incumbents kept their seats in the primaries, and there were lots of "new names" on the ballot this election cycle in the state.

"Republican state Sen. Donald Douglas defeated Andrew Cooperrider for the GOP nomination to the 22nd Senate District. Douglas' race against the "liberty" leaning Cooperrider was the most expensive primary contest in Kentucky this year."


Oregon has the nation's longest history of vote-by-mail elections, so the full results will trickle in over the next few days.

The Democratic primary winner for Oregon's next Governor is Tina Kotek, with 57.4% of the vote. Kotek is "formerly the longest-serving speaker of the House and the first openly lesbian speaker in the nation," according to

If she wins in November, she will also be the first openly lesbian governor in the country. Former House Republican Leader Christine Drazan is projected to win the GOP race leading with 23% of the vote to 18% for former state lawmaker Bob Tiernan.

Live Results/

For U.S. Senator on the Democrat side, incumbent Senator Ron Wyden has a solid lead with 89.4% of the vote as of early Wednesday. In the Republican Senatorial primary, Jo Rae Perkins has a slim lead with 32.2% of the vote. Darin Harbick runs closely behind with 30.3%.

Notably, in Oregon's 5th District, Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer is leading by a good margin. According to, if progressive candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner wins the Democratic primary, the GOP nominee "has a real shot at flipping an Oregon congressional seat for the first time since 1994." Shrader, who is number two behind McLeod-Skinner, was President Biden's first endorsement in the 2022 cycle.

In Oregon's 6th District, state Rep. Andrea Salinas and tech researcher Carrick Flynn were in one of the most expensive and contentious Democratic primaries in the country, according to

"Salinas has the backing of BOLD PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' campaign arm, while Flynn is endorsed by the House Majority PAC, a group aligned with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California."

Congressional race results are pictured below:

Oregon Congressional Results/

Georgia Is Next

Georgia, also closely followed, holds its primary on May 23. Early voting started three weeks ago. On Sunday, the Secretary of State's office stated that there is a "217% increase from the same time point in the early voting period in the 2018 primary election and a 155% increase in the 2020 primary election.

Georgia Early Voting/

David Perdue is in a tough race against incumbent Brian Kemp for the Governor's seat. He will face Democrat operative Stacey Abrams in the fall. Abrams lost to Republican Governor Brian Kemp in 2018 by about 55,000 votes. Democrats are working hard to flip the state blue. There is evidence to suggest that in the 2020 General election, there may have been as many as 810,000 illegal votes nationwide due to ballot trafficking, according to the True the Vote (TTV)/OPSEC investigation. Georgia's secretary of state opened an investigation on January 4 due to the TTV/OPSEC investigation.

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