Long-distance donors flood Tuesday's Pennsylvania primaries with cash

  • Tuesday's political primary in Pennsylvania is being widely watched, because a court-ordered redistricting has shuffled the cards for the state's congressional incumbents.
  • The redrawn map has created five open seats in districts effectively abandoned by their current representatives and has two incumbents facing each other in the same district.
  • The rare district shuffle has also touched off a flood of campaign donations from out-of-state donors from both parties.
Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb is greeted by supporters during his election night rally in Pennsylvania's 18th U.S. Congressional district special election against Republican candidate and State Rep. Rick Saccone, in Canonsburg.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb is greeted by supporters during his election night rally in Pennsylvania's 18th U.S. Congressional district special election against Republican candidate and State Rep. Rick Saccone, in Canonsburg.

Tuesday's round of four political primaries includes one of the most widely watched set of races in Pennsylvania, where a court-ordered redistricting has shuffled the cards for the state's congressional incumbents.

The redrawn map has created five open seats in districts effectively abandoned by their current representatives. And the new map landed two incumbents running against each other in the same district.

The rare district shuffle has also touched off a flood of campaign donations from out-of-state donors from both parties who are placing bets from around the country on vulnerable House seats.

As of the end of the first quarter, roughly two-thirds of the money raised by House hopefuls had come from donors outside their congressional districts, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The upheaval brought by Pennsylvania's redistricting offers an unusual number of seats left open by incumbents who saw the voter makeup of their districts abruptly shuffled. Four of the state's 18 districts are either vacant or open. Two are ranked "toss-ups" by political pundits, and nine are considered competitive.

That's generated an unusually large field of candidates and campaign spending. Some 78 declared House candidates in Pennsylvania primaries have already spent $22 million, much of it raised from out-of-state donors.

The biggest influx of out-of-district money landed in the 17th District, where incumbent Democrat Conor Lamb faces off against three-term Republican Keith Rothfus.

Lamb, who raised a large war chest from national donors, defeated Republican Rick Saccone in an upset special election in the former 18th District in March. Lamb, now running in the 17th District, will enter the general election against Rothfus with a 5-to-1 fundraising advantage. (Both are unopposed in Tuesday's primary.)

Meanwhile, Saccone is back in the race, vying for the GOP nomination in the 14th District.

Elsewhere, voters in Oregon, Nebraska and Idaho will go to the polls Tuesday to winnow down a field of hundreds of candidates vying for their party's nomination to run for election in November. Republicans currently hold six of the 10 House seats up for re-election in those three states.

Outside of Pennsylvania, few of the House races are considered competitive. Both of Idaho's congressional districts lean heavily Republican, and incumbents there have outraised their Democratic rivals by a wide margin.

In Oregon, which last voted for a Republican president in 1984, Democrats have a similar hold on most of the five seats. Only one district is considered safe for Republicans. Incumbent Greg Walden, first elected nearly 20 years ago to represent Oregon's 2nd District, has raised more than $3 million. That's far more than his six Democratic challengers combined.

Despite Nebraska's statewide Republican tilt, the race in the 2nd Congressional District is shaping up as a possible flip for Democrats.

Incumbent Republican Don Bacon in 2016 narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Brad Ashford, who wants his seat back. So far, Bacon has raised about $1.5 million, more than twice as much as Ashford. About a third of the money raised in this race overall has come from outside the district.

Ashford faces Kara Eastman, founder of an Omaha nonprofit agency, in Tuesday's Democratic primary. Bacon is running for the GOP nomination unopposed.