Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

What May's primary revealed about Pa.'s politics

Plus, Pa. ban on private election money could be close.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
June 23, 2022
Primary points, cash compromise, poll watchers, missing stats, justice delayed, college clamps, and new buns. It's Thursday. This is PA Post.

Turnout for last month's primary was the highest in decades in Pennsylvania and only reinforced the commonwealth's growing urban-suburban-rural divides, The Inquirer reports in a deep dive on the data.

Both major parties saw sharp jumps in participation, but the number of Republican votes cast exceeded Democratic votes for the first time in a midterm year this century, the outlet adds.

Here are a few additional takeaways:

  • Long-running urban-suburban-rural divides are increasingly happening within the parties in Pennsylvania, not just between them
  • Rural GOP voters were more likely than non-rural GOP voters to back far-right candidates, like Doug Mastriano and Kathy Barnette
  • Republicans who voted for Trump-backed or Trump-aligned candidates were the least likely in the state to vote by mail  
  • Democrats were far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans
  • Counties with more Mastriano support tended to have lower Mehmet Oz support; one expert says that could help the GOP in November
  • Philadelphia is turning out fewer statewide Democratic primary votes than it used to, but gains continue in collar counties

THE CONTEXT: Primary turnout usually doesn't predict much about general election outcomes, especially in a closed-primary state like ours.

But The Inquirer's analysis shows a trend of heightened midterm enthusiasm that started after Donald Trump's 2016 win continues today.

Democrats still outnumber Republicans by about 550,000 registered voters statewide, but Republicans have taken the edge in registrations.

While primary turnout doesn't predict general election turnout, The Inquirer says it does show "how and where the parties are growing."

General election polling released on Wednesday has Democrat Josh Shapiro with a three-point lead over Mastriano in the governor's race, while Democrat John Fetterman has a six-point lead over Oz for U.S. Senate.

Axios reports the Trump-endorsed Oz is quietly removing mentions of the former president from his social media feeds, website, and ads as he heads into one of the most hotly contested Senate midterms in the country. 


"The reaction has been horrifying. They treat me like a little girl who needs to watch her Ps and Qs, but transparency is important here. People's lives are on the line. It's their retirement security, for crying out loud."

State Sen. Katie Muth (D., Montgomery) on her role as trustee and critic of Pennsylvania's $73 billion pension fund for public school retirees
High above Italian Lake Park in Harrisburg with @yatskoSend us your pics, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
ELECTION MONEY: Top Pennsylvania lawmakers have a tentative deal to get private money out of election administration and offset the impacts by upping state funding for county election offices, sources tell Spotlight PA. The compromise, agreed to in principle on Wednesday, would end contested third-party election grants like the ones from Facebook's CEO that became a partisan flashpoint after Trump's loss.

CODE SHIFTS: A bill that would allow poll watchers to operate outside the counties where they live and another that would move Pennsylvania's presidential primary up by weeks were advanced to the full state House on Wednesday, the AP reports. One Democrat called the former bill an "atrocity" that breeds election mistrust, while the county governments that run elections have concerns about the latter.

CRIME STATS: The Marshall Project asks: What can the FBI's updated crime statistics collection program tell us about crime in 2021? The answer: Not much since nearly 40% of police agencies — including most of Pennsylvania's — did not submit any of the relevant data. Low participation rates in Pennsylvania have also dogged an FBI effort to collect more data on use-of-force incidents, per the Post-Gazette.

90 YEARS: In 1931, a Black teenager named Alexander McClay Williams was sentenced to die after he was wrongly convicted of killing his white teacher, Vida Robare, at the Glen Mills School in suburban Philadelphia. Earlier this month, more than 90 years after his execution, the murder charge against Williams was vacated with help from the great-grandson of the lawyer who represented him at trial, per 6ABC.

COLLEGE CASH: House Republicans spent Wednesday filing amendments that would strip Pitt's funding from a related spending bill, ban fetal tissue research at state-related universities, and require Penn State say where the exiled Paterno statue went to collect its share of the money. Spotlight PA explains how appropriations funding for the universities became a budget season lightning rod this year.

E-SCOOTERS: The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would expand e-scooter programs to more than 50 cities statewide, including Allentown, Harrisburg, and Erie, building on a pilot program that was launched in Pittsburgh last year. The bill now heads to the House.

TAX BREAK: President Joe Biden wants a three-month federal gas tax holiday, which would save drivers nationwide about 18 cents a gallon. On Wednesday, a gas station in Lower Burrell slashed its prices to $2.38 a gallon (the state average is $5) for 45 jam-packed minutes, per TribLIVE.

RELOCATED: An event focused on Pennsylvania's founding as "an explicitly Christian state" has a new venue after a backlash over the speakers' Christian nationalist beliefs, LNP reports. The event is now set to take place at a flooring store in Quarryville today, as the speakers double down.

FRESH ROLLS: Philly's beloved Federal Donuts has dropped Martin's potato rolls over the company's ties to gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. The new source of bread for its signature fried chicken sandwich? The Baltimore-born Schmidt Baking Company, Billy Penn reports.

SPACE JAM: Five planets are aligning in the night sky this week. The best time for viewing will be 5 a.m. tomorrow (weather permitting) when the moon joins in. The moon will appear positioned between Venus and Mars in the southeast. It's the first such planetary parade in 18 years

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

This week's theme: Geology
Yesterday's answer: Mineralization

Congrats to our daily winners: Stan S., Becky C., Vicki U., Craig W., Doris T., Karen W., Elaine C., Barbara F., Don H., Judith D., David S., Susan N.-Z., Susan D., Starr B., James B., Carol D., Bill S., Dianne K., George S., Al M., Nancy S., Kim C., and Helen D.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.