MT. LEBANON, Pennsylvania—Standing outside historic Julie Ward Howe Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, Doug Mitchell laughed with a pair of rivals as residents streamed in and out of the local voting precinct casting their ballots for the contentious U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races on May 17
A retired banker, Mitchell has lived in this community seven miles southwest of Pittsburgh since 1972. He is a member of the Mt. Lebanon Republican Committee while the two gentlemen next to him are with the Mt. Lebanon Democratic Committee.
In Allegheny County, where Mt. Lebanon is located in the western Pennsylvania hills, 59.4 percent of the citizens voted Democrat in the last presidential election compared to the 39.0 percent who voted Republican.
May 17 marks primary election day in Pennsylvania. The Democrats have Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general, running unopposed on the gubernatorial ballot; and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman holding a significant lead in the U.S. Senate primary.
“Most people we have talked to have said they have already made up their mind on who they are voting for,” said Steve, one of the Democratic Committee members outside of the precinct.
On the Republican side, the outcomes of the Senate and gubernatorial races are not clear.
On May 16, Susquehanna Polling & Research released a poll indicating that Donald Trump-endorsed Doug Mastriano owns a comfortable lead in the governor’s race with 29 percent followed by Bill McSwain (18 percent) and Lou Barletta (15 percent).
The GOP Senate race is more compelling. Susquehanna’s survey showed Trump-endorsed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in first place with 28 percent followed by U.S. Army Reserves veteran and commentator Kathy Barnette at 27 percent, and hedge fund executive David McCormick a distant third with 11 percent.
“These races have been more about the impact of Trump’s endorsement than they have been about the issues,” Mitchell said. “That distracts from the current issues in the state, and it distracts from careful examination of ideas and solutions of these issues.”
Trump remains influential in Pennsylvania, Mitchell added, and what happens in the primary and November’s general election will “lead the way to 2024.”
Unlike the Democrats, it is uncertain who will prevail in the GOP Senate primary, Mitchell said.
“The governor’s race isn’t as close, and Shapiro is already running ads against Mastriano, so it appears the Democrats think that Mastriano will win,” Mitchell said. “Who knows what will happen in the (GOP) Senate primary. Nobody will know until the results are announced.”
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and Democratic party Senate candidate John Fetterman suffered a stroke on May 13.
He will not appear at an election night party in Pittsburgh as originally planned, according to a campaign spokesperson, though he is expected to make a full recovery and continue campaigning in the near future.
On May 17, he cast an emergency absentee ballot.
Also on May 17, Fetterman underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator.
After the surgery, Fetterman tweeted “We got the all-clear that it was successful, and that I’m on track for a full recovery.”
“Of course, he wants to go home and be with the kids and be out back on the road,” Fetterman’s wife, Gisele Fetterman, said outside a Braddock polling place where she voted on May 17. “But, you know, doctor’s orders and my orders. I am not letting that happen.”
“We feel very good about today,” she added. “I think he will get to celebrate soon.”
Fetterman still holds a substantial lead over U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D). A Franklin & Marhsall College poll in early May showed Fetterman with 53 percent followed by Lamb at 14 percent.
Several strategists agree that Fetterman’s stroke should not impact the primary’s final results.
Fetterman will “be back on the trail soon” after recovering from the stroke, his wife said.
“This is the seat that could decide very much the future of our country and where we go on issues that he’s worked so hard on for the last two decades,” Gisele Fetterman said. “So it’s a very important seat. It’s very serious.”
Only about 5,000 mail-ballot requesters in Philadelphia are Republicans, compared with about 93,000 Democrats.
Statewide, 199,000 Republicans applied for mail ballots and roughly 125,000 of them had been returned by Monday. About 680,000 Democrats applied for mail ballots, and about 452k of those were received by Monday.
Multiple political pundits predicted that results would be known for most races by the evening of May 17, or the morning of May 18.
Stephen Medvic, a government professor at Franklin & Marshall College government professor Stephen Medvic suggested that “it could be a few days until we know the outcome” if the Senate and gubernatorial races are close.