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3 key races from the Idaho and Pennsylvania primaries

Conservative Review

It's time for another primary election! "But wait," you say. "Didn't we just do this last week?" Why, yes we did, and you can read CR senior editor Daniel Horowitz's six takeaways from the primaries in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia here. But that was last week; this is now.

Today, Republican primary voters are heading to the polls in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Not much drama is anticipated in Nebraska, where Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., is expected to easily fend off several primary challengers with little name recognition and little funding. The same could be said of deep blue Oregon, where the state's lone Republican congressman, Rep. Greg Walden, is expected to win his primary.

But in Idaho and Pennsylvania, interesting things are happening. Here are the key races:

1) Idaho gubernatorial primary 

Idaho's current governor, Republican Butch Otter, is not seeking a fourth term to lead the fastest-growing state in the union. Three candidates are vying in the Republican primary to replace him: Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and physician and businessman Tommy Ahlquist. The few polls availabe show a tight race, with many voters undecided.

Labrador, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, is running as a pro-life, pro-gun social conservative. He's been endorsed for governor by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky. Little is touting his experience as lieutenant governor as an advantage and is backed by several incumbent Idaho politicians and business leaders. Ahlquist is pledging to continue the state's booming economy and has been endorsed by Republican U.S. Senate candidate for Utah Mitt Romney.

Idaho is a conservative state. Whichever Republican wins the primary is likely to be the next governor.

2) The race for Labrador's House seat

With Labrador running for governor, there are seven Republicans running for a shot at his seat in Congress. Of those seven, a three-way contest has emerged between Tea Party supported Russ Fulcher, former state Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor David Leroy, and state Rep. Luke Malek.

Fulcher can boast of endorsements from Cruz, Tea Party groups Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, and the House Freedom Caucus. He is also running as the most consistent supporter of President Trump. Leroy, a career politician, is running on his nearly two decades experience in elective and appointive politics. He supported Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the 2016 Republican primary for president and said that if elected to Congress, he would "work with the president, even though I don't always appreciate everything he does, or especially everything he says." Malek is more attuned to the "NeverTrump" segment of the electorate, having voted for independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin in the 2016 election and previously criticized Trump. At 35, he is younger than both of his main rivals and has several endorsements from his colleagues in the state legislature. He is also the only candidate running in this race who said he would have voted for the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill Congress passed in March.

3) The Pennsylvania 13th scramble

Pennsylvania's congressional districts were recently redrawn by the state Supreme Court after a lawsuit accusing Republicans of partisan gerrymandering in violation of the state constitution. The new map has reshaped the midterm elections in Pennsylvania, creating a slight advantage for Democrats compared to the old map. However, Pennsylvania's new 13th Congressional District, where Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Penn., is retiring, has become a stronger district for Republican candidates, inviting a crowded eight-man primary field.

There are two candidates with notable conservative bona fides. Retired Coast Guard Captain Art Halvorson, who lost to Shuster by less than one point in the 2016 Republican primary, is running again for this open seat. He has been personally endorsed by Daniel Horowitz. State Sen. Stephen Bloom has been endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus.

They are running against six other candidates including a state senator, a physician, a retired colonel, an alpaca farmer, a businessman, and a former marine.

There is no runoff election. Whoever claims the largest share of the vote will be the Republican nominee for Congress from PA-13.

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