A Democratic House candidate who opposes abortion, has hardline views immigration and repeatedly praised President Trump lost a hard-fought primary Tuesday night.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli (D) fell short in his bid for a swingy open House seat based in Allentown, finishing in second place with 31 percent of the vote. Former Allentown Solicitor Susan Wild, a more mainline Democrat backed by the pro-choice EMILY’s List, won with 33 percent of the vote. Local pastor Greg Edwards, who had the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), finished in third with 26 percent of the vote.
That’s a relief for national and state Democrats who weren’t looking forward to having to defend Morganelli in his race due to his iconoclastic views, though Democrats were split about whether he or Wild would be the stronger general election candidate in a newly drawn blue-collar district that would have went narrowly for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Morganelli, who lost previous statewide Democratic primaries, has long been out of step with many in his party base. A pro-life Democrat, he repeatedly praised Trump early in the presidency, even applying for a district attorney job in the administration.
“Waiting to hear from transition. Hope to serve,” he tweeted at Trump at the time.
He says he withdrew that application because of his disappointment in Trump. But in March 2017 defended Trump’s planned sanctuary cities crackdown by comparing it to President Obama’s use of federal funds to urge states to allow transgender people to use the bathrooms of their gender, citing an article from the right-wing fringe World Net Daily in the process.
— DA John Morganelli (@johnmorganelli) March 29, 2017
Wild is much more in line with her party on key issues. She’ll have to run hard in the general election, however, as the district is far from a slam-dunk for her party even in a good year for Democrats.
And she’ll face a potentially tough opponent: Marty Nothstein, a local GOP elected official who’s also an Olympic gold medal winning cyclist.
In another key Pennsylvania Democratic primary, wealthy philanthropist and non-profit head Scott Wallace defeated Navy veteran Rachel Reddick by a healthy margin after outspending her by a wide margin.
Wallace will face Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the tossup district. Democrats worry that their new nominee’s baggage could be problematic in this election. He hasn’t lived in the area in decades, splitting his time between the D.C. suburbs and South Africa in recent years — and failed to pay local taxes on time one year (he says he didn’t get the bill in South Africa and paid up once he found out).