What to Watch in the May 17 Primaries

It’s one of the most crowded nights on the 2022 primary calendar: On May 17, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania will settle hundreds of primaries and even some general elections; some South Carolinians are voting too. High-profile tests for Donald Trump’s candidates in Pennsylvania’s statewide elections, and for progressive candidates in House races, have drawn the lion’s share of attention. But there is a lot else that matters on these states’ ballot, starting with heated elections for prosecutor and secretary of state.

Here are 52 elections to watch, and why they matter, as prepared by editor Daniel Nichanian. More elections may be added to our cheat sheet through Election Day.

Check back on Election Night as Bolts fills in each result. And support us to help sustain this work.


Idaho (GOP)

This one is a doozy, as Idaho’s conservative governor Brad Little is challenged by Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, who last year used Little’s absence from the state to issue an executive order banning local mask mandates. McGeachin’s bid is part of a broad far-right push in Idaho. Read The New York Times preview.
Oregon (Dem)

Speaker Tina Kotek, who is viewed as closer to progressive groups and has played a leading role in state politics over her tenure, and Treasurer Tobias Read are the frontrunners to replace the retiring Democratic governor.
Oregon (GOP)

Republicans may have a shot at flipping this seat, but they first have an extremely crowded primary of 19 candidates, and OPB reports that the election is being fought under Trump’s shadow.

Last week Donald Trump endorsed Doug Mastriano, a state senator who has made his name on election denialism, just as establishment Republicans were discussing how to stop him. Also on the ballot are Lou Barletta, who became nationally known two decades ago as an anti-immigrant crusader, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, and many others. (The winner is expected to face Democrat Josh Shapiro.)

U.S. Senate

North Carolina (Dem)

Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice, is favored in the Dem. primary to replace U.S. Senator Richard Burr. The GOP has already begun attacking her. Read WRAL’s preview.
North Carolina (GOP)

Former Governor Pat McCrory, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, and former U.S. Rep Mark Walker want the Republican nomination to succeed Richard Burr.
Pennsylvania (Dem)

One of the night’s lead tests for Democrats: Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman ran on a progressive platform, marked by his positions on criminal justice reform, against the more moderate U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb. State lawmaker Malcom Kenyatta is running as well.
Pennsylvania (GOP)

The Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz and David McCormick have poured in millions into this race, but Kathy Barnette, known for her staunchly Islamophobic statements and other far-right politics, is surging into contention in the final stretch. The Inquirer previews.
Note: There are other Senate races on the ballot in Idaho and Kentucky, but the primaries are not expected to be competitive.

Other statewide elections

ID | Lieut. Gov. (GOP)

The battle between the conservative establishment and the party’s far-right wing (see Gov. race) is playing out in this race too. Speaker Scott Bedke is running with the governor’s support; lawmaker Priscilla Giddings is way to his right. Giddings was censured by the chamber last year. Read more in the Idaho Press.
ID | Att. Gen. (GOP)

You may remember Raul Labrador from his days animating the Freedom Caucus in DC. Now he’s trying to out incumbent Lawrence Wasden, in office since 2003, from the right. This is one of four primaries in Idaho where the far-right is attempting to seize a statewide office.
NC | Supreme Court (GOP)

Republicans hope to flip the state Supreme Court, which may reopen the gerrymandering floodgates in the state; first they must choose who they’re nominating for one of the seats.
NC | Court of Appeals (GOP)

Donna Stroud, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, is a Republican, but lower-court judge Beth Freshwater Smith has support from much of the conservative establishment in an unusual clash.
OR | Labor Commiss.

This is technically a non-partisan election, with the top two candidates moving on to November, but the major question on Tuesday is whether the election’s de facto GOP contender will make it through the primary. OPB previews the race.

U.S. House Primaries, GOP


U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, running with extensive establishment support, faces a challenge from his right from attorney Bryan Smith. The Rexburg Standard-Journal previews.

What is there left to say about U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who faces an avalanche of scandals — but also an avalanche of primary rivals who haven’t broken out from the pack? This may go to a runoff.

Candidates from different wings of the GOP are fighting for the nod in this primary for an open swing seat.

U.S. House primaries, Dem


This is an open, Dem-leaning seat, with a competitive primary: State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey is facing State Representative Attica Scott, who wants to turn “protest into policy.”

In this blue open seat, former state Senator Erica Smith is the more progressive candidate in this primary against state Senator Don Davis, who has voted in favor of restrictions on abortion.

Nida Allam has support from national progressives like Bernie Sanders, but has been hit by a major SuperPAC that has attacked left candidates across the country, and is helping Valerie Foushee in this Durham-area seat.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader is running with Joe Biden’s endorsement after being one of the more visible opponents of his party’s domestic agenda, including voting against a drug pricing reform and joining the “Unbreakable Nine” last summer. He faces progressive challenger Jamie McLead-Skinner, who has the support of local Democratic parties.

A crypto billionaire has poured in money in favor of political novice Carrick Flynn, and against lawmaker Andrea Salinas, in this open primary. House Democrats have also jumped in to support Flynn, drawing local ire.

State Representative Summer Lee is vying for this open blue-leaning seat in a nationally prominent test for the left against law professor Jerry Dickinson and attorney Steve Irwin. Significant Super PAC money has gone to attacking Lee. The Prospect reports.

Conor Lamb’s Senate candidacy means the Democratic nomination for this swing seat is open, and the two candidates at least have fairly different rhetorical emphases.

Legislative primaries

ID | HD34 & HD35 (GOP)

It’s not often that you see an incumbent Republican, Ron Nate, facing a challenger (Britt Rybould) who points to his high scores from conservative groups as a negative. Similarly, incumbent Chad Christensen faces challenger Josh Wheeler who says he is too extreme.
PA | SD8 (Dem)

Democratic Senator Tony Williams faces an outsider challenge from the left, Paul Prescod. (Williams, a longtime lawmaker, calls the challenge “insulting.”)

PA | Left incumbents (Dem)

The Inquirer identifies three Philadelphia-area elections where progressive incumbents face primary threats:
—HD184: Elizabeth Fiedler, up against Michael Giangiordano II, who is running well to her right with past praise of conservative politicians;
—HD188: Rick Krajewski, an organizer who ousted a longtime incumbent in 2020 and now faces James Wright;
—HD200: Chris Rabb, up against Isabella Fitzgerald, a fellow incumbent.


PA| Left challengers

The Inquirer also identifies three Philadelphia-area elections where incumbents are challenged by progressives:
—HD10: Amen Brown, vs. Cass Green;
—HD194: Pam DeLissio, against Tarik Khan, a former union leader;
—HD201: Stephen Kinsey, vs Andre Carroll.

Also, in HD184, former Larry Krasner aide Ben Waxman seeks an open seat.

The Courier Journal flags many primaries where ultra-conservative activists face establishment conservatives, including SD6 (Bill Ferko vs. Lindsey Tichenor); SD22 (Sen. Douglas vs. Andrew Cooperrider); HD55 (Rep. King vs. Tony Wheatley). 



Legislative Specials

PA: Democrats defend Senate District 5.Dem
SC: Republicans defend House District 97.GOP

Election Admin.

Idaho | Secretary of State (GOP)

Can a Republican who spurns the Big Lie still win a GOP primary that deals with election administration? In this three-way race, a county clerk (McGrane) is running against two lawmakers who have championed new restrictions based on false claims about the 2020 election. Read Bolts‘s preview.


OR | Marion County

Public defender Spencer Todd is challenging DA Paige Clarkson, who has been a prominent foe of statewide reform proposals. He says he wants to turn the page of “tough on crime” policies. Marion County (home to Salem) has not had a contested DA race since at least the 1990s.
OR | Washington County

Challenged by Brian Decker, a progressive candidate who is vowing to bring more criminal justice reform into Oregon’s second most populous county, DA Kevin Barton is resorting to fearmongering about neighboring Portland, Bolts and the Portland Mercury reported.
NC | Durham County (Dem)

Satana Deberry, a first-term incumbent who has cultivated a progessive profile, faces a challenger who says she is too lax in some cases. Read more context from Bolts.
NC | Mecklenburg County (Dem)

Long sentences are a defining fault line in the race between DA Spencer Merriweather and defense attorney Tim Emry, who is criticizing the incumbent for his use of “habitual offender” statutes. Emry was active in the organization Decarcerate Mecklenburg, which sought to lower the jail population during the pandemic. Read Bolts’s preview.
NC | Wake County (Dem)

Defense attorney Damon Chetson is running on a reform platform against incumbent DA Lorrin Freeman, who has drawn progressive criticism for pursuing marijuana prosecutions, long sentences, and the death penalty, The Assembly previews.
No other Oregon counties has a contested DA election this year. See what other North Carolina counties do here.


NC | Buncombe County (Dem)

Asheville incumbent Quentin Miller faces primary challenger David Hurley, a follower of the “constitutional sheriff” doctrine who believes “the sheriff is the ultimate power in America.”
NC | Mecklenburg County (Dem)

First-term sheriff Garry McFadden, who came in promising reforms in 2018, is up against two challengers who are criticizing him for not respecting jail staff. Winner may also face a competitive general election.
NC | Wake County (Dem)

A crowded field of candidates is taking on Sheriff Gerald Baker, who has drawn criticism for being insufficiently responsive to Black Lives Matter demands over his first term, Indy Week reports. (In the GOP primary, the former Republican sheriff ousted in 2018 after collaborating with ICE is attempting a comeback.)
OR | Multnomah County

In Oregon’s biggest county, the sheriff’s office has faced scrutiny, though the open race drew candidates with insider experience. It could go to a runoff.

Other Local Elections

KY | Louisville mayor

Both parties are choosing their nominee for this open race; the crowded Democratic primary marked by major experiential and ideological contrasts. Read WFPL’s rundown and the AP’s preview.
Greenberg (D), Dieruf (R)
NC | Durham school board

A stealth slate of five conservatives are running to take over Durham’s school board. Indy Week previews.
Conservatives lost.
NC | Charlotte city council

Former mayor Patrick Cannon, who went to prison for corruption, is mounting a comeback by running for a council seat.
Cannon lost.
OR | Portland city council

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, a progressive who was very visible in the summer of 2020, faces multiple challengers running to her right.
Runoff will include Hardesty.
OR | Multnomah county chair

Voters in Oregon’s most populous county will choose a new leader, in a four-way primary with a focus on housing issues.

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