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Republican Budd wins North Carolina Senate nomination; Cawthorn in trouble


PHILADELPHIA, May 17 (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Ted Budd, backed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican Senate nomination in North Carolina on Tuesday, while Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn appeared in danger of losing his seat after a series of scandals.

Polls also closed in Pennsylvania, where voters were selecting party nominees in critical U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats are fighting to retain their slim majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate this year. Democrats in both states are vying to win Senate seats being vacated by retiring Republicans.

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Budd, who beat former Governor Pat McCrory, will face Democratic former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who easily won her party’s nomination in the race to succeed North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr.

Cawthorn, a staunch Trump ally, was struggling to fend off a challenge in a House primary from state Senator Chuck Edwards. With nearly 40% of the expected vote tallied, Cawthorn had 28% to 38% for Edwards, according to Edison Research.

Cawthorn, at 26 the House’s youngest member, has angered his party’s leaders with a string of embarrassing episodes, including claiming that conservative leaders invited him to a cocaine-fueled orgy, attempting twice to bring a gun onto a plane and having a video surface that showed him nude and gyrating against someone. read more

Republicans are well positioned to regain control of the House, which could enable them to frustrate Biden’s legislative agenda. Democrats have a better chance of keeping control of the Senate, currently split 50-50 between the parties with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. read more

Biden’s public approval rating is at 42%, with 50% of Americans disapproving of his performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday.

In Pennsylvania, the Republican senatorial primary turned into an unpredictable three-way battle in its final days. Conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette surged into contention against two better-funded rivals: Trump-endorsed TV wellness celebrity Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund chief executive David McCormick.

Barnette’s rise – along with that of state senator and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a far-right candidate who has echoed Trump’s conspiracy theories – has worried some establishment Republicans that the duo could prove too extreme for voters in the general election.

In Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary, where 14% of the expected vote had been counted, progressive Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman had 52%, with centrist U.S. Representative Conor Lamb at 34%, according to Edison Research. Fetterman has been hospitalized in Lancaster since suffering a stroke last week but said doctors expect a full recovery.

His campaign on Tuesday released a photo of him voting from his hospital bed via an emergency absentee ballot, shortly before his campaign said he successfully had a pacemaker installed to address irregular heart rhythms that caused the stroke.

Final results may not be known tonight. Pennsylvania officials said voters requested 908,000 absentee or mail-in ballots. State law prevents these from being processed until Election Day.

TRUMP AS KINGMAKER

Trump has endorsed more than 150 candidates as he tries to solidify his status as his party’s kingmaker, though his picks have not always prevailed. His support helped author J.D. Vance win the Ohio Senate primary, but his favored candidate lost in Nebraska’s gubernatorial race last week. read more

Barnette, seeking to become Pennsylvania’s first Black U.S. senator, has called her rivals insufficiently conservative. She was photographed marching toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, alongside members of the extremist Proud Boys group shortly before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building in a failed bid to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Barnette’s campaign told NBC she did not take part in or condone the destruction of property and has no connection to the Proud Boys.

Trump last week endorsed Mastriano, who is leading the polls in Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial primary and was also present outside the Capitol on the day of the riot. Mastriano played a significant role in the Trump campaign’s failed effort to overturn the state’s presidential results based on false claims of voting fraud.

Mastriano has said he would pursue a statewide abortion ban, after a leaked draft opinion showed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who had no rivals for the Democratic nomination, has vowed to protect abortion rights. Shapiro said on Tuesday that he was isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19.

In Idaho, meanwhile, incumbent Republican Governor Brad Little faces Trump-backed primary challenger Janice McGeachin, the state’s lieutenant governor.

Primary elections are also taking place in Kentucky and Oregon.

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Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia, Joseph Ax in New York and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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