May 16, 2023, 7:32am EDT

Will progressives win another big city mayoral race?

Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Just one state – Kentucky – is holding a primary today, but voters in cities across Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Florida are holding their first post-COVID elections, too.

Three big things to watch:

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Will progressives take power in more big cities? Philadelphia’s Helen Gym rallied with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday, closing out her campaign just like Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson did — with one last push to turn out the city’s most liberal Democrats. She’s running to stop evictions and expand mental health services, telling Semafor she’ll lead a “movement of action” to attack the root causes of crime. Her leading opponents: fellow ex-city council member Cherelle Parker, who wants to hire 300 more police officers, and ex-city controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who’s endorsed by the city’s three most recent former mayors.

Whoever wins the primary will be heavily favored to beat GOP nominee David Oh; no Republican has won the office since Harry Truman was president. It’s the same in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County, where state Rep. Sara Innamorato, elected with the support of Democratic Socialists for America, is running for county executive against a moderate who warns that her “failed progressive agenda” would be ruinous. And in two politically competitive cities, Jacksonville and Colorado Springs, Republican mayoral candidates are trying to hold on to city hall by bashing their Democratic opponents as soft on crime, citing positive things they’ve said about racial equity and Black Lives Matter.

Who’ll face Kentucky’s popular Democratic governor? Gov. Andy Beshear is one of just four Democrats who leads a state carried by Donald Trump in 2020, and Trump has endorsed Attorney Gen. Daniel Cameron, the first Black man to hold that job, to replace him. So has Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, Cameron’s political mentor.

But Cameron didn’t clear the field, and he’s been outspent by former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft, who’s battered his record and conservative values in TV ads — some funded by a super PAC with capital from her billionaire husband. Polling has found a steady lead for Cameron, but the primary’s been bitter, and state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has tried to run up the middle as a no-drama, no-faction candidate. “A lot of Republican voters are looking for someone who has their own brand,” he told Semafor.

Will election deniers gain ground? Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, angered some pro-Trump conservatives by expanding early voting and making mail balloting easier in 2020. MyPillow founder Mike Lindell’s endorsed one of his opponents, and Adams told Semafor that he has to beat them back: “It's important for our image as a state, and for our business environment that we're not seen as a bunch of nutjobs.”

In Pennsylvania, where both parties are picking nominees for the state supreme court, commonwealth court judge Patricia McCullough wants the GOP nod. She earned notoriety — and in MAGA-world, lots of praise — for 2020 opinions that broke with the rest of the bench and advanced Trump’s election lawsuits.


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