Politics

Van Hollen, McGinty Win Democratic Senate Primaries

Indicted Rep. Chaka Fattah becomes first incumbent to lose in 2016 cycle

Rep. Chris Van Hollen celebrates after winning the Democratic Maryland Senate primary during a victory party at the Bethesda Marriott, April 26, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Tuesday won his contentious fight over Rep. Donna Edwards in Maryland’s Democratic Senate primary, all but guaranteeing that he will replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski next year.  

Katie McGinty won the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary, besting former Rep. Joe Sestak in a race that saw her benefit from the enormous support of the party establishment — including crucial endorsement from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.  

McGinty now faces Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in what will be one of the year’s marquee Senate races, a contest that could tip the balance of power in the upper chamber next year.  

Pennsylvania Democrat Chaka Fattah became the first incumbent of 2016 to lose his seat Tuesday. The 11-term member, who was indicted on 29 corruption charges  for racketeering conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud in July, lost his 2nd District primary to state Rep. Dwight Evans . Given the Philadelphia-based seat is safe Democratic turf, Evans is likely to become its next representative.  

The fight between Edwards and Van Hollen was a divisive one, opening a deep split among voters attracted to the establishment favorite congressman against the outsider congresswoman. Edwards argued that Van Hollen was too eager to compromise, especially on entitlement programs like Social Security. Van Hollen rebutted those claims, but it contributed to the sense that the primary was a showdown between a candidate open to compromise against another who believed the party should fight rather than bargain.  

African-American voters overwhelmingly backed Edwards while white voters supported Van Hollen. In early exit polls, the House leader reportedly won white voters nearly 3-1, while Edwards won black voters 2-1.  

Early in the race, when it became clear that Rep. Elijah Cummings would not run, Van Hollen was expected to win on the strength of superior fundraising. But Edwards benefitted from an enormous investment from EMILY’S List, which — with the aid of hedge-fund manager Donald Sussman — spent $2.9 million on her behalf.  

Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the Washington-area congressman raised $8 million through early April — nearly $5 million more than Edwards.  

He also benefitted from a late ad from a super PAC backing Edwards, which accused Van Hollen of cutting a deal with the NRA opposed by Obama. The White House condemned the ad, and Van Hollen’s campaign used it to make the case that Edwards and her campaign couldn’t be trusted.  

Simone Pathé contributed to this report.  Contact Roarty at alexroarty@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @Alex_Roarty. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.