Both party-backed candidates won their primaries in Pennsylvania’s competitive 8th Congressional District, and will head to what promises to be a competitive race for one of the House of Representatives’ few open swing seats.
Fitzpatrick won by a landslide
For the Republicans, former FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick easily clinched the nomination over neuropsychologist Marc Duome and former Bucks County Commissioner Andy Warren, taking more than 77 percent of the vote in Bucks County (the district also covers a portion of Eastern Montgomery County).
Fitzpatrick, flanked by portraits of former Republican presidents at the Bucks County Republican Committee Headquarters, said he hoped to continue a polite campaign as he heads towards the general election.
“I think the message we send tonight is taking the high road and winning elections are not mutually exclusive concepts,” said the nominee. He also thanked his brother, 8th District incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick, calling him “the best adviser I could ever ask for.”
In 2014, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick announced he would not seek a fifth term in office, clearing the way for a true toss-up race in a rare swing district. Democrats and Republicans have split the time holding the seat nearly evenly for the last ten years.
Brian Fitzpatrick’s opponents criticized the ease of his endorsement by the local party committee. Though he has no political experience, Fitzpatrick usurped early party favorite, state representative Scott Petri, when he announced his candidacy in January.
Some voters did take the familiar name into consideration.
“I figure if it’s in the family he’s going to be able to continue some of the things his brother did and I think he’s the best candidate,” said Brian Bishop, after casting his vote for Fitzpatrick at a polling place in Langhorne.
Heading into the general election, Fitzpatrick said he’d be “laser-focused” on issues of national security, economic growth, and cleaning out corruption in Washington, D.C.
Santarsiero gets the nod from Democrats
Facing Fitzpatrick in the November general election is Steve Santarsiero, a four-term member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
The former high school social studies teacher beat chemist Shaughnessy Naughton, who also ran for the seat and lost in 2014.
Surrounded by supporters Tuesday night at Temperance House, a Colonial-era restaurant and hotel in Newtown, Santarsiero thanked his family and acknowledged attack ads run against him by 314 PAC, a political action committee originally founded by Shaughnessy Naughton.
“It’s never a good thing when Democrats have to fight Democrats,” said Santarsiero. “But I believe that we as a party will come together now stronger than we were before.”
The ads, which popped up in the weeks before the election, soured some Democrats in the 8th District.
“I think there was an enormous backlash against it,” said Jim Reich, a committeman in Lower Makefield Township. “People were very incensed.”
Buzz at campaign headquarters on Tuesday night was that Santarsiero’s popularity — one man called him “the most beloved Democrat in our county” — could make his race against Fitzpatrick a close one.
“He’s a brilliant young man. He has all the right values that I believe in,” said supporter Carol Erb. “I’m with him all the way — whatever happens.”
Santarsiero said his top priorities would be making college affordable and investing in green energy.