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The battleground state of Pennsylvania had closely watched Midterm races

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to think about the state of Pennsylvania right now because there are several races there that could influence who controls Congress. NPR's Laura Benshoff is here to update us on races in the Keystone State. Hey, Laura.

LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So big news out of Pennsylvania. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has come out on top beating TV personality Mehmet Oz in this U.S. Senate race. Huge win for Democrats there, right?

BENSHOFF: That's right. It was a good night for Democrats in Pennsylvania. You know, this race in particular was very close. It got tons of attention and outside funding. It was actually the most expensive Senate race this year. And there was money just pouring into attack ads in these final weeks. You know, in the end, Fetterman was able to pull it off. And that's even though he had a stroke before the primary and had to take some time away from the campaign trail in order to recuperate. That became a part of his message. Fetterman talked about his stroke on the campaign trail when he came back. He made it a talking point, something people could relate to. And he also made that point after his win last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN FETTERMAN: I'm just so proud of the race that we ran. And, you know, this campaign has always been about fighting for everyone who's ever been gotten knocked down that ever got back up.

(CHEERING)

BENSHOFF: By winning, Fetterman also flipped a seat that had been held by retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

MARTIN: And a lot of the reporting is suggesting that Fetterman's win is due in part to have had some inroads. He made some inroads in rural parts of Pennsylvania with those voters who Democrats have struggled with in the past.

BENSHOFF: Yeah, he was really testing out a new model for Democrats, trying to win over white, working-class voters who, in more recent years, have been turning to Republicans. You know, I think we're still going to learn a lot about who exactly came out for him in the coming days. But that's what he was really going for. You know, part of his campaign message was every vote counts, every county. And he really tried not to leave any part of Pennsylvania behind, particularly some of these areas that, you know, have been economically struggling.

MARTIN: Yeah. Let's talk about the governor's race. The Democrat, Josh Shapiro, the attorney general, pulled this one off.

BENSHOFF: That's right. And, you know, this race was not quite as close as Senate. Shapiro is a very well-known name in Pennsylvania, and he ran unopposed in the Democratic primary earlier this year. And he was able to defeat a pretty right-wing Republican named Doug Mastriano, a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate since 2019. But, you know, it was a pretty uneven race from the start. Shapiro worked to define the terms from the beginning. He out-fundraised Shapiro by, you know, a huge margin and was able to put out all of these ads really painting Mastriano as extreme. And, you know, Mastriano himself does hold some positions that are pretty far-right. He did work to challenge the outcome of the 2020 election. He has very hard right views on abortion, and that may have alienated some voters here. And by contrast, you know, Shapiro promised to be this big tent candidate. He promised to uphold abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights in Pennsylvania. And here's a little bit of his victory speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH SHAPIRO: Tonight, you, the good people of Pennsylvania, you won. Opportunity won. A woman's right to choose won.

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: So we still don't know who's going to control Congress at this point. Republicans feel they have an advantage in taking back control of the House. What Pennsylvania races are part of determining control of that chamber?

BENSHOFF: So there are three really competitive races here that everyone had their eyes on in this year that was supposed to be bad for Democrats. Two are in the northeast part of the state, which is actually where President Joe Biden is from. And one is in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. And you had Democratic representatives in the House right now, Matt Cartwright and Susan Wild, facing Republicans who they had narrowly beat just two years ago. And then in that third competitive seat over in western Pennsylvania was one that was left open. And so we don't have a final call on those yet, but we do have Democrats leading in those three most competitive districts with more than 90% of the vote in.

MARTIN: OK.

BENSHOFF: So it's close, but we're not quite sure how it's going to shake out yet.

MARTIN: NPR's Laura Benshoff, reporting from Pennsylvania, thank you.

BENSHOFF: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Laura Benshoff
Laura Benshoff is a reporter covering energy and climate on a temporary basis for NPR's National desk. Prior to this assignment, she spent eight years at WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR Member station. There, she most recently focused on the economy and immigration. She has reported on the causes of the Great Resignation, Afghans left behind after the U.S. troop withdrawal and how a government-backed rent-to-own housing program failed its tenants. Other highlights from her time at WHYY include exploring the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election cycle through changing communities in central Pennsylvania and covering comedian Bill Cosby's criminal trials.