The state had hosted uncontested Democratic and Republican primaries for the office in just two previous cycles

Down the ballot in Pennsylvania’s primary election last Tuesday, voters also had the task of formally nominating candidates in the state’s U.S. Senate contest.

Neither three-term Democratic incumbent Bob Casey nor former GOP investment executive David McCormick faced any opposition in their respective contests.

The 2024 primary was just the third time out of 41 primaries since 1914 in which both major parties hosted uncontested primaries for the office.

This comes on the heels of the 2022 cycle, in which voters got to choose from 11 candidates on primary day in the open seat race: seven on the GOP side (narrowly won by Mehmet Oz over McCormick) and four for the Democrats (won by John Fetterman over U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb).

That marked the second largest field of U.S. Senate candidates in state history behind only the 16 who appeared on the ballot during the 1980 cycle.

The last time both major party U.S. Senate nominees ran without opposition in their primaries was more than 60 years ago in 1962.

Senator Joseph Clark was renominated for the Democrats while 11-term U.S. Representative James Van Zandt got the nod for the Republicans, with Clark winning the general by 2.4 points.

The only other race in which nominees got a free pass through the nominating stage was during the historic 1922 cycle, in which three primaries were simultaneously held for the Class I seat special and general elections and the Class III seat special.

In the May 1922 primary for the Class I seat special, Democratic Judge Samuel Shull and GOP Pittsburgh Attorney David Reed were each unopposed. [Shull would go on to only contest Reed in the general election that November].

Overall, Republican nominees have won their primaries uncontested 14 times: former U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State Philander Knox (1916), Senator Boies Penrose (1920), David Reed (1922 special), Senator James Davis (1944), James Van Zandt (1962), four-term U.S. Rep. Richard Schweicker (1968), Senator John Heinz (1982 and 1988), Senator Rick Santorum (2000 and 2006), Senator Pat Toomey (2016), and David McCormick (2024).

Democrats have done so 15 times: Colonel Fred Kerr (1922 special), Samuel Shull (1922 special and general), former three-term U.S. Rep. William Wilson (1926), Pittsburgh attorney and future Mayor William McNair (1928), Lock Haven manufacturer Sedgwick Kistler (1930 special),  three-term U.S. Rep. Francis Myers (1944 and 1950), Senator Joseph Guffey (1946), Joseph Clark (1956 and 1962), Senator Harris Wofford (1994), three-term U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel (2004), and Senator Bob Casey (2018 and 2024).

Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans have each averaged 2.4 candidates per primary since 1914.

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  1. Cecil Crusher on April 30, 2024 at 6:04 am

    (Rarer still) Senator Casey not only is the longest-serving Democratic US senator from PA (excluding R-turned-D Arlen Specter) he is also the only Democrat from the Keystone Commonwealth not to have lost his seat since direct elections commenced – so far.

    Will the Republicans nominate one who is not burdened by ‘carpetbaggery’ in 2028? (Oz in ’22 – NJ; McCormick – CT)

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