Election 2024: Ryan Mackenzie declared winner in GOP primary for 7th district

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State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie has been declared the winner in the closely watched Republican primary for the 7th congressional district. He will go on to face incumbent Democrat Susan Wild in November.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m., with 53% of votes tallied, the Associated Press called the race for Mackenzie with 12,141, or 42.7% of votes cast, followed by businessman Kevin Dellicker with 8,562 votes and attorney Maria Montero with 7.747.

In a victory speech at 10 p.m., Mackenzie thanked a group of around 100 supporters gathered at Delizioso Italian grill in Macungie. He also explained his lateness (he showed up at 9:45 p.m. to his party which started at 8:15 p.m. ):  he was caring for his 18-day-old son, Leo.

“We are so blessed to have a little baby boy joining us,” Mackenzie said. “But at the same time, we are concerned about the future direction of our country.”

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He said that the policies of his general election opponent, Susan Wild, and President Joe Biden are “destroying this country,” and specifically named “wide open borders” and persistent inflation, which he vowed to address if elected. He called Pennsylvania’s 7th district “ground zero” for the general election because it is one of a handful of congressional races expected to be highly competitive in 2024.

He also appealed to Republicans who did not support him in the primary — Mackenzie faced a competitive three-way race for the GOP nomination, and bested candidates Kevin Dellicker and Maria Montero by at least 4,000 votes, according to unofficial election results.

“I want to send a message loud and clear that I am fighting for you,” Mackenzie said. “I am going to fight for you every single day from now until November, and if elected I am going to fight for you every single day in Washington DC.”

State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, who won the Republican nomination for the 7th congressional district, greets supporters Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at Delizoso Italian Grill in Macungie.(Amy Shortell/The Morning Call)
State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, who won the Republican nomination for the 7th congressional district, greets supporters Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at Delizoso Italian Grill in Macungie.(Amy Shortell/The Morning Call)

Mackenzie is expected to face yet another challenging and competitive election in November. The district is considered a “toss-up” by election forecaster the Cook Political Report, and a “House race to watch” by the New York Times. The district includes all of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties as well as a small sliver of western Monroe County.

The seat is considered one of the most competitive in the United States and is likely a must-win for either party to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the National Republican Congressional Committee immediately sent out a message congratulating Mackenzie and taking aim at Wild, calling her an “extreme liberal” out of touch with Lehigh Valley voters.

Wild, who is running for her fourth term representing the 7th district, called Mackenzie a “far-right career politician” and criticized his record in the state Legislature for being against abortion rights, opposing job creation and workers’ rights, and enabling election denial.

The crowd at Delizioso erupted in cheers when the race was called. Mackenzie walked into the room shortly after, shaking hands and hugging his supporters and friends.

Mackenzie is a six-term legislator running for his first term in Congress. On the campaign trail, he has touted his legislative record and loyalty to Donald Trump (all three candidates have publicly supported the former president).

He lists among his legislative accomplishments voting against tax increases; opposing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a regional agreement that aims to decrease carbon emissions; and authoring a law that required the use of e-verify in the construction industry, to identify and disqualify undocumented immigrants from jobs.

He has also received support from several influential interest groups like Americans for Prosperity Action — a Super PAC founded by David and Charles Koch which has poured nearly half a million dollars into supporting his campaign — and the National Rifle Association.

In an interview with The Morning Call, Mackenzie thanked his opponents for “stepping up and trying to do better for our country.” Calling the 7th district a “swing district in a swing state,” said he would aim to appeal to moderate voters in the general election by continuing to criticize Democratic leadership on issues like immigration and inflation.

“Time and time again, there are voters across the political spectrum who want action out of their elected officials,” Mackenzie said. “The two issues are illegal immigration and the wasteful spending that is driving inflation.”

Both his opponents urged their supporters to support Mackenzie.

Montero is an Easton-based attorney running for the Republican nomination. She has positioned herself as the best candidate to appeal to more diverse and moderate voters — she hails from a family of Irish and Peruvian immigrants and grew up in both rural Carbon County and Allentown.

She has lagged behind her opponents in fundraising numbers, but has received support from several prominent Republican figures including Congressman Dan Meuser, Pa-08, and former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

In a concession speech, Montero thanked her supporters and asked them to support Mackenzie.

“This is the first time I ran for office,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience. I feel so positive and so at peace with what we did. We did it in a way that was positive. We love our country so much. It’s important to have a candidate who will reflect our values, who will beat Susan Wild. I ask everyone to throw your support behind Ryan Mackenzie. I ask to look to the future.”

Maria Montero, a Republican candidate in the 7th congressional district primary, concedes her election at the watch party Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at The Boat Yard in Lehighton. (David Garrett/Special to The Morning Call)
Maria Montero, a Republican candidate in the 7th congressional district primary, concedes her election at the watch party Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at The Boat Yard in Lehighton. (David Garrett/Special to The Morning Call)

Gathered at the Boatyard in Lehighton, supporters chanted “We love you, Maria!” and “We’re not done yet.” Montero went around and hugged every supporter as the TV in the background showed Mackenzie giving his victory speech, the volume turned down.

At Madeline’s in Upper Macungie Township, Dellicker told supporters he was still waiting for all the votes to be counted. But in a short speech after Mackenzie was declared winner, he said he wanted to make sure the precincts in his home area of northwestern Lehigh County — such as Lynn and Heidelberg townships — are in before throwing in the towel.

“I’ve told the press that if Ryan does prevail, I’m supporting him because the goal here is to fix our country and we can do that with a Republican majority,” Dellicker said. “We can’t do that if we keep having Susan Wild and Joe Biden, so there’s a bigger goal.

“Am I disappointed? You bet. I did this because I wanted to make my family proud. Make my community proud and all of you volunteers proud. But you know what happened instead? You made me proud. Again and again whenever I see all of you out there working so hard, and giving me encouragement, and spending your time and your resources and your talents and throwing your heart and soul and in this effort, it’s humbling.”

Dellicker said he was also proud of how he ran the campaign, which he said stayed clear of the gutter.

“And we want to demonstrate that we can be statesmen,” he said. “We want to demonstrate that we can act with civility. We don’t like to lose. But I tell you what, and I’ve said this to (wife) Susan, just about every day for the past three or four months, I was approaching this election like my country depended upon me winning and I worked with heart and it meant that much to me and my family. But as I went about doing this business, I knew that everything was ultimately outside of my control. It all comes down to who the Lord wants to put in positions of authority.”

Kevin Dellicker, who was seeking the Republican nomination in the 7th congressional district, talsk with supporters prior to race results Tuesday, April 23, 2024, during an election night watch party at Madeline's in Fogelsville. (Jane Therese / Special to The Morning Call)
Kevin Dellicker, who was seeking the Republican nomination in the 7th congressional district, talsk with supporters prior to race results Tuesday, April 23, 2024, during an election night watch party at Madeline’s in Fogelsville. (Jane Therese / Special to The Morning Call)

Dellicker, a veteran and cybersecurity business owner, was on his second run for Congress in the Lehigh Valley. He narrowly lost the nomination to Lisa Scheller in 2022, and said he decided to jump into the race again this year because he was “not impressed” with the other two candidates.

Dellicker called himself a “grassroots” candidate who has emphasized his military experience — he is a National Guard veteran who has completed four tours abroad — and called for the U.S. to strengthen its military defense.

He has out-fundraised his Republican opponents thanks to a successful direct mail campaign, which is often used by candidates seeking a base of small individual donors.

Staff writers Tanya Basu and Evan Jones contributed to this report.

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