What to watch in Wis., 3 other states in Tuesday’s primaries
The Republican matchup in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race on Tuesday featured competing candidates backed by former President Donald Trump and his estranged Vice President Mike Pence. Democrats are picking a candidate to face two-term Republican Sen. Ron Johnson for control of the divided chamber.
Meanwhile, voters in Vermont are choosing a replacement for U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy as the chamber’s longest-serving member is retiring. In Minnesota, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar faces a Democratic primary challenger who helped defeat a voter referendum to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety.
What to watch in Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and Connecticut:
the state of Wisconsin
Tim Michels, co-owner of the construction firm, has Trump’s backing in the gubernatorial race and has been spending millions of dollars on his own, touting the former president’s support and his years of commitment to Efforts to build the family business into the largest construction company in Wisconsin. Michels positioned himself as an outsider, despite his unsuccessful 2004 campaign to oust then-US Senator Russ Fagold, and has long been a prominent Republican donor.
The Republican establishment, including Pence and former Gov. Scott Walker, supports former Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Clayfisch, who, along with Walker, survived the 2012 recall effort. She argues that she has the experience and knowledge to pursue conservative priorities, including dismantling the bipartisan committees charged with elections.
Democrats will also choose to take on Johnson as control of the Senate is threatened. Democratic support gathered around Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes late in the campaign, when three of his main rivals dropped out and backed him. He would become the state’s first Black senator if elected.
Several lesser-known candidates are still in the primary, but Johnson and Republicans see Barnes as the nominee, arguing he was too liberal with Wisconsin, which Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020.
Four Democrats are also running for Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, a seat that opened with the retirement of veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind. The district has been trending for Republicans, and Derrick Van Orden — who narrowly lost to Kind in 2020 and has Trump’s backing — has faced no opposition .
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz faces a little-known opponent as he seeks re-election. His likely challenger is Republican Scott Jensen, a doctor and former state congressman who has made vaccine skepticism central to his campaign and has faced token opposition.
The two have been engaged in a virtual campaign for months, with Jensen blasting Walz’s management of the pandemic and the governor for rising crime around Minneapolis. Walz emphasized his own support for abortion rights and suggested that Jensen would threaten the legality of abortion in Minnesota.
Crime has become the biggest issue in Rep. Omar’s Democratic primary. She faces a challenge from former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels, who opposed a campaign to defund the police and helped thwart efforts to replace the city’s police department last year. Omar, who supported the referendum, has a considerable financial advantage and is expected to benefit from a strong grassroots operation.
The most confusing part of Tuesday’s vote was the first congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died of cancer earlier this year. Republican former state Rep. Brad Finstad and Democratic former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger are simultaneously running in the primaries to determine the November matchup representing the southern Minnesota district’s next two-year term , and the end of the last special election of Hagedorn’s several-month term.
It’s been about 30 years since Connecticut had a Republican in the U.S. Senate, but the party hasn’t given up.
The party backed former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides in the Republican primary against Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. She is a social moderate who supports abortion rights and certain gun control measures and says she did not vote for Trump in 2020. Clarides believes her experience and stance can convince voters against Blumenthal, the two-term senator who registered a 45 percent job approval rating in May, the most in Quinnipiac polls since he took office lowest level in the survey.
Klarides was challenged by conservative lawyer Peter Lumaj and Republican National Committee member Leora Levy, whom Trump endorsed last week. Both candidates oppose abortion rights and further gun restrictions, and they support Trump’s policies.
Leahy, who is retiring, has opened up two seats on Vermont’s three-person congressional delegation — and the state has the chance to send a woman to represent it in Washington for the first time.
The state’s rank-and-file member of Congress, Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, quickly launched his Senate bid after Leahy revealed he was stepping down. Leahy, the Senate president pro tempore, has been hospitalized several times over the past two years, including a fractured hip this summer.
Welch has the backing of Sanders, who is likely to win the seat in November. He faces two other Democrats in the primary: activist Isaac Evans-Frantz and emergency physician Dr. Nikki Slan.
On the Republican side, former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, retired U.S. Army officer Gerald Malloy and investment banker Miles Mermel are vying for the nomination.
The race to replace Welch produced Vermont’s first public U.S. House campaign since 2006.
Two women, Gov. Molly Gray and State Senate President Becca Ballint, are Democratic candidates in the race. Gray, elected in 2020 in her first political bid, is a lawyer and a former assistant state attorney general.
The winner of the Democratic primary will be the top priority for winning the free state election. In 2018, when Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate, Vermont became the last state to have no female representation in Congress.
Associated Press writers Scott Ball in Madison, Wisconsin; Doug Glass in Minneapolis; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn.; and Wilson Ring in Montpellier, Vermont for this report contributed.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP