It seems weird to say just hours after the FBI raided Donald Trump’s home in Mar-A-Lago, but last night was a good night for the former President. Trump’s chosen candidates won two contested primaries yesterday, including a potentially crucial nomination in swing-state Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, one of the most progressive Democrats in the nation survived her own surprise primary scare in Minnesota. So without further ado, let’s dive into the most important races in each of Tuesday’s four primary states.
With the Democratic Senate primary in Wisconsin turning out to be anti-climatic, attention then shifted to the state’s Republican Gubernatorial primary. Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was the establishment choice, with the support of former ticket mate Gov. Scott Walker and ex-Vice President Mike Pence. On the other hand, Tim Michels had the endorsement of Donald Trump.
Turns out Trump’s imprimatur is still valuable. Michels ultimately prevailed in Wisconsin with 326,571 votes (47.2%) over Kleefisch’s 291,013 votes (42.0%).
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, veteran Democratic Congressman Ron Kind decided to bow out rather than fight his district’s increasingly Republican tide. Retired Navy Seal Derrick Van Orden ran unopposed in the GOP primary and is poised to be the favorite in November. In the Democratic primary, though, four contenders were vying for the nomination: businesswoman Rebecca Cooke, former Army Captain Deb McGrath, La Crosse City Councilman Mark Neumann and State Senator Brad Pfaff.
When all was said and done, Pfaff won the Democratic nomination with 23,988 votes (39.0%). Cooke was just behind with 19,172 votes (31.1%), while McGrath and Neuman were further behind with 11,763 votes (19.1%) and 6,656 votes (10.8%) respectively.
Undoubtedly the most surprising result of the night was the near-upset in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Rep. Ilhan Omar, noted member of The Squad, narrowly won renomination with 57,683 votes (50.3%) over ex-City Councilman Don Samuels’ 55,217 votes (48.2%).
In what nearly went down as an all-time blunder, Rep. Omar refused to run any TV ads, believing that her base of young voters in the district wouldn’t watch them. Conversely, a pro-Samuels Super PAC made a late play on the airwaves. This near-miss will inspire the Congresswoman’s critics to double their efforts for 2024.
Following the passing of Rep. Jim Hagedorn, a special election was set for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, with Republican Brad Finstad as the front-runner against Democrat Jeff Ettinger. While Ettinger was a long-shot to win this R+8 seat, Democrats were hopeful that they could pull off a surprise victory that would change the narrative ahead of November’s midterms.
Instead, Brad Finstad came out ahead with 60,261 votes (51.1%) against Ettinger’s 55,341 votes (46.9%). Even though Democrats came up short, Ettinger did end up running ahead of Biden’s 2020 pace. So while Republicans definitely hold the upper hand as the fall campaign looms, it seems that the Democrats have recovered from their 2021 lows.
Vermont and Connecticut
There was just a bit of upheaval in deep blue Vermont as longtime Senator Patrick Leahy announced that he was retiring. Leahy stepping aside allowed Congressman Peter Welch to move up to the upper chamber, and therefore give Democrats in Vermont a shot at a suddenly open Congressional seat.
State Senator Becca Balint and Lt. Governor Molly Gray fought over the right to this seat, with Bernie Sanders backing Balint and Leahy endorsing Gray. Ultimately, Balint easily prevailed with 60,916 votes (60.6%) over Gray’s 37,178 votes (37.0%).
Finally, in Connecticut, political observers were watching the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate race. Democratic incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal should easily win re-election, but we all wanted to see if Trump-backed Leora Levy could upset party favorite State Rep. Themis Klarides. As you might expect on this night, Levy won the nomination with 46,665 votes (50.5%) while Klarides came up short with 37,017 votes (40.1%).
Next week we’ll get two incredibly high-profile races. First, there’s Liz Cheney’s primary in Wyoming. After January 6th, the Congresswoman voted to impeach Donald Trump and became his fiercest Republican critic. Now, the Ranking Member of the January 6th Committee is the former President’s top target this year. Cheney hasn’t led a poll since last year and is a long-shot to win renomination.
The second contest to watch is the special election for Alaska’s sole Congressional seat. It’s a three candidate blanket primary, featuring ranked-choice voting, that will fill the seat of recently departed Dean of the House Don Young. The reason this race is attracting national attention, though, is former Governor and Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Thanks to the withdrawal of Independent Al Gross, Palin and Republican Nick Begich III threaten to split the Republican vote and allow Democratic candidate Mary Sattler Peltola to claim the victory. Either way this contest is sure to keep political junkies awake into the wee hours of the morning.