Primary day: Wisconsin headlines races including Vermont, Minnesota and Connecticut




  • In Politics
  • 2022-08-08 17:48:03Z
  • By USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - Pivotal gubernatorial and Senate races in Wisconsin highlight a Tuesday primary slate that includes races in Vermont, Minnesota and Connecticut.

Given the nature of primaries, intraparty battles are also on display, including Democratic contests between the Bernie Sanders wing and the more traditional parts of the party.

The ongoingRepublican fight between Donald Trump backers and old-line GOP members especially matters in Wisconsin, which played a key role in Trump's presidential victory in 2016 and President Joe Biden's triumph in 2020.

Senate struggle:Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is poised to win Tuesday's primary. His chances in November look rocky.

The Trump factor:Primaries show he retains a degree of control over Republicans

This year, the Badger State could decide control of the U.S. Senate, and it will be important again in the 2024 presidential race.

"I want to say a very big hello to a placed called Wisconsin," Trump said in a rally there last week. "Has anyone heard of it?"

Some things to look for on Tuesday night:

Battle in Wisconsin

Tim Michels, a construction executive in his first political race, has spent millions of his own money and also managed to secure Trump's endorsement.

Polls show Michels competitive with one-time favorite Rebecca Kleefisch, former lieutenant governor. Her endorsements include prominent members of the GOP establishment, including former Gov. Scott Walker and former Trump Vice President Mike Pence.

That makes Wisconsin another proxy battle between Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom are considering presidential runs in 2024.

US President Donald Trump, flanked by White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, speaks to reporters onboard Air Force One after a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin on September 17, 2020.
US President Donald Trump, flanked by White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, speaks to reporters onboard Air Force One after a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin on September 17, 2020.  

Trump has attacked some Wisconsin Republicans for not backing his attempt to overturn his 2020 loss in the state - though Michels has not commented on Trump's claims of election theft, only telling the crowd at last week's rally that "we are going to have election integrity here in Wisconsin."

The winner of the Republican primary will take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Trump vs. Pence?:For Mike Pence, problems with a White House run start with his old boss, Donald Trump

Fact check: Joe Biden legally won presidential election, despite persistent contrary claims

Neither Michels nor Kleefisch - nor state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, who tried to de-certify the results of the 2020 presidential race in Wisconsin - would commit to backing Trump in 2024.

"As far as 2024 goes, I can commit to you that I will support the Republican nominee," Kleefisch said. "And it looks like we have an assortment to choose from."

Wisconsin's role in the Senate

The Senate primaries are cut-and-dried and set up a key fall race for party control of the U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, seeking a U.S. Senate seat, is all but certain to win the Democratic primary because his major opponents have dropped out.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who faces little opposition in his primary, is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, given his repeated false claims about the 2020 election and the COVID pandemic.

Vermont: a woman in the House

The Democratic primary is tantamount to the general election in this liberal state, and Tuesday's contest will very probably decide who will be the state's first-ever female U.S. House member.

In another battle of traditionalists v. progressives, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray is supported by Vermont's Democratic establishment, including former Gov. Howard Dean.

Becca Balint, president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate, is backed by progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent who twice sought the party's presidential nomination.

Vermont is the only state in the country that has never elected a woman to Congress.

Vermont's lone U.S. House seat is currently held by Rep. Peter Welch, who is running to replace the retiring Patrick Leahy, the state's other senator.

More: Vermont is only state that hasn't sent woman to Congress. That could change this year.

Minnesota special election and abortion

A special election to fill a vacant congressional seat in Minnesota could provide more signs of the salience of a major issue: abortion.

Democrats believe their candidate Jeff Ettinger's campaign will be boosted by the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, putting abortion rights at risk in the state.

Republican candidate Brad Finstad is expected to win the right-leaning district with the help of anti-abortion activists who see the chance for new legislation banning abortion.

The Kansas vote:Kansas upholds right to abortion, a blow to anti-abortion movement in first Roe referendum

A GOP warning:Kansas abortion vote raises warning signs for GOP nationwide in November. Will the issue eclipse the economy?

The special election to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn., who died in February, comes a week after voters in Kansas defeated a proposed state constitutional change that would have enabled the state legislature to ban abortions.

Connecticut secretary of state

The most competitive races in this mostly Democratic state involve a once-obscure office that has taken on added importance in the Trump era: secretary of state, who generally has major power over the conduct of elections.

An important office:'Rig the system': GOP candidates for secretary of state run on Trump's election denial platform

Republican candidates include Dominic A. Rapini, who once chaired a non-profit group called Fight Voter Fraud Inc., and Terrie Wood, who wants the state to adopt voter identification requirements.

Democrats in Connecticut also have a competitive primary for secretary of state between candidates seeking to become the first woman of color to be elected statewide. Stephanie Thomas is Black, and Maritza Bond is Latina.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Primary day: Wisconsin, Vermont, Minnesota, and Connecticut

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