February 6, 2023

The Republican contest in Wisconsin’s governor’s race on Tuesday includes the rival candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump and separate Vice President Mike Pence. Democrats choose a candidate to face Republican Senator Ron Johnson for two terms to control the closely divided room.

Meanwhile, Vermont voters are choosing a replacement for US Senator Patrick Leahy as the chamber’s longest-serving member retires. In Minnesota, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar faces a primary Democratic 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 construction company’s co-owner Tim Michaels has Trump’s endorsement in the governor’s race and has been spending millions of his own, as he touts the former president’s support and years of building his family’s business at the largest construction company in Wisconsin. Michel portrays himself as an outsider, although he previously lost out on a campaign to oust then-U.S. Senator Ross Feingold in 2004 and was for a long time a prominent donor to the Republican Party.

Founding Republicans, including Pence and former Governor Scott Walker, endorsed former Governor Lieutenant Rebecca Cliffish, who along with Walker survived the 2012 subpoena effort. She argues that she has the experience and knowledge to pursue conservative priorities, including dismantling the bipartisan committee that runs the elections.

With Senate control at stake, Democrats will also pick Johnson. Democratic support gathered around Lieutenant Mandela Barnes late in the race, when his top three competitors withdrew and threw their support for him. He would become the state’s first black senator if elected.

Several lesser-known candidates remain in the primaries, but Johnson and Republicans treated Barnes as the nominee, calling him too liberal for Wisconsin, a state Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020.

Four Democrats are also running in Wisconsin’s 3rd congressional district, a seat that opened with the retirement of veteran Democratic Representative Ron Kind. The district was headed to the Republican Party, and Derek van Orden — who narrowly lost to Kenned in 2020 and earned Trump’s endorsement — ran unopposed.


Democratic Governor Tim Walz faces an unknown opponent as he seeks a second term. His potential rival is Republican Scott Jensen, a physician and former state congressman who has made vaccine skepticism the focus of his campaign and faces token opposition.

Both men have been waging a hypothetical campaign for months, attacking Jensen Wales for his management of the pandemic and attacking the governor for the high crime rate around Minneapolis. Walz highlighted his own support for abortion rights, and noted that Jensen would pose a threat to undermine the legality of the procedure in Minnesota.

Crime emerged as the biggest issue in MP Omar’s primaries. She faces a challenge from Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis city councilman who opposes the stop police funding movement and last year helped defeat efforts to replace the city’s police department. Omar, who supported the referendum, has a significant financial advantage and is expected to benefit from a robust popular process.

The most confusing part of Tuesday’s ballot was the selection of the first congressional district seat held by U.S. Representative Jim Hagedorn, who died earlier this year of cancer. Former Republican state Representative Brad Fenstad and Democrat Jeff Ettinger, former Hormel CEO, are simultaneously vying in the primaries to determine the November match for the next two-year term representing southern Minnesota, as well as a special election to end the latter. A few months from Hagedorn.


It’s been nearly three decades since Connecticut had a Republican in the US Senate, but the party hasn’t given up.

In the Republican primary to face Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, the party endorsed former House Minority Leader Themis Clarides. 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 asserts that her experience and positions could persuade voters to oppose Blumenthal, a two-term senator who in May scored a 45% approval rating, the lowest His in the Quinnipiac poll since taking office.

Clarids is challenging conservative attorney Peter Loumage and Republican National Committee member Leora Levy, who Trump endorsed last week. Both candidates oppose abortion rights and more gun restrictions, and support Trump’s policies.


Leahy’s upcoming retirement has opened up two seats in Vermont’s small three-person delegation — and an opportunity for the state to send a woman to represent her in Washington for the first time.

US Democratic Representative Peter Welch, the roving state congressman, quickly launched his Senate nomination after Leahy revealed he was stepping down. Leahy, the interim president of the Senate, has been hospitalized twice over the past two years, including with a broken hip this summer.

Welch has been endorsed by Sanders as the favorite to win the seat in November. He faces two other Democrats in the primaries: activist Isaac Evans Frantz, and Dr. Nikki Thran, an emergency physician.

On the Republican side, former US attorney Christina Nolan, retired US Army officer Gerald Malloy and investment banker Myers Mermel are vying for the nomination.

The race to replace Welch resulted in the first American wide open campaign in Vermont since 2006.

Among the leading Democratic candidates in the race are two women, including Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray and Pro-Timbur Senate Speaker Becca Balint. Gray was elected in 2020 on her first political bid, and is an attorney and former assistant attorney general.

The winner of the Democratic primary will be the candidate most likely to win the general election in the liberal country. In 2018, Vermont became the last state without women’s representation in Congress when Republican Mississippi Cindy Hyde Smith was appointed to the Senate.


Associated Press writer Scott Power in Madison, Wisconsin; Doug Glass in Minneapolis. Susan Hay in Hartford, Connecticut; and Wilson Ring in Montpellier, Vermont, contributed to this report.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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