Oconomowoc, Wis. (CNN) Donald Trump on Tuesday once again showed his control over the open GOP primary, as the former president’s handpicked candidate won the Wisconsin primary for governor over a rival backed by former Vice President Mike Pence and much of the party establishment in this state of the battlefield.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the progressive “squad,” survived a surprisingly close race for her House seat from Minneapolis.
In Vermont, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, Becca Balint, is on her way to becoming the first woman to represent the state in Congress.
And in Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont and Sen. Richard Blumenthal won the Republican nomination for re-election races that they are expected to win in November.
Here are four takeaways from Tuesday’s primary:
Backed by Trump triumphs in Wisconsin
Donald Trump again demonstrated his influence over the GOP on Tuesday when Tim Michels, a construction company owner backed by the former president, defeated former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch in the Wisconsin gubernatorial primary.
Michels’ victory is the end of an era in Wisconsin: Kleefisch was endorsed by former Gov. Scott Walker, who built the political machine that won three gubernatorial races, including a recall election.
He also received the endorsement of former Vice President Mike Pence, who in recent months has tried to steer the GOP away from Trump’s election denialism.
The contest was a repeat of the gubernatorial primary with similar dynamics in recent weeks. In Arizona, a Trump-backed candidate who has repeated his lies about voter fraud defeated a Pence-backed establishment favorite last week. And in Georgia, Pence-backed Governor Brian Kemp, who had rejected Trump’s lies about fraud in the 2020 election, edged out a Trump-aligned challenger.
Michels is now the latest Republican to have at least partially embraced Trump’s electoral denial to win a primary for statewide office in one of the most competitive states on the map.
In a debate, Michels left the door open for an attempt to decertify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Wisconsin, saying “everything is on the table.” Kleefisch falsely called the 2020 election “rigged” but also acknowledged that it is not possible to undo state certification of its results.
Michels is now set to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in what is expected to be one of the most competitive gubernatorial races of the November midterms.
Vermont Democrats elect Balint to House seat
State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint’s victory in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s only House seat, according to a CNN projection, puts her on track to become the first woman to represent the state in Congress.
Balint, who was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, defeated Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, a more moderate candidate backed by retired Sen. Patrick Leahy.
The House seat became vacant as a result of Leahy’s retirement. Rep. Peter Welch, who has held the seat since 2007, won the Senate Democratic primary for Leahy’s seat, CNN projected.
Balint will enter the November general election as the overwhelming favorite to win the seat.
Balint, a former school teacher, had the support of other progressive groups and prominent politicians. Gray attracted support from more moderate state leaders, including Leahy, who stopped short of issuing a formal endorsement but said he voted for her. Former Vermont Governors Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin also endorsed Gray.
But in a race that provided few notable political distinctions among the major candidates, Balint’s success in reclaiming the progressive mantle — she was also endorsed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of neighboring Massachusetts — likely helped her among voters in primaries, who tend to lean even further to the left than even the average Vermont Democrat.
Wisconsin Senate race set
The general election for the Wisconsin Senate has been going on subtly for weeks. But on Tuesday night, they began in earnest.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson easily won his primary for re-election, while Democratic Senate candidate and Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes won his chance to beat the Republican.
The race unofficially began two weeks ago when the top three Democrats running against Barnes dropped out of the race and endorsed the lieutenant governor.
The race Johnson vs. Barnes will likely be one of the most-watched campaigns of the 2022 cycle. He pits a Republican who has drawn the ire of Democrats for his ties to former President Donald Trump and his embrace of a series of conspiracy theories against a multi-stakeholder Democrat. progressives that Republicans believe make him out of step with the majority of Wisconsin voters.
Although Johnson and Barnes are political opposites, they have already begun using strikingly similar language to define the other, calling each other “out of touch,” extreme and out of line with the state’s voters.
Wisconsin is one of two Senate seats this cycle currently held by Republicans in a state that President Joe Biden won in 2020. The state has been a political hotbed since the 2011 fights over union bargaining rights, leading electorate in the polarized state long before Trump’s election in 2016.
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar survived a challenge in the primary Tuesday, CNN projected, but just barely, and the narrow result could encourage critics of the progressive “squad” member to try again in two years.
Omar, who is running for a third term in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, withstood a primary challenge from former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels and three other Democratic hopefuls.
Samuels had been running as a critic of Omar’s calls to “defund the police.” Samuels and his wife successfully sued the city of Minneapolis to force it to increase police staffing levels to the 741 officers required by city charter.
The impetus behind what had been widely seen as an unlikely challenge was generated after Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey endorsed Samuels last week. He was also backed by construction unions, several suburban mayors and more moderate DFL leaders. His close decision could inspire another effort to oust Omar in 2024.
Omar’s victory comes the week after two other liberal members of the “squad,” Missouri Rep. Cori Bush and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, also overcame primary challenges.