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Left to right: Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Left to right: Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Photos: Getty Images.

Trump v. Pence, moderate vs. progressive as Aug. 9 sees more vital primaries for both parties

Tuesday’s primaries will include Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, and Connecticut.

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Editors note: This article was written by Carlos Nogueras and Alan Nuñez

The November general election is just around the corner, and with every passing week, more primaries determine what candidates will advance to face off. As Democrats gather forces to take on incumbents, they’ll also have to contend with more and more Trump-backed GOP candidates as the Republican Party continues a transformation at the core.

Four more primaries will determine those candidates tomorrow.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Republican Gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, Aug. 9, will include construction company co-owner Tim Michels, who is Trump-backed. He promotes the endorsement of the former President as a major part of his campaign, and has also used millions of dollars of his own money to fund his bid. Michels also uses the story of his family’s construction company to build his campaign’s narrative. 

The prominent GOP donor previously lost a campaign back in 2004, when he attempted to oust former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. Former Vice President Mike Pence along with former Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker have endorsed former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch for governor. It’s another peg in the rivalry between Pence and Trump, as the former VP looks to distance himself from his former running mate. 

Back in 2012, Kleefisch and Walker survived a recall election, which she believes gives her a slight advantage in the experience category. She has cited throughout her campaign that she possesses the knowledge and experience needed to further go after conservative ideals. Kleefisch also hopes to take apart the bipartisan commission that runs elections in the state. 

On the Democratic side, the Senate race is heating up for who will take on incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson in November. Late in the primary race, three Democratic candidates bowed out, including Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who backed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes for the bid. If elected, he would be the state's first Black senator. 

Even with some unknown names still in the Senate primary, GOP leaders in the state look at Barnes as the nominee and the one to beat in November. 

In Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, with the retirement of longtime U.S. Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, a seat has now opened up with four Democrats currently running to compete for the opening. With the district currently trending more Republican, Derrick Van Orden, who barely lost to Kind in 2020, is the potential matchup. He comes into the general election with a Trump endorsement.

Minnesota

Current Democratic Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota is seeking a second term, but will likely be challenged in November by Republican Scott Jensen. 

Jensen, a physician and former state lawmaker has made vaccine skepticism the central point of his campaign. The two are a bit familiar with each other, as the last couple of months has seen both unleash ad attacks on one another. The primary is little more than formality before November’s showdown.

Jensen has gone after Walz over the rising crime rate around the state along with Walz’s management of the pandemic and the subsequent two years after. Abortion has been another point of contention. With abortion bans taking effect in some states after the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade, Walz, who supports abortion, says having a character like Jensen take over would be a threat to the future of abortion legality in the state. 

A primary to watch on the Democratic side is Rep. Ilhan Omar, who currently faces the trouble of rising crime as an issue her challengers have brought up. Former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels is one of her challengers, who’s come out strong against the defund the police rhetoric. 

Even last year, he combated certain efforts that were made to replace the city’s police department. 

Omar, however, supported defunding the police, and has a strong grassroots operation, giving her a huge advantage financially over Samuels. She is favored to win the primary. 

For both parties, the 1st Congressional District is a race to watch, as Republican former state Rep. Brad Finstad and Democrat, former CEO of Hormel, Jeff Ettinger compete in a special election for the seat of Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died of cancer back in February of this year. Whoever wins this primary would not only determine the November matchup for the two-year term, but would also allow for one of them to finish out the last few months out of Hagedorn’s term. 

Vermont 

The battle for the deep blue state could be a benchmark for centrist and progressive Democrats, as the gubernatorial race ramps up for the primary elections. Lt. Governor Molly Gray and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, the leading candidates for this season’s race, could become the first female member of the Vermont Congressional delegation. 

Gray, a centrist, has the support of sitting U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who donated $5,000 to her campaign. The retiring lawmaker also said he cast an early ballot for her in a written statement in July.

“Like many Vermonters I voted early,” Leahy said. “While I think highly of both of the leading candidates, I voted for Molly Gray because I believe her experience is well suited to the job. Her work in Congress, her legal training, her deep connections to Vermont communities. Molly will serve Vermont well in Congress.” 

Gray, an attorney, has also received donations from a centrist party line, with endorsements from former Governors. Madeline Kunin and Howard Dean. 

During a debate, Balint went on the offensive, calling Leahy a “corporatist with endorsements from former Governors Madeline Kunin and Howard Dean.” 

Though Balint apologized for her comments, she narrowed in on her opponent’s campaign contributions. 

“I said at the time the reason why I was concerned was because of the funds that you’re raising from Washington insiders,” Balint said. “You have raised a tremendous amount of money from lobbyists in D.C. and not as much money from people back here in Vermont.” 

Balint, a former school teacher, has amassed the support of fiercely Democratic names, such as Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben and Jerry’s founders. 

While the race has exacerbated tensions between the candidates, both hold similar philosophical platforms towards abortion rights, affordable housing, and expanded broadband access. 

Connecticut 

A number of seats are up for grabs in Connecticut’s upcoming primary, with all state senate seats open for election. Dennis Bradley, a second-term incumbent, lost the party’s endorsement to political activist and Methodist Church leader, Herron Gaston. 

Bradley was stripped of his committee leadership assignments last Spring, following a federal indictment in 2018 after conspiring to defraud Connecticut’s public campaign financing program of $179,850. He was accused along with his former campaign treasurer, Jessica Martinez. 

The arrest leaves only one Democrat running in Connecticut’s 23rd district, serving Bridgeport and Stratford.

In the U.S. Senate primary, the GOP are actively seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. In the lead-up to the election, State Rep. Themis Klarides, RNC Chairwoman Leora Levy, and attorney Peter Lumaj are vying for the nomination. 

Klarides won the Republican endorsement in the Spring. 

For the 4th U.S. House District primary, Jayme Stevenson has GOP endorsement and will face Michael Goldstein, a Greenwich physician. 

The winner will face the seven-term incumbent Congressman Jim Hines. 

Over the last year, the contest for Secretary of State drew voters’ attention after the sitting secretary, Denise Merrill, announced she would not seek reelection for a fourth term last Summer. 

For the seat, the roster is neck-and-neck, with two candidates for Democrats and the GOP. 

New Haven’s Director of Health, Maritza Bond, faces the Democratic-endorsed candidate Stephanie Thomas, a state representative. 

The GOP’s pick is sitting U.S State Rep. Terrie Wood, who faces Apple exec.-turned-politician Dominic Rapini. After running an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2018, Rapini echoed voter fraud claims, though no investigation has found evidence of it in the election process.

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