For some races that could be hot in the fall, there were no contests in Tuesday’s primaries in Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But voters were filling a House vacancy representing Minnesota for the rest of the year, and could be setting the stage for Vermont to send its first woman to Congress.
Here’s a rundown of what happened in key races.
Welch nominated to follow Leahy: Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont beat two challengers to win the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat opened up by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s retirement. Welch had 83 percent against activist Isaac Evans-Frantz and emergency physician Niki Thran when The Associated Press called the race at 7:56 p.m. with an estimated 14 percent counted. He will face Army veteran Gerald Malloy, a political newcomer who won the Republican nomination by beating two challengers, including Christina Nolan, who served as U.S. attorney for Vermont during the Trump administration and had support from establishment Republicans. Malloy had 43 percent, followed by Nolan and investment banker Myers Mermel with 39 percent and 19 percent, respectively. The AP called the race at 11:07 p.m. Eastern time. FEC reports showed that Welch, an eight-term House veteran, had $2.8 million in his campaign account on July 20, while Malloy had $82,000. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race as Solid Democratic.
Balint takes House nomination: Vermont State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray for the Democratic nomination for the state’s open House seat, and is well positioned to become the first woman sent to Congress by Vermont. Balint had 62 percent to Gray’s 36 percent when the AP called the race at 8:47 p.m. Two other Democrats were on the ballot, but one had previously dropped out. Balint and Gray had roughly equal fundraising, each taking in about $1.1 million as of July 20. But outside groups spent $1.5 million, including nearly $1 million from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, supporting Balint. She was the first woman and first openly LGBTQ person to lead the state Senate, and was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Leahy said he voted for Gray. Republicans nominated Marine Corps veteran Liam Madden, who had 42 percent of the vote in a three-candidate field when the AP called that race at 10:13 p.m. The race is rated Solid Democratic by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Pfaff picked to defend Kind seat: Wisconsin State Sen. Brad Pfaff won the Democratic nomination to replace his former boss, Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, and will face retired Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden in a redrawn 3rd District. The new district would have backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden by nearly 5 points in 2020. Pfaff, who has held senior positions in the state and federal Agriculture departments and was endorsed by Kind, led second-place finisher Rebecca Cooke, a small-business owner and nonprofit founder, 39 percent to 31 percent in the four-candidate race. The Associated Press declared Pfaff the winner at 12:52 a.m. Central time. Van Orden challenged Kind in 2020 and came within 3 points of winning in a less Republican-friendly district. He then used campaign funds to pay for a trip to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021. Van Orden was unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Inside Elections rates the race Lean Republican.
Barnes to face Johnson: After his top rivals endorsed him, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes won the Democratic nomination to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in what will be one of the country’s most closely watched races this fall. Barnes was leading with 84 percent of the vote when the AP called the race at 8:27 p.m. Central time. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who dropped out of the race in the two weeks leading up to primary day, remained on the ballot, along with four other Democrats.
Barnes, who is considered both a progressive and a populist, had raised $7 million and had $1 million on hand as of July 20. His campaign announced on Aug. 1 it had pulled in an additional $1.1 million in the previous week as his former opponents consolidated around him. Lasry, who funded his campaign partly through $14 million in loans from his personal wealth, has begun boosting Barnes and spent a reported $584,000 on a TV ad attacking Johnson. Barnes also received an additional $1 million in outside support.
Johnson, one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans, was beating retired educator David Schroeder in the Republican primary, 86 percent to 14 percent, when that race was called at 8:27 p.m. Central time. Johnson had raised $16 million and had $2 million cash on hand as of July 20. He also had outside groups spending $12 million to support him and half that much to oppose him. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the November race Tilt Republican.
Omar survives scare: Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the “Squad” of ultra-progressive House Democrats, narrowly won the nomination for a third term in Minnesota’s 5th District. She had 50 percent of the vote in a five-candidate field, and the AP called the race at 10:47 p.m. Central time. Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member backed by the city’s mayor and several former state party chairs, had 48 percent. “If the playing field was even we would have won this,” Samuels said in a concession statement posted on Twitter by a Fox9 Minneapolis anchor. Omar won her first primary by beating five candidates with 48 percent in 2018, but against five challengers in 2020 she beat the nearest challenger by nearly 20 points. She will face Republican Cicely Davis in a November race that Inside Elections rates as Solid Democratic.
Finstad wins special election and primary: Republican Brad Finstad won a special election Tuesday to fill the remainder of the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term, defeating Democrat Jeff Ettinger. The two will face off again in November after both won their parties’ primaries — also on Tuesday — for a full term representing Minnesota’s 1st District. In the special election, Finstad, a former state legislator and Trump administration agriculture official, had 51 percent of the vote while Ettinger, a former Hormel Foods executive, had 47 percent as of 9:25 a.m. Eastern when the AP called the race Wednesday morning. Hagedorn, who died in February after battling kidney cancer, won his last term in 2020 by a 49 percent to 46 percent margin. On the same ballot but using district lines for the next Congress, Finstad won the GOP primary to run in November for a full term, defeating state Rep. Jeremy Munson, 76 percent to 24 percent. Ettinger won a three-candidate Democratic primary with 92 percent. In May, Finstad beat Munson by just 1 percentage point in the special primary for the unexpired term, but there were eight other Republicans running, including Hagedorn’s widow.
McCollum coasts: Eleven-term Rep. Betty McCollum easily defeated her Democratic primary challengers in Minnesota’s 4th District. McCollum had 84 percent of the vote to activist Amane Badhasso’s 14 percent when the AP called the race at 9:36 p.m. Central. Badhasso had gotten attention after raising $825,000 for the race. Inside Elections rates the November election as Solid Democratic.
Trump-backed Levy to challenge Blumenthal: Leora Levy, bolstered by the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, won the Republican nomination in Connecticut to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal in November. Levy was leading two opponents with 51 percent of the vote at 10:49 p.m. Eastern when The Associated Press called the race. A recent Levy fundraising appeal highlighted the former president’s endorsement, which he made last week, but it did not really mention the state in which she is running (Blumenthal was named in the fine print at the bottom). Former state Rep. Themis Klarides, who had the backing of an assortment of more moderate Republicans and Trump critics, may have been a more plausible Blumenthal challenger in the Constitution State but finished with 40 percent. The Connecticut race is rated Safe Democratic by Inside Elections. Blumenthal had over $8 million cash on hand as of the end of June.