Four State Recap

There have been 11 specials election held during the current session of Congress, and potentially five more remain. Of the 16 House vacancies created since the beginning of this 117th Congress, a half-dozen of which occurring because the incumbent member passed away.

Minnesota former state Rep. Brad Finstad (R) appears won the open 1st District special congressional election left vacant when Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R) passed away in mid-February. The Finstad victory increases the Republican membership in the House. The party division is now 219D-211R with the five vacancies that includes Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) who has announced his resignation and will leave the House at some point before the regular election.

Three more special congressional elections are on tap for August 16th and 23rd, the Alaska at-large seat and two in New York. If the Republicans sweep this group of stand-alone elections, which is quite possible though they must convert the NY-19 seat of now Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado (D) to do so, the party conference will grow to 214 members before voters cast their ballots in the regular midterm elections.

Former President Donald Trump, despite the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago home, saw two more endorsed candidates win their nominations. In Connecticut, former Trump ambassadorial appointee Leora Levy, though she failed to win Senate confirmation, easily won the Republican Senate nomination in Connecticut. Ms. Levy defeated former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides by a significant 51-40% share of the statewide vote. She now advances to challenge Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) who is seeking a third term.

In the Wisconsin Governor’s Republican primary, another Trump endorsed candidate, businessman Tim Michels, defeated former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch last night. The victory margin was 47-42%, consistent with pre-election polling projections. The final push concentrated to some degree on Ms. Kleefisch’s negative comments about Mr. Trump during past campaigns. Mr. Michels now advances to the general election where he will challenge first-term Gov. Tony Evers (D). 

In other Governors’ elections, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott was a 69% winner in his state’s Republican primary. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and Republican former state Senator Scott Jensen (R) were both 89%+ victors in their respective nomination campaigns. The Connecticut primaries were both unopposed affairs, thus setting up a re-match from 2018 when now-Gov. Ned Lamont (D) defeated businessman Bob Stefanowski (R) by a tight 49-46% spread.

As expected, the Vermont Democratic open Senate primary resulted in a landslide 87%+ victory for at-large Congressman Peter Welch (D-Norwich). He automatically becomes a prohibitive favorite against the new Republican nominee Gerald Malloy, a retired Army officer.

Wisconsin Democratic voters confirmed that Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will be their candidate to oppose Sen. Ron Johnson* (R). With his three major opponents dropping out of the race within the past two weeks and all endorsing Mr. Barnes as a show of party unity, the Lt. Governor captured 77%+ of the Democratic primary vote. Sen. Johnson topped 83% in the Republican primary.

Turning to key House races, Mr. Finstad also easily won the regular Republican primary in the 1st District after state Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Crystal Lake) made a run at the nomination despite losing the special election primary back in late May. Following suit on the Democratic side, Mr. Ettinger was an easy winner in last night’s regular primary, so the two will again do battle in the regular term for a House seat that has been trending more Republican in recent years.

In the 5th District, suggestions that former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels could give two-term controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) a highly competitive battle proved true. Rep. Omar was renominated in a 50-48% squeaker over Mr. Samuels, thus guaranteeing her another term in the November election.

With Rep. Welch running for the Vermont open Senate seat, now in strong position to succeed the retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), the open al-large House seat will go to the Democratic primary winner, state Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint (D-Burlington). Her 60%+ primary win puts her in position to score a landslide general election victory in November.

Finally, the lone competitive Wisconsin House primary also resulted as expected. State Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-La Crosse) recorded a 39% plurality victory over three opponents to win his party’s nomination for the open 3rd District House seat of retiring Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). Sen. Pfaff earned Rep. Kind’s endorsement as his successor. 

Republican Derrick Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL who held Rep. Kind to a tight 51-49% re-election win in 2020, returns in another attempt to capture the seat. Mr. Van Orden was unopposed in last night’s election. Winning this seat in November becomes a must for Republican House majority prospects in the Autumn.

* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle. 

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