Michels, a construction company owner and political neophyte, won Trump’s endorsement by more aggressively amplifying the former President’s 2020 election lies — most notably in the intra-party debate over whether Wisconsin should seek to decertify Biden’s victory there nearly two years ago. Kleefisch was widely considered the favorite early in the campaign. She spent eight years as former Gov. Scott Walker’s second-in-command and enjoyed the broad backing of the state’s powerful GOP establishment.
Wisconsin is the third state in which Trump and Pence have backed opposing candidates for governor. Trump’s choice in Arizona, Kari Lake, a conservative commentator and election denier, narrowly won the nomination, while Pence’s pick in Georgia, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, defeated Trump-backed primary challenger David Perdue, a former senator, in a landslide.
Wisconsin is also home to a critical GOP primary in the state legislature, where longtime Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, an arch conservative who has mostly gone along with Trump’s 2020 election claims, is being challenged by Adam Steen, who picked up a Trump endorsement because Vos, in the former President’s estimation, has been insufficiently bullish about right-wing efforts to have the state decertify his defeat.
Also in the Upper Midwest on Tuesday, Republicans in Minnesota will pick their candidate to face Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who is seeking a second term.
Scott Jensen, a doctor and former state lawmaker, had all but clinched the nomination after winning the support of the state party. But he made it official on Tuesday night, CNN projects, cruising past underdogs Joyce Lynne Lacey and Bob “Again” Carney Jr.
Jensen is a longtime critic of Walz, mostly railing against statewide lockdowns during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. But he also suggested hospitals inflated their counts of the sick and questioned the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, which Jensen has said he did not receive.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, the progressive “squad” member from the state’s 5th Congressional District, will survive a surprisingly close primary challenge, CNN projects, from moderate Don Samuels. Omar beat back a well-funded primary rival in 2020, but Samuels entered this race with higher name recognition in the Minneapolis-based district and the support of a big-spending super PAC.
History in the making in Vermont
State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint will win the nomination, CNN projects, defeating Lt. Gov. Molly Gray for the nomination to replace Welch in the House. An overwhelming favorite in the fall, Balint is poised to become the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont, which is the only state that has never sent a woman to represent it at the federal level.
Little separated Balint and Gray on the major issues, but their candidacies split the loyalties of Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders and Leahy. Sanders and leading progressives from around the country endorsed Balint. Gray had the support of Leahy, who donated to her cause and said he voted for her, although he did not issue a formal endorsement in the race. Former Vermont Govs. Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin also backed Gray.
But in a race that saw the candidates themselves about level on fundraising, a flood of outside spending for Balint likely helped tip the scales. The LGBTQ Victory Fund invested about $1 million into the race for Balint, who is gay. She also benefited from spending by the campaign arm of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose chair, Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, along with the progressive senators from neighboring Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, endorsed her.
In Connecticut, there is little jeopardy for Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont or Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Both were unopposed in their primaries.
This story has been updated with additional developments.