August 12, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Minn. businessman wins GOP bid to challenge Franken for Senate

In a midterm year where which party controls the U.S. Senate will headline Election Day, businessman Mike McFadden swept to an easy victory Tuesday for the Republican Senate nomination in Minnesota.

McFadden argued he was the only candidate who could raise enough money to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

After the party endorsed McFadden in May, the only credible challenger to stay in the race was state Rep. Jim Abeler, who ran a shoestring campaign from a reconditioned ambulance and raised only about $146,000. McFadden brought in $4.3 million.

In Connecticut, businessman Tom Foley won the Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, setting up a rematch with Democrat Dannel P. Malloy, who narrowly defeated him four years ago and is seeking a second term.

Foley, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush, had the GOP endorsement in his primary race against Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.

The wide-ranging gun control law passed after the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown figured prominently in the primary campaign. McKinney, a veteran legislator whose district includes Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, defended his work to help craft the bipartisan legislation. Foley avoided outlining specific concerns with the law but said he disapproved of restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.

Foley, of Greenwich, lost to Malloy by just 6,404 votes out of 1.1 million votes cast in 2010.

In Wisconsin, former Trek Bicycles executive Mary Burke easily won the Democratic nomination to face Gov. Scott Walker. She faced only nominal competition from Brett Hulsey, a state lawmaker who raised almost no money for the campaign and was largely shunned by party leaders, donors and other office holders.

Walker is seeking re-election to an office he’s already won twice — in 2010, and again in a 2012 recall election. And if he wins in November, he could be on ballots again in 2016 as a candidate for president.

The action on the GOP side of the ballot came in the race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Petri, who is retiring after 18 terms in office. Two state senators, Joe Leibham and Glenn Grothman, face a state representative, Duey Stroebel.

Leibham and Grothman are better-known, but Stroebel, a wealthy real estate developer, has spent heavily on television ads. A fourth candidate, retired technical college instructor Tom Denow, has been largely silent.

Also in Minnesota Tuesday, Tom Emmer, who lost the 2010 governor’s race by some 9,000 votes, cruised to victory in the GOP primary for the 6th District seat being vacated by Bachmann.

Emmer raised more than $1 million, more than twice that of Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. Emmer has spent the past two years on conservative talk radio and is deeply conservative, but if elected isn’t likely to generate the headlines Bachmann did.

And Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson emerged from a four-way Republican primary field for the right to take on Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Johnson had won the party’s endorsement, which meant a presumed edge in the phone bank and door-knock operation — a key in a low-turnout election.

Democrats in Montana will select a nominee Saturday to replace Sen. John Walsh on the November ballot. The former Army National Guard general pulled out of his race last week amid allegations he plagiarized large sections of a capstone paper while a student at the Army War College.

A week from Tuesday comes primary elections in Wyoming and Alaska, where the three-way race in the GOP Senate primary is the highlight. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in November.

, Doug Glass in Minneapolis, and M.L. Johnson in Milwaukee contributed to this report.