Walker is Wis. GOP choice as Midwest tests Trump appeal
Madison, Wis. – Democrats tested the strength of their “blue wave” against President Trump’s grip on America’s white, working class Tuesday as the 2018 primary season lurched closer to an end in two Midwestern battlegrounds.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker seized the Republican nomination in his quest for a third term, while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was fighting to resurrect his political career and prove he fits in Trump’s GOP.
Tuesday’s contests also moved through Vermont, where Democrats chose the nation’s first transgender major party nominee for governor, part of a so-called “rainbow wave” of extraordinarily diverse candidates up and down the ballot across the nation.
Rep. Keith Ellison, a Detroit native and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and first Muslim elected to Congress, sought his party’s nomination Tuesday for Minnesota attorney general in a race clouded in the final days by an ex-girlfriend’s allegation of domestic abuse.
The allegation surfaced the weekend before Tuesday’s primary when the son of Ellison’s former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, posted on Facebook that he had seen angry text messages from Ellison to his mother and a video that showed him dragging Monahan off a bed.
With 28 percent of the state’s precincts reporting, Ellison was leading his party’s nomination with 54 percent of the votes, according to unofficial returns. His closest competitor was Debra Hilstrom with 16 percent.
In all, four states hosted primary elections Tuesday as the primary season neared its final chapter. The first polls closed in Vermont and Connecticut, to be followed by Minnesota and Wisconsin.
All but 10 states will have picked their candidates for November’s general election by the time the day’s votes are counted. While the full political battlefield isn’t quite set, the stakes are clear: Democrats are working to topple Republican control of Congress and governors’ offices across the nation.
In Vermont, Democrat Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination in her quest to become the nation’s first transgender governor.
The former chief executive of Vermont Electric Cooperative bested a field of four Democrats that included a 14-year-old.
Hallquist will face a tough fight in November: Republican incumbent Phil Scott remains more popular with Democrats than members of his own party in the solidly liberal state.
Hallquist has said she doesn’t want Vermont residents to elect her governor because of her transgender status. Rather, she has said, she wants her candidacy to rise or fall on her plans to help state residents get higher-paying jobs, provide health care for their families and better educate their children.
Outside Vermont, though, she said she’s happy to carry the standard as the candidate who, if elected, would be the nation’s first transgender governor. Hallquist defeated environmental activist James Ehlers; dance festival organizer Brenda Siegel; and 14-year-old student Ethan Sonneborn, on the ballot because a quirk in state law doesn’t require candidates to be of voting age.
Vermont Democrats also nominated Sen. Bernie Sanders, who hasn’t ruled out a second presidential run in 2020, for a third term in the Senate. The 76-year-old democratic socialist won the Democratic nomination, but he is expected to turn it down and run as an independent.
In Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement creates an opening in his southeastern congressional district for the first time in 20 years, fueling hopes among Democrats that they can pick up the seat that leans Republican.
But a former Ryan aide from a prominent family in his hometown of Janesville is looking to keep the district bordering Illinois under GOP control, even if there’s a Democratic blue wave. Bryan Steil, who won Ryan’s endorsement, won a five-way Republican primary Tuesday for the chance to run for Ryan’s 1st District seat in November.
Steil is an attorney who has worked for a variety of manufacturers in the district. Since 2016, he’s also served as a member of the University of Wisconsin board of trustees, appointed by Gov. Walker.
On the Democratic side, union ironworker Randy Bryce drew national attention and money when he entered the race a year ago with a splashy launch video.