February 7, 2023

The Trump-backed choice for Wisconsin governor, Tim Michels, beat the state’s former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in a proxy race that pit the ex-president against his former Vice President Mike Pence. 

At 11:35 p.m. EDT, the Associated Press called the race for Michels, who had been running several points ahead of Kleefisch for most of the night. 

The two Republicans were neck-and-neck in the polls in the run-up to election day, with both Trump and Pence traveling to Wisconsin in the final week to campaign for their preferred candidate. 

On Friday, Trump told a rally crowd that Kleefisch – who was supported by Pence and also the state’s former GOP Gov. Scott Walker – was a ‘handpicked candidate of the failed establishment, the RINOs, the Washington swamp.’ 

‘Rebecca Kleefisch does not have what it takes to beat Tony Evers,’ Trump said, referencing the state’s incumbent Democratic governor. ‘He’s going to win if he runs against Rebecca.’  

Both Republican candidates had questioned the results of the 2020 election, but wouldn’t go as far as a third candidate, Timothy Ramthun, who said he wanted to decertify the result, which isn’t legal. 

Still Michels, a construction magnate, was MAGA-approved. 

Kleefisch conceded to Michels at an event in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

‘I conceded this race to Tim Michels, and I urge you all to stay in the fight,’ she said. ‘The fight now is truly against Tony Evers, and the liberals who want to take away our way of life.’ 

Overall, voters in four states – Vermont, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Minnesota – headed to the polls Tuesday for another round of primary races. 

PROXY FIGHT: Former President Donald Trump (right) picked Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim Michels (left) to take on Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. He won the race over the state’s former lieutenant governor

Former Vice President Mike Pence (right) campaigned for the state’s former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (left). He appeared with her in Pewaukee, Wisconsin on Wednesday 

On the Democratic side in Wisconsin, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes easily won the primary for the party’s Senate nomination. 

Barnes will go up against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who is expecting a tough re-election fight in a state that went for President Joe Biden in the last election, though for Trump four years before. 

Barnes, a progressive backed by Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, will have to pull moderates and independents in his corner to win against Johnson, a Trump-aligned conservative. 

In Minnesota, ‘squad’ member Rep. Ilhan Omar ended up in a tight primary against more moderate Democratic hopeful Don Samuels. 

Omar, the incumbent, was running just a few points ahead as result trickled in late Tuesday night. 

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The race was finally called in her favor by the Associated Press at 11:47 p.m. EDT. 

For Omar, a member of the progressive Squad, her Democratic primary victory was far closer-than-expected against a centrist challenger who questioned the incumbent’s support for the ‘defund the police’ movement. 

Omar, who represents Minneapolis and is one of the left’s leading voices in Congress, has defended calls to redirect public safety funding more into community-based programs. 

She squared off with former City Councilmember Don Samuels, whose north Minneapolis base suffers from more violent crime than other parts of the city. 

In Minnesota, ‘squad’ member Rep. Ilhan Omar ended up in a tight primary against more moderate Democratic hopeful Don Samuels which she won 

Samuels argued that Omar is divisive and helped defeat a ballot question last year that sought to replace the city police department with a new public safety unit. He and others also successfully sued the city to force it to meet minimum police staffing levels called for in Minneapolis’ charter.

Samuels said his narrow loss shows that Omar is beatable: ‘If this was the general election, no doubt that we would have won this race.’ Omar countered, ‘Tonight´s victory is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values we are fighting for.’

Minnesota 5th Congressional District candidate Don Samuels speaks at his primary election night watch party on Tuesday. He lost his race against ‘squad’ member Rep. Ilhan Omar

Barb Atkinson, a 53-year-old part-time event planner for a radio station who supported Samuels, called Omar ‘too far to the left.’

‘Although I respect Ilhan Omar and what she´s done, I disagree with the defund the police. I really think that wording sends the wrong message,’ Atkinson said. She added, ‘We need our leaders to work together to solve this issue.’

Omar, who is seeking her third term in the House, had crushed a similar primary challenge two years ago from a well-funded but lesser-known opponent.

‘She´s had a lot of adversity already and pushback. I don´t think her work is done,’ said Kathy Ward, a 62-year-old property caretaker for an apartment building in Minneapolis who voted for Omar. ‘We´ve got to give her a chance.’

Democrat Mandela Barnes (right) is expected to win his Wisconsin Senate primary to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in the fall. Barnes, a progressive, has been endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren  

Also in the state there was a special election Tuesday to replace Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February. 

Republican Brad Finstad, a former official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, had a leg up over Democrat Jeff Ettinger, the former CEO of Hormel Foods, as the district is rated by the Cook Political Report as ‘likely Republican.’ 

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Ettinger ran a campaign based on how he has the experience to curb soaring food costs. 

The winner Tuesday will serve in the House through January, when Hagedorn’s term was to end. 

Ettinger and Finstad will then run against each other in November for the full two-year House term. 

Before the special election was called, Finstad won his primary to appear on the November ballot against rival Jeremy Munson, who he beat by a slim margin in the May primary to compete in the election to fill Hagedorn’s term.  

Former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger (left), a Democrat, is the underdog in a Minnesota special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn. He’s on the ballot against Republican Brad Finstad, a Trump-era Ag Department official 

Tuesday’s races in New England are less dramatic. 

In Vermont, Rep. Peter Welch quickly won his Democratic primary to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy. 

Additionally, the state’s incumbent Gov. Phil Scott – a Republican – quickly won his primary.  Democrat Brenda Siegel’s gubernatorial primary was uncontested, though Scott – vying for a fourth term – is largely expected to win.

State Sen. Becca Balint defeated Lt. Gov. Molly Gray in the Democratic primary for the state’s at-large House seat, which is being vacated by Welch for his Senate run.

If Balint is elected in November – which is likely – she’ll be the first woman and first openly gay person to represent Vermont in Congress.  

In Connecticut, three Republican hopefuls were running for the chance to take on incumbent Sen. Richard Blumenthal. 

The Trump-backed candidate, Leora Levy, was running ahead of rivals Themis Klarides and Peter Lumaj shortly after polls closed, and went on to win the race. 

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash conceded her race in Washington state’s top two primary for the 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday night

Across the country in Washington State Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of two Republican members of Washington´s congressional delegation who voted to impeach Donald Trump, conceded her reelection bid after being overtaken in late vote tallies by a GOP challenger endorsed by the former president.

Trump had targeted the six-term incumbent and endorsed Joe Kent, a former Green Beret, in the 3rd Congressional District contest. The district is in southwest Washington state, across the border from Portland, Oregon.

Herrera Beutler, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2010, lead Kent by about 4,700 votes on election night but her lead shrunk throughout last week, and updated returns put Kent ahead and into the No. 2 spot on Monday night.

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Once Clark County, the district’s largest, and Thurston Counties updated their tallies Tuesday, Kent led by 928 votes and 22.7% of the vote, and Herrera Beutler was in third place with 22.3% of the vote.

Herrera Beutler conceded in an email shortly after the latest update, saying that ‘since I was first elected to this seat I have done my very best to serve my home region and our country.’

‘Though my campaign came up short this time, I´m proud of all we´ve accomplished together for the place where I was raised and still call home,’ she wrote, saying that ‘I’m proud that I always told the truth, stuck to my principles, and did what I knew to be best for our country.’

Herrera Beutler has said she has no regrets about her impeachment vote following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol – and has stood by her comments made both on the floor and on Twitter afterward. 

She revealed how Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told her he spoke with Trump as rioters were storming the Capitol, and that according to McCarthy the president said: ‘`Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.´’ 

Joe Kent, a Republican endorsed by Trump, will now advance to Nov 8 general election for the congressional seat in the 3rd Congressional District contest in Washington State

The former president was quick to congratulate Kent. 

‘Joe Kent just won an incredible race against all odds in Washington State. Importantly, he knocked out yet another impeacher, Jaime Herrera Beutler, who so stupidly played right into the hands of the Democrats.

‘Joe is a wonderful guy, who bravely served our Country as a Green Beret. He has a truly bright future. Congratulations, Joe!’ Trump stated.

Kent is a regular on conservative cable shows who echoes the former president´s grievances about the 2020 election outcome, and on Steve Bannon´s podcast Monday, Kent criticized the state primary as ‘not a transparent process’ and said that he had to remedy a signature issue with his own ballot that day. 

Under Washington´s primary system, the top two vote getters in each race August 2 advance to the November election, regardless of party. 

Washington is a vote by mail state, and voters don´t have to declare a party affiliation.

Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez had already advanced to the November ballot since she was the top vote getter after the August 2 primary, with 31% of the vote.

Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez had already advanced to the November ballot since she was the top vote getter after the August 2 primary, with 31% of the vote