Kleefisch, who was Scott Walker’s running mate in each of his campaigns and had his backing for the top job, looked like the clear frontrunner until April when Michels jumped in seemingly out of nowhere. The construction executive, however, immediately used his wealth to reintroduce himself to voters, and he wound up decisively outspending his opponent after investing at least $12 million into his comeback.
Michels went on to earn Trump’s endorsement in June; the GOP's leader reportedly was infuriated about a 2019 picture of Kleefisch's daughter going to her high school prom with the son of Brian Hagedorn, a conservative state Supreme Court justice who sided against Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election. Kleefisch and her allies began airing negative ads a month before Election Day, but Michels spent weeks insisting he wouldn’t do the same.
As recently as last Monday, the businessman proclaimed, “I've never had a negative ad run by my campaign in this race,” explaining, “And the reason is we've never had a single piece of business by talking bad about the competition.” However, while Michels continued, “And the reason is, it's just bad policy, and if you get a reputation of doing that in my industry … people immediately disrespect you,” he decided to risk that disrespect on Thursday by indeed going negative. That belated response, as well as the Club for Growth’s earlier anti-Kleefisch ad campaign, may have made the difference in Tuesday’s close primary.
● Primary Night: Below is a state-by-state look at where Tuesday’s other major contests stood as of 8 AM ET Wednesday, and you can also find our cheat-sheet here.
● CT-Sen (R): Former Ambassador to Chile Leora Levy beat former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides 51-40 for the right to face Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Biden won Connecticut 59-39, and there was little indication that the senator was vulnerable even before the Trump-endorsed Levy took the GOP nomination.
Klarides spent years as a GOP rising star in a state where the party desperately needed one, and she had been widely expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont. In January, though, Klarides kicked off a Senate bid instead after wealthy businessman Bob Stefanowski announced that he would seek a rematch with Lamont, who beat him 49-46. However, while Klarides likely believed she’d avoid a tough primary by choosing to go after the entrenched Blumenthal, Levy proved her very wrong.
● MN-01 (special): The Associated Press has not yet called the special election to succeed the late Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, but Republican Brad Finstad leads Democrat Jeff Ettinger 51-47 with 118,000 votes in; the AP estimates that this is represents 99% of the total vote. Trump carried this southern Minnesota constituency 54-44 in 2020, while Hagedorn won his second and final term that year 49-46.
● MN-01 (R): Finstad easily turned back state Rep. Jeremy Munson 76-24 in the Republican primary for a full two-year term, while Ettinger secured the Democratic nod 92-6 against a little-known foe. Trump would have carried the new version of the 1st, which largely resembles the constituency Hagedorn represented, by a similar 53-44 spread.
Finstad beat Munson just 38-37 in the May special primary, and while Munson filed to run for a full term days later, it initially looked like he was just raising money to pay back a $200,000 campaign loan. Munson announced in July that he would indeed try once more to beat Finstad, but that effort badly collapsed on Tuesday.
● MN-04 (D): Longtime Rep. Betty McCollum pulled off a landslide 83-15 win against party operative Amane Badhasso in the primary for this safely blue St. Paul-based seat.
● MN-05 (D): In arguably the biggest surprise of the evening, Rep. Ilhan Omar fended off former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels just 50-48 to win renomination in this heavily Democratic constituency in the Minneapolis area. We’ll take a closer look at this near upset in our next Digest.
● MN-AG (R): Attorney Jim Schultz, who earned the state party’s endorsement in May, beat 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow 53-35. Schultz will now take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison, who defeated Wardlow 49-45 four years ago.
● Hennepin County, MN Attorney: Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty took first place in the seven-way nonpartisan primary with 36%, while retired judge Martha Holton Dimick edged out state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler 18-16 for the second spot in the November general election.
Both Moriarty and Dimick are Democrats, but they’ve been running very different campaigns. Moriarty, who has the backing of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and the state Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, has pitched herself as a reformer, saying there needs to be “accountability both for people who violate the law and police.”
Dimick, who has both Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association in her corner, has in turn argued, “We have to send messages that we will prosecute violent criminals … With that effort to defund the police, people sent the wrong message.” Dimick would be the state's first Black county attorney.
● VT-Sen (R): First-time candidate Gerald Malloy scored a 43-39 win against former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, who generated some attention when she launched her campaign; Nolan also had the support of Gov. Phil Scott, who is one of the few prominent Republicans in this very blue state. The result makes little difference for the general election, though, because Democratic Rep. Peter Welch should have no trouble winning the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Leahy in a state Biden took 66-31.
● VT-AL (D): State Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint beat Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 61-37 in the primary to replace Welch as Vermont’s only House member. Balint, who had endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders and the LGBTQ Victory Fund, is now set to end Vermont’s status as the only state in America that has not elected a woman to Congress; Balint would also be the Green Mountain State’s first gay representative.
● WI-03 (D): State Sen. Brad Pfaff defeated businesswoman Rebecca Cooke 39-31 in the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Ron Kind, who is Pfaff’s former boss and top supporter. Pfaff will now go up against 2020 Republican nominee Derrick Van Orden, who lost to Kind 51-49 in the closest race of the congressman’s career. Trump carried both the old and new versions of this southwestern Wisconsin constituency 51-47.
● WI-AG (R): Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney holds a 37.5-36.9 edge over former state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a contest that the Associated Press has not yet called; 595,000 ballots have been tabulated, and the AP estimates they represent 99% of the total vote. The winner will go up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who won his post in a tight 2018 contest.
● WI State Assembly (R): Speaker Robin Vos won renomination 51-49 against Adam Steen, who was very much a longshot until Trump endorsed him last week. No Democrats are running for this seat in the Racine area.
Trump made his move after Vos said that the GOP’s master had recently called him and urged him to retroactively decertify Joe Biden's victory in the state—a move the speaker said was legally impossible. Trump retaliated by trashing Vos for using an old photo of the two of them together in his campaign literature as he endorsed the previously little-known Steen.
● GA-Sen, GA-Gov, GA-LG: Charlie Bailey, who is Team Blue's nominee for lieutenant governor, has released an internal from Research Affiliates that shows his party doing well in competitive contests. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock edges out Republican Herschel Walker 49-46, while GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are deadlocked 47-47. Bailey also posts a 43-43 tie in his own race against Republican Burt Jones, who was the rare member of Donald Trump's Big Lie slate to win a statewide primary this year.
● OK-Sen-B: The Republican pollster Battleground Connect last week found Rep. Markwayne Mullin leading former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon 46-38 ahead of the Aug. 23 Republican primary runoff. This survey, which did not mention a client, is the first poll we've seen of the second round of voting. Mullin outpaced Shannon 44-18 in late June and picked up Trump's endorsement soon after, so it would be a surprise if the runoff is close.
Battleground Connect did depart from the consensus in July when it released a trio of polls in the GOP primary for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat that showed wealthy businessman Jim Lamon narrowly leading the Trump-endorsed Blake Masters at a time when every other firm had Masters well ahead. (Its final poll in late July put Lamon up 30-28.) But that iconoclasm didn't work out well for Battleground Connect or Lamon, and Masters prevailed 40-28 last week.
● UT-Sen: Republican incumbent Mike Lee's team has dusted off a WPA Intelligence Poll from July 12-14 that shows him beating independent Evan McMullin 49-35, with 10% going to unnamed other candidates. A survey taken around that same time by Dan Jones & Associates showed Lee up by a considerably smaller 41-36.
● OK-Gov: Oklahoma's Children Our Future, a group that very much does not like Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, has publicized an internal from the Democratic firm Change Research that shows him leading Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister only 42-34. Libertarian Natalie Bruno takes 6% while independent Ervin Yen, who is a former Republican state senator, grabs another 4%.
The memo, which begins, "As scandal after scandal plagues the Kevin Stitt administration," says that the governor posted a 58-32 advantage in an unreleased January poll. The last survey we saw was in early June when the GOP firm Amber Integrated gave Stitt a 47-29 edge over Hofmeister, who left the Republican Party in October.
● CA-13, OR-04, OR-06: Politico’s Ally Mutnick has obtained a trio of polls sponsored by the NRCC and the seat’s respective Republican nominee that show Team Red in competitive races in constituencies Biden decisively carried:
CA-13: Moore Information (R): Adam Gray (D): 47, John Duarte (R): 43
OR-04: Moore Information (R): Val Hoyle (D): 46, Alek Skarlatos (R): 41
OR-06: Cygnal (R): Mike Erickson (R): 47, Andrea Salinas (D): 40
These are the first numbers we’ve seen from any of these contests.
● NY-24: Rep. Claudia Tenney has unveiled an internal from Public Opinion Strategies that has her taking 52% in the Aug. 23 GOP primary while her two opponents, attorney Mario Fratto and perennial candidate George Phillips, grab just 6% each. Trump would have won 57-40 in this constituency, which is based in the Finger Lakes region.
The Trump-endorsed Tenney currently represents less than 6% of this revamped district, but neither of her foes have generated much attention. Fratto did finish June with $230,000 on-hand thanks mostly to self-funding, but Tenney was still well ahead with $1 million banked. Phillips, writes The Citizen, "has not been actively campaigning for the seat and did not file a fundraising report."
● WA-03: On Tuesday evening Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who was one of the 10 House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump last year, conceded last week’s top-two primary one day after she dropped into third place. With 218,000 ballots tabulated Democrat Marie Perez leads with 31% while Trump's candidate, Army veteran Joe Kent, edged out Herrera Beutler 22.8-22.3 for the second general election spot. Trump would have carried this southwestern Washington seat 51-46.
● WY-AL: Sen. Cynthia Lummis endorsed attorney Harriet Hageman over the weekend for the Aug. 16 GOP primary almost a year after Donald Trump declared that the senator was already supporting Hageman's bid against Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis' spokesperson said back in September, "While Senator Lummis is not making an endorsement at this time, she believes President Trump has made an inspired choice in backing Harriet Hageman."
secretaries of state
● WA-SoS: The AP has called a special general election between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Hobbs and Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, who does not identify with either party. Hobbs, who is the first Democrat to hold this office since the 1964 election, took first in last week’s top-two primary with 40%, while Anderson edged out Republican state Sen. Keith Wagoner 13-12 for second. The winner will be up for a full four-year term in 2024.
Dollar amounts reflect the reported size of ad buys and may be larger.