Recap: Trump-backed Michels wins WI gov primary; Johnson, Barnes to face off in Senate race

Tuesday's primaries in four states - Connecticut, Minnesota Vermont and Wisconsin - determined who's running in November's midterms in an election that will decide how far President Joe Biden can advance his agenda in the second half of his term.

The Aug. 9 contests continued to show Donald Trump's might as GOP kingmaker — as Republicans rallied around the the former president a day after the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago estate.

The former president's influence during a  string of GOP primaries this year continued Tuesday with a victory by Tim Michels whom Trump had endorsed over an estbalishment candidate who had the backing for former Vice President Mike Pence.

Latest developments:

More: Primary takeaways: Dems eye WI Sen. Johnson; Vt looks to break ceiling; Omar survives MN squeaker

Trump-backed businessman wins Wisconsin GOP gov primary

Donald Trump-backed businessman Tim Michels declared they won the Republican nomination for governor of Wisconsin on Tuesday, defeating establishment GOP pick Rebecca Kleefisch.

Trump disliked some members of the Wisconsin establishment, saying they did not fight hard enough for him as he tried to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. So he endorsed Michels, a construction executive making his first political race.

Pending Probes: Trump in midst of gathering storm of investigations. Mar-a-Lago document inquiry is one of many.

Kleefisch, a former lieutenant governor, had the backing of prominent Wisconsin Republicans, including ex-Gov. Scott Walker. She also had the support of Trump's vice president, Mike Pence.

Michels now faces incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in the fall election.

– David Jackson

Wisconsin legislative leader targeted by Trump wins primary

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, whose refusal to help Donald Trump overturn the state's 2020 election results earned him a Republican primary challenge, narrowly won his race on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. 

Vos edged Trump-backed candidate Adam Steen after a hard-fought primary.

During the campaign, Vos said Trump called him to lobby for a bill that would still overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden in Wisconsin.

Trump-backed candidate loses: Robin Vos narrowly defeats primary opponent Adam Steen, barely overcoming Donald Trump's campaign against him

Vos said he told Trump that decertifying the election would violate the state's Constitution.

Trump “has a different opinion,” he told WISN-TV of Milwaukee, which reported the phone call.

– David Jackson

Leora Levy wins Connecticut Senate Republican primary

In one of the only competitive primaries of the night in Connecticut, Leora Levy won the Republican Senate primary with 50.5% of the vote, according to the Associated Press called at 11 p.m.

Levy, a Cuban-American businesswoman, defeated former state Representative Themis Klarides, who had 40% of the vote and had won the party convention’s endorsement.

Levy will face incumbent Senator Richard Blumenthal in the general election. He has held the seat since 2011 and remains favored in November, but his approval rating has declined below 50%, the Hartford Courant reported.

– Katherine Swartz

Finstad wins special election in Minnesota

A bellwether race in Minnesota has been decided.

Brad Finstad, a former director in the U.S. Department of Agriculture won a special election to serve the remainder of Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term. Hagedorn died from cancer in February.

Mar-a-Lago latest: Trump attorneys, Justice officials met this summer about documents: reports

The race was seen as a litmus test for November in a district that leans Republican and former President Donald Trump won by about 10 points in 2020. Democrats have been counting on abortion rights to rally voters to polls and win competitive races like this one.

-Candy Woodall

Omar wins close primary race in Minnesota by less than 3,000 votes

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a progressive House member, won a squeaker in Minnesota, where George Floyd was murdered by police, against a candidate who ran on a pro-law enforcement platform.


Omar’s challenger Don Samuels, a centrist and former Minneapolis City Council member, earned a late endorsement from the city’s mayor which gave him a boost. Additionally, his pro-police platform set him apart from Omar who previously called to “defund the police.”

The incumbent was locked in a tight race two years ago and won by 35,000 votes. This year less than 3,000.

-Candy Woodall

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) (2nd L), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), walk from the U.S. Capitol Building to join a protest with activists from the Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPDA) on July 19, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Jensen wins GOP nomination for Minnesota governor

Scott Jensen, a physician and former Minnesota state senator, easily won the state’s Republican primary for governor Tuesday.

Jensen has said he will work to make most abortions illegal in the state – a top issue in the competitive state.

He will face Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in November.

-Candy Woodall

Johnson wins GOP Senate primary in Wisconsin

Sen. Ron Johnson easily won the Republican nomination in Wisconsin on Tuesday and will face a challenge from Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in the fall – a November contest that could determine which party controls the Senate.

In this file photo, President Trump listens to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson during a tour of an emergency operations center at Mary D. Bradford High School in in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sept. 1, 2020. Johnson easily won the Republican nomination in Wisconsin on Tuesday and will face a challenge from Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in the fall.

Johnson has been slipping in the polls, with independent voters moving away from him on his COVID response, and positions on abortion and election conspiracies.

However, some analysts have noted Johnson has been down in the polls before, only to mount a comeback and win in the general election.

-Candy Woodall

​​Another election denier wins a primary

The Connecticut race for secretary of state did grab many headlines but it does underscore a theme of the 2022 election cycle.

Republican Dominic Rapini won the primary contest to be the state’s chief election officer. He is a former leader of Fight Voter Fraud, a group that has promoted false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

Rapini will face Democrat Stephanie Thomas, a state legislator, in November.

— Phillip M. Bailey

Barnes wins easily in Wisconsin

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes coasted to victory in what was once a crowded Democratic field to challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson this fall.

In the final stretch of the race Barnes’s chief opponents dropped out to endorse him, consolidating his nomination and giving him a head start on November ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Barnes, 35, is the state’s first Black lieutenant governor. He is looking to be its first Black senator if elected,

— Phillip M. Bailey

Polls close in Wisconsin

The polls have closed in Wisconsin, site of nationally watched races for governor and U.S. Senator.

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch faces a field that includes Donald Trump-backed businessman Tim Michels.

The winner will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in the fall.

Yuna Seong, center, looks over her completed ballot while voting at the Vilas Park Shelter in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. (Kayla Wolf/Wisconsin State Journal via AP) ORG XMIT: WIMAW210

In the Democratic primary, current Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is favored to win over a field of unknowns.

Barnes is planning to run against incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., a race that could decide national control of the U.S. Senate.

– David Jackson

Polls close in Minnesota

Polls closed at 9 p.m. Tuesday in Minnesota, where a new U.S. representative will be elected in a southern portion of the state that leans toward Republicans.

The special election comes after GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn died of kidney cancer in February. Republican Brad Finstad, former department head at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is running against Democrat Jeffrey Ettinger, former CEO of Hormel Foods.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN, addresses a march to defund the Minneapolis Police Department on June 6, 2020.

Other races to watch include primary contests where Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar are trying to hold onto their seats.

A well-known progressive and visible supporter of the “defund the police movement,” Omar is facing off against pro-police challenger Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member.

-Candy Woodall

Balint wins Vermont House primary, sign of progressive mobilization

Vermont State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint has won the Democratic primary for the state’s lone house seat, the Associated Press is reporting.

Balint is expected to win in the November general election against the Republican candidate, likely to be Liam Madden. If elected, Balint would be the first woman to serve Vermont in Congress – the only state to have not elected a woman.

Balint coasted to a primary win by mobilizing the progressive branch of the Democratic party in Vermont.

The at-large House seat opened up when current Rep. Peter Welch announced he would run to replace Leahy in the Senate. Welch had a smooth primary, being named the Democratic candidate an hour after polls closed.

– Katherine Swartz

Perennial candidate wins four statewide GOP primaries

Perennial GOP candidate H. Brooke Paige ran unopposed and won the Republican primary for four state offices: attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, and treasurer.

It’s not the first time Paige accomplished the feat. In 2018, he also ran unopposed for treasurer, secretary of state, auditor and attorney general and won GOP primaries for the U.S. House and Senate races.

– Dylan Wells

Peter Welch wins Democratic primary to replace Leahy

Vermont’s sole congressman Rep. Peter Welch won the Democratic Senate primary and is expected to replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy in November.

Leahy serves as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. His retirement opened up the seat for the first time since his election in 1974, and Welch entered the race as the frontrunner with the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Welch has been the only member to represent the state in the House since he was elected in 2006.

– Dylan Wells

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., right, celebrates his victory with Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., in Burlington, Vt., on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. With Leahy retiring after 48 years in office Welch, is expected to replace him in November.

Polls close in Connecticut, where few primary shake ups are expected

Polls have now closed in Connecticut, but it may be awhile before official results come in, as counting is handled on a town by town basis. And, it’s up to local officials whether to count mail ballots before or after polls close.

The Republican primary for governor was canceled, as Republican business executive Bob Stefanowski is running uncontested against Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont in November, teeing up a rematch of their close 2018 race.

One competitive primary race is the Republican challenge to Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Three candidates – Cuban-American businesswoman Leora Levy, former state Representative Themis Klarides and attorney Peter Lumaj are vying to face Blumenthal in November, but he’s expected to defend his seat.

– Katherine Swartz

Polls close in Vermont

The first polls of primary Tuesday have closed at 7 p.m. in Vermont, where the state has an open congressional seat for the first time in 16 years.

With Vermont’s senior Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, retiring after 48 years in office and the state’s only House member, Rep. Peter Welch, running to take his place, Vermont has an open seat in the lower chamber of Congress.

As far as Welch’s seat goes, State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray are both vying to become the first woman the voters send to Congress in the state’s history. Balint has the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders, while Gray has the support of retiring Leahy. And, there are several other statewide races up for grabs.

– Candy Woodall and Katherine Swartz

Backed by Trump, Wisconsin gov candidate not looking back to 2020

Tim Michels and his top two opponents in the Wisconsin Republican primary for governor distanced themselves from Trump during an Aug. 1 town hall candidate forum when asked by a Republican voter whether they would support another Trump candidacy in light of his actions during the Jan. 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol attack.

"Now, 2024 — I'm focused on this election right now," Michels said. "I have made no commitments to any candidates in 2024. What I'm focusing on is beating Tony Evers."

— Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Ella Lee

Abortion rights on the line in Wisconsin governor's race

The winner of Wisconsin's governor's race could decide the fate of abortion rights in the state.

Wisconsin's pre-Roe abortion ban dates back to an 1849 law that bans the procedure except to protect the life of a mother and makes it a felony for anyone other than the mother to "destroy the life of an unborn child."

While Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to fight back against restrictive measures, the two frontrunners in the state's Republican primary are against abortion rights, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

— Ella Lee

Barnes seeks history in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Democratic primary for Senate was one of the more competitive elections this year until about a month ago, when Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’s rivals exited suddenly.

As a result Barnes, an unabashed progressive, has seen a surge in fundraising for a historic bid to be the state's first Black senator.

Political forecasts rank Wisconsin's Senate race as "leans Republican" in the midterms, but Democrats believe GOP incumbent Ron Johnson is weakening.

June survey conducted by Marquette Law School, for instance, showed Barnes leading Republican incumbent Ron Johnson by two percentage points.

Phillip M. Bailey

Mandela Barnes leaves the voting area after casting his vote Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, at GreenTree Preparatory Academy in Milwaukee. Barnes is the Democratic candidate running for U.S. Senate. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP) ORG XMIT: WIMIL210

What Kind of Democrat in Wisconsin?

One of the seats Republicans are likely to flip in their quest to retake Congress is Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District.

Retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind narrowly beat back Republican Derrick Van Orden two years ago, and it's a district Trump won in 2020.

Kind isn't a standard liberal either, and is known for an independent to conservative streak. He was the only House Democrat who voted against creating a national alert system that would warn people about a nearby active shooter, for instance.

Yet four Democrats are running in Tuesday's primary to succeed Kind in the hopes of at least keeping the race competitive against Van Orden, who is the presumptive GOP nominee and who has been criticized for attending the "Stop the Steal" rally ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot and using campaign cash to fund the trip.

Phillip M. Bailey

Trump versus Pence... again

Another proxy war between former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence will play out Tuesday as Trump-endorsed Tim Michels and Pence-endorsed Rebecca Kleefisch compete for Wisconsin's Republican nomination for governor.

On Friday in Waukesha, the former president held a rally for Michels, a political newcomer and wealthy pipeline construction executive. Two days prior, Pence swooped into Wisconsin to stump for Kleefisch, who served as lieutenant governor under Scott Walker.

The primary's winner will face off against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

— Ella Lee

Connecticut rematch for governor

Republican Bob Stefanowski lost to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont by about three percentage points in 2018, and the 60-year-old business executive is vying for a rematch.

Stefanowski was going to have a primary opponent on Tuesday, but former House Republican leader Themis Klarides dropped out in January to run for Senate.

Klarides, who was endorsed by the Connecticut GOP, is one of three Republicans battling to challenge Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal this fall.

— Phillip M. Bailey

After nearly 50 years, Vermont Senate seat up for grabs

With the news that Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy would not seek reelection, the Democratic senator's seat is up for grabs for the first time in almost 50 years.

Three Democrats, three Republicans and one Vermont Progressive Party candidate are vying for the spot.

The Democrats are Congressman Peter Welch, emergency room physician Niki Thran and activist Isaac Evans-Frantz. The Republicans are Army veteran Gerald Malloy, businessman Myers Mermel and Christina Nolan, a former U.S. Attorney for Vermont. And the independent candidate is Vermont Progressive Party treasurer Martha Abbott.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is set to retire.

Leahy was elected to the Senate in 1974 and announced his retirement in November 2021.

— Ella Lee

Two Democrats vying to be Vermont’s first woman in Congress

Every state has sent a woman to Congress except Vermont. That’s likely to change in November, as the two Democrats vying for the state’s lone House seat are women.

Current Rep. Peter Welch is running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy. State Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray are leading the Democratic primary to replace him. Welch has held the seat since 2007.

Balint – a former schoolteacher who has been in the statehouse since 2014 – is the frontrunner for Tuesday night’s primary. She has the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who dropped out of the race in May and immediately backed Balint.

No matter if Balint or Gray wins the primary, they are the favorite for the general election and would become the first woman to represent Vermont in Congress.

– Katherine Swartz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Primaries recap: Michels; Barnes, Johnson face off in Wis. this fall