By Jim Ellis
Aug. 11, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan recorded an 84-16 percent landslide victory against Republican primary opponent Paul Nehlen Tuesday night in southern Wisconsin. Nehlen was on his way to approaching the $1 million mark in campaign expenditures, but it did little to help expose any weakness in the Ryan political base.
Ryan followed the lead of his predecessor, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8), when faced with a similar primary circumstance in 2014. Boehner re-invented himself as the local congressman for that particular race, returning to his roots in western Ohio and never mentioning his GOP opponent in ads or speeches. In fact, never did Ryan even indicate that he was the House Speaker, instead confining his personal description to that of local congressman.
Nehlen attacked heavily on immigration and trade, but it was Ryan’s years of work in the district and never losing touch with his political base and core constituency that allowed him to record such a big primary victory. In fact, the current Speaker actually ran 13 points ahead of the former Speaker’s final primary performance against a more difficult political opponent.
Ryan now faces computer security consultant and former Iraq War veteran, Ryan Solen (D), in the general election. The latter man scored a 59 percent victory in the Democratic primary. The Speaker becomes the prohibitive favorite for that campaign.
The open Twin Cities suburban 2nd District (Rep. John Kline-R; retiring) is yielding a highly competitive general election campaign that officially began yesterday. Democrats endorsed healthcare executive Angie Craig in their state convention, and she was unopposed in Tuesday’s primary. Craig has already raised more than $2.5 million, dwarfing the Republican dollars. She is a formidable open-seat candidate and must be given the favorite’s designation at least in the early part of the November contest.
Last night’s Republican winner, scoring 49 percent against three opponents, is conservative radio talk show host Jason Lewis, who won the official party endorsement at the state convention. His official Republican Party blessing did not deter his GOP opponents, however, as all forced the primary contest.
Manufacturing company executive Darlene Miller was second with 30 percent, and former state Sen. John Howe, who had approximately $800,000 in campaign funding – most of which was self-contributed – captured 15 percent, ahead of only Tea Party activist’s Matthew Erickson’s 7 percent all from a small turnout of just under 25,000 voters.
Lewis is the most conservative of the major Republican candidates, and was spurred by a strong grassroots organization. He will have his work cutout for him in the general election, however, from a district that will likely support Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign. MN-2 is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.
Reps. Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul) and Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) topped the 90 percent mark in defeating minor opponents. Freshman Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) recorded a 69 percent primary victory against two GOP opponents.
The only race of note on Tuesday’s ballot was the open Vermont governor’s race. As expected, former state transportation secretary and legislator Sue Minter scored a 51-38-9 percent win over former state Sens. Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith.
Minter will now face Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who recorded a 60-40 percent victory in the Republican primary. Despite Vermont’s strong Democratic nature, this race will be surprisingly competitive.
The other major congressional primary occurred in the open Green Bay/Appleton district, where three-term Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Sherwood) is retiring. Little suspense occurred in the GOP primary as foreign policy analyst and ex-congressional aide Mike Gallagher posted a 74 percent nomination win over state Sen. Frank Lasee and land surveyor Terry McNulty.
Gallagher will now face Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, who was unopposed on the Democratic side. The voting trend here suggests Gallagher will be the general election favorite, but this district elected a Democratic House member as recently as 2008.
Reps. Ron Kind (D-LaCrosse), Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), and Sean Duffy all faced minor opposition and each topped 80 percent of the vote.