By Jim Ellis
Aug. 10, 2016 — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) won re-nomination easily in his Wisconsin district by a margin of 84-16 percent. Businessman Paul Nehlen (R), a first-time candidate who made immigration and trade policies the centerpiece of his campaign, opposed him.
Nehlen had attracted a great deal of local and national attention, particularly when regularly holding events in front of Ryan’s Janesville home. The congressman countered with running positive television ads, using his extreme financial advantage to his benefit, never advertising that he is the Speaker of the House, and relying upon a strong connection with his district Republican voters who have nine times nominated and elected him to the House.
Ryan raised almost $15 million and spent $8 million through July 20, but determining actual re-election expenditures versus national political commitments and expenses is difficult at this point. By contrast, Nehlen had raised and spent close to $900,000 through the same date, a very respectable amount for a challenger to a top House leader.
Turning to northeastern Wisconsin, Rep. Reid Ribble’s (R-Sherwood/Green Bay) open 8th District voters also chose nominees. Democrats have coalesced around Outagamie (Appleton) County Executive Tom Nelson, who is unopposed in the party primary. Already raising just over $600,000, Nelson will be a competitive general election factor in a district that has five times elected a Democrat since 1974.
The Republican primary features three candidates, but the race came down to being between two. Foreign policy analyst Mike Gallagher (R) scored major endorsements, including that of retiring incumbent Ribble, and had three times the cash of his opponent, state Sen. Frank Lasee (R). Land surveyor Terry McNulty (R) was a minor candidate.
Reps. Ron Kind (D-LaCrosse), Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee), and Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) each faced only a minor primary opponent.
Virtually nothing was at stake in the Connecticut primary as state conventions already had chosen federal nominees for both parties.
Nothing looks particularly competitive for the fall either, though all incumbents have major party challengers. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), running for a second term, will face state Rep. Dan Carter (R) in the general election.
All five House incumbents: Reps. John Larson (D-Hartford), Joe Courtney (D-Vernon/East Connecticut), Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven), Jim Himes (D-Cos Cob), and Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire) are all seeking re-election and each will have little trouble winning in November.
With no Minnesota Senate race on the ballot this year, the major primary battle occured in retiring Rep. John Kline’s (R-Burnsville) 2nd District. Though Kline has had relatively little trouble winning re-election during his incumbency tenure, the south Minneapolis suburban district is highly competitive territory.
Democrats have already coalesced around and nominated in convention healthcare executive Angie Craig, who raised more than $2.5 million before the July 20 pre-primary financial disclosure reporting period concluded. Craig has positioned herself as a strong general election candidate, and this open seat contest is a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.
Republicans had four candidates on the ballot, even though the state convention endorsed radio talk show host Jason Lewis. The other three candidates, former state Sen. John Howe, manufacturing executive Darlene Miller, and Tea Party activist Matt Erickson, all were vying for the party nomination in yesterday’s vote. In terms of finances, Howe raised the most money by far, closing in on the $800,000 mark, but Lewis had the strongest conservative grassroots operation. Lewis won, pulling in 49 percent of the vote, and will enter into the general election in the underdog position to Craig.
Reps. Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul), Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis), and Tom Emmer (R-Delano) all had minor primary opposition.
For the general election, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) faces a strong challenge from state Sen. Terri Bonoff (D) in the western Minneapolis suburbs, and the northeastern 8th District features a 2014 campaign re-match between Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) and businessman Stewart Mills (R). Two years ago, Nolan survived re-election by a slim 48-47 perent margin.
While this primary brought no federal intrigue, the open governor’s race was a campaign of interest. Four Democrats and two Republicans competed for their respective party nominations.
For the Dems, former state Transportation Secretary Sue Minter faced two ex-state legislators, Matt Dunne and Peter Galbraith. She prevailed handily, scoring a 51-38-9 percent win. Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and retired investment banker Bruce Lisman were the Republican candidates, and Scott won, 60-40 percent.
Despite Vermont’s liberal nature, the gubernatorial general election will be a competitive affair, particularly since Scott is already a statewide incumbent.
Neither Sen. Pat Leahy (D) nor at-large Rep. Peter Welch (D-Norwich) had primary opposition. Sen. Leahy will face business owner Scott Milne (R) in the general election. Rep. Welch has only a minor party opponent.