Another Big Primary Day

By Jim Ellis

Controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) faces a primary challenge today by attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D).

Aug. 11, 2020 — In addition to the Georgia runoff elections, which we covered yesterday, today we see five states holding their regular state primary. Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin are all choosing their nominees for the Fall.


CONNECTICUT

With no Senate or governor’s race on the ballot this year, votes are being cast to select the general election candidates in the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts. Reps. John Larson (D-Hartford), Joe Courtney (D-Vernon), Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven), and Jim Himes (D-Cos Cob) look safe for re-election as they have each won multiple terms.

Freshman Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Wolcott) in the 5th District is also a heavy favorite for re-election but retired federal prosecutor David X. Sullivan (R) is a credible candidate in a district that could elect a Republican under the right circumstances. This year, however, doesn’t appear to yield such a positive atmosphere for the GOP. Sullivan has raised over $230,000, but that won’t be near enough to run a strong campaign against Rep. Hayes. The first-term congresswoman is the top fundraiser in Connecticut with $1.33 million in receipts through June 30.


MINNESOTA

Former representative Jason Lewis (R) is vying for the opportunity of challenging first-term Sen. Tina Smith (D) and is a likely winner tonight over four lightly regarded Republican opponents. Lewis will be a clear underdog against Sen. Smith, who won a 2018 special election with a 53-42 percent victory over what looked to be a strong challenge from GOP state Sen. Karin Housley. A recent Public Policy Polling survey (July 22-23; 1,218 Minnesota voters) found Sen. Smith leading Lewis, 48-39 percent.

The 1st District congressional race looks to be another hard-fought political battle. Here, we see a re-match between freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) and former Defense Department official Dan Feehan (D). In 2018, this contest was decided by a scant 50.1 – 49.7 percent percentage spread, a margin of just 1,315 votes.

Feehan leads the money chase with $2.3 million raised to the congressman’s $1.66 million through the July 22 pre-primary campaign finance disclosure deadline. Both will easily win re-nomination tonight, but a close finish here is a virtual certainty.

The race that will attract the most attention lies in the Minneapolis-anchored 5th District where the challenger to controversial Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis), attorney Antone Melton-Meaux (D), has raised almost as much money as the incumbent, $4.15 million to $4.28 million, and both had less than $1 million remaining in their accounts at the July 22 reporting deadline.

It is unlikely that Melton-Meaux will deny Rep. Omar re-nomination, but his percentage will be interesting to watch. His main mode of attack, while positioning himself clearly on the ideological left, underscores that Rep. Omar is much more interested in developing a national platform than she is in representing the local district.

In the northwestern 7th District, Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) runs for a 16th term and looks to face a competitive general election contest in America’s most pro-Trump district that a Democrat represents.

Former lieutenant governor and ex-state Senate president Michelle Fischbach looks to have the inside track for the MN-7 Republican nomination tonight. She faces self-funding physician Noel Collis, who is running an aggressive TV campaign, and David Hughes, the 2016 and ’18 nominee who fared well against Rep. Peterson, holding him to 52 percent victory in both elections, but is a candidate who failed to raise the resources necessary to ever advance his campaign into the top tier. Should Fischbach prevail tonight, this will be an interesting general election campaign.

The other Minnesota incumbents, Reps. Angie Craig (D-Eagan), Dean Phillips (D-Deephaven), Betty McCollum (D-St. Paul), Tom Emmer (R-Delano), and Pete Stauber (R-Hermantown/Duluth) all appear as clear favorites for re-election in November.


SOUTH DAKOTA

Tonight’s election is uneventful in the Mount Rushmore State as Sen. Mike Rounds (R), seeking his second term after serving eight years as governor, is unopposed for re-nomination and faces only a minimal general election challenge from former state senator Dan Ahlers (D).

In the House, freshman at-large Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-Mitchell) is virtually guaranteed re-election. No Democrat or Republican filed against him, and he will face only Libertarian candidate Randy Luallin in the Fall campaign.


VERMONT

The governor’s race is the most interesting campaign on the 2020 Vermont ballot. Here, Gov. Phil Scott (R) seeks a third two-year term. He faces three minor Republican candidates tonight, while the general election could turn into a three-way affair.

In the Democratic primary, five candidates compete for the nomination, but the race is really between Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and former state education secretary Rebecca Holcombe. Zuckerman, however, can also run under the Vermont Progressive Party ballot line, so even if he fails in the Democratic primary, he may still be a force in the general election. Gov. Scott is favored for re-election, but this general election will be competitive in what is often regarded as the most liberal state in the country.

In the lone House race, seven-term at-large Rep. Peter Welch (D-Norwich) faces a candidate who has already raised and spent over $500,000. Republican Jimmy Rodriguez, however, lives in Arizona; therefore, Rep. Welch is a cinch for re-election in the Fall.


WISCONSIN

With no Senate or governor’s race in Wisconsin this year, but a tough presidential campaign in which the result here could be determinative for one of the candidates, electorates in the state’s nine congressional races will designate their nominees.

Freshman Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Janesville) succeeded former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) and isn’t missing a beat on the fundraising circuit. At $2.54 million raised, he leads all Wisconsin congressional candidates from both parties in campaign receipts. Rep. Steil’s closest opponent is National Security analyst Roger Polack, but he lags more than $2 million behind in campaign resources. Rep. Steil is a strong favorite for re-election.

Veteran Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) is retiring after serving what will be 42 years in the House, making him second in current seniority behind only Alaska at-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon). The prohibitive favorite to win tonight and in November is state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who serves as the state Senate Majority Leader. It is surprising in a seat that has had so little competition for decades would feature a virtually non-competitive open seat, but that is the situation in this Milwaukee suburban district.

Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) won the special election to fill the unexpired portion of the current term in May, and he is unopposed in tonight’s primary. He will again face Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker (D) in November, the same individual he easily defeated in the special election. Rep. Tiffany, who succeeded resigned Rep. Sean Duffy (R), looks like a sure bet to win his first full term from Wisconsin’s expansive northwest 7th District.

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