Update 292 — August 14 Primary Results: Signs of Reversion to the Norm in the Midwest
One of the central themes of this year’s Democratic midterm primaries continues to be the establishment candidate versus the progressive outsider. Although progressive candidates had an impressive showing this week, the more “establishment” candidate has generally come out on top in head-to-head contests with an insurgent.
Per FiveThirtyEight, “in [Democratic primary] races where a party-endorsed candidate ran against a progressive-group-endorsed candidate (excluding any races where a candidate was endorsed by both sides), the party-endorsed candidate won 89 percent of the time.”
There is little doubt the next Congress will include a notably larger caucus of economic policy progressive Democrats, as the results of yesterday’s voting in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin show. More on these races below.
CT-05: Hayes v. Santos
- 2016 Pres. Election: Clinton 50/Trump 46
- 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 54/Romney 45
- 2016 House: Esty (D) 58/Cope (R) 42
- Cook PVI: D+2
Democratic incumbent Rep. Elizabeth Esty announced she would not seek re-election in the heavily Democratic CT-05, following a scandal involving her chief of staff. Former Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman and 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes faced off for the Democratic nomination to replace her, with Hayes came out on top, winning 62 to 38 percent. The establishment candidate Glassman was endorsed by the Connecticut Democratic Party, whereas the progressive candidate Hayes was endorsed by the Working Families Party, as well as Sen. Kamala Harris. In fact, Sen. Chris Murphy encouraged Hayes to join the race a few months ago, long after Glassman had already joined. Hayes supports a single-payer healthcare system and ran on a platform of emphasizing high quality public education.
MN-01: Feehan v. Hagedorn
- 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 53/Clinton 38
- 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 50/Romney 48
- 2016 House: Walz (D) 50/Hagedorn (R) 50
- Cook PVI: R+5
Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party incumbent Rep. Tim Walz is vacating his MN-01 seat to run for Governor, leaving an open seat in a district that Trump won by 15 points and Obama narrowly won in both 2008 and 2012 . Yesterday, the DFL party nominated former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Iraq war veteran Dan Feehan to face businessman and former U.S. Treasury official Jim Hagedorn in November. The DFL will most likely prevail. Hagedorn has tried (and failed) to win this seat three times already. Economically, Feehan campaigned on emphasizing expansion of Medicare and increasing investment in education and vocational training.
MN-02: Craig v. Rep. Lewis
- 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 47/Clinton 45
- 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 49/Romney 49
- 2016 House: Lewis (R) 47/Craig (D) 45
- Cook PVI: R+2
Angie Craig, the 2016 DFL candidate for this seat, ran unopposed in this year’s primary. She will face Rep. Jason Lewis in November in a rematch of 2016. Having only lost by two percentage points in 2016 and with the force of the blue wave behind her, Craig has a chance to defeat Rep. Lewis, who has a long history of making misogynistic comments and is known as Minnesota’s mini-Trump. Regardless, it will be a close race as Lewis remains popular in the district. Craig is an openly LGBTQ candidate who works in healthcare and is running on an economic platform based on creating new jobs, investing in infrastructure, and fixing the affordable care act.
MN-03: Phillips v. Rep. Paulsen
- 2016 Pres. Election: Clinton 51/Trump 41
- 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 50/Romney 49
- 2016 House: Paulsen (R) 57/Bonoff (D) 43
- Cook PVI: D+1
MN-03 is considered one of the races that Democrats need to win to take back the house in November. In the DFL primary, businessman Dean Phillips, a member of the DCCCs red-to-blue program, handily beat his closest primary challenger with 82 percent of the vote. The district offers a test for longtime incumbent, Ways and Means member, and Joint Economic Committee Chairman Erik Paulsen. While Paulsen has been in office since 2008 and the district has been a Republican stronghold since the 1960’s, he is known for “absenteeism” in the district. Phillips advocates for campaign finance reform, healthcare for all Americans, and more economic security for women by closing the wage gap. Phillips has the best chance to flip the seat in decades.
MN-08: Radinovich v. Stauber
- 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 54/Clinton 39
- 2012 Pres. Election: Obama 52/Romney 46
- 2016 House: Nolan (D) 50/Mills (R) 50
- Cook PVI: R+4
In MN-08, former state Rep. Joe Radinovich emerged victorious in yesterday’s DFL primary, beating the next closest candidate, former TV news anchor, Michelle Lee, 44 to 27 percent. In a district Obama carried by 6 points and Trump by 15, Radinovich will now face a tough race against GOP challenger and Trump-endorsed, Pete Stauber. Democrat Rep. Rick Nolan has held the seat since 2013, but his decision to run for lieutenant governor puts it at-risk in November. Radinovich has a strong policy background from his time in the state legislature and has an economic platform that includes support for debt free tuition at two-year colleges, student debt relief, Medicare-for-All, support for trade unions, and increased infrastructure funding for the district.
Senate: Sen. Tammy Baldwin v. Leah Vukmir
Sen. Tammy Baldwin will face off against State Senator Leah Vukmir in a race that could decide the makeup of the Senate. Early in the campaign cycle, Sen. Baldwin was the main target of both the Koch Brothers and Richard Uihlein who spent more money against Baldwin than on all of the other races combined. Sen. Baldwin and Gov. Walker’s “battle of the principles” will be a large factor in the Senate race. The goal of both sides will be to turn out their respective bases and try to persuade a small amount of crossover voters. Sen. Baldwin is a good bet for re-election in this contest.
WI-01: Bryce v. Steil (Speaker Ryan’s Seat)
- 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 52/Clinton 42
- 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 52/Obama 47
- 2016 House: Ryan (R) 65/Solen (D) 30
- Cook PVI: R+5
WI-01, currently occupied by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, is one of the competitive districts in Wisconsin. In a district that includes cities such as ultra-conservative Waukesha and more liberal Janesville, Ryan’s handpicked successor Ryan Steil, a local well-known businessman, will take on one of the most prolific progressive challengers — local ironworker and union organizer “Ironstache” Randy Bryce. Bryce brings a populist, Bernie-esque, message to WI-01. He advocates a “living wage”, Medicare-for-All, and increased investment in organized labor. Flipping WI-01 would not only constitute a change in party, but a monumental shift in Wisconsin’s politics, from conservative Speaker Ryan to progressive beacon Randy Bryce.
WI-06: Kohl v. Rep. Grothman
- 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 56/Clinton 39
- 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 53/Obama 46
- 2016 House: Grothman (R) 57/Lloyd (D) 37
- Cook PVI: R+8
The Kohl’s are back. After former Sen. Herb Kohl retired in 2012 to be replaced by Sen. Baldwin, Wisconsin was without a Kohl in Congress for the first time since 1989. Dan Kohl, nephew of former Sen. Kohl, will challenge Rep. Glenn Grothman for the Fox River Valley seat held by the GOP since 1967. Kohl represents a credible chance to defeat Rep. Grothman with the help of the Kohl fortune and a politically moderate plan. A new addition to the DCCC’s red-to-blue list, Kohl advocates the same kind of policies as his uncle, including fixing the Affordable Care Act, opposition to the GOP tax scam, and addressing the harsh budget cuts of recent years.
WI-07: Engebretson v. Rep. Duffy
- 2016 Pres. Election: Trump 58/Clinton 37
- 2012 Pres. Election: Romney 51/Obama 48
- 2016 House: Duffy (R) 62/Hoeft (D) 38
- Cook PVI: R+8
In WI-07, Rep. Sean Duffy will face Margaret Engbretson, an attorney and former Navy veteran, who beat Dr. Brian Ewert in the Democratic primary, 57 to 42 percent. Both Engebretson and Ewert were considered progressive candidates. WI-07 offers a strong mix of typically Democratic organized labor areas and rural, socially conservative counties. The northernmost district in Wisconsin, it has been a puzzle for Democrats since longtime Democratic Rep. Dave Obey retired before the red wave of 2010. Engebretson took a page out of the Sen. Sanders playbook, advocating for Medicare-for-All, increasing the minimum wage and expansion of social security.
Every week, more and more races are shifting from Republican-leaning to toss-ups or worse. In January, 20 GOP-held seats were rated as toss-ups or worse by Cook Political. Seven months later, this number has increased to 37 GOP-held seats that are now toss-ups, lean D, or likely D.