Wisconsin Democrat Randy Bryce, who rose to fame with a viral web video last year, won the party nomination Tuesday night in the 1st District race to succeed retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Bryce will now have to determine whether his hard-scrabble profile that brought him national recognition and a fundraising boom will help him win what has been a reliable Republican seat — or whether the GOP will adeptly use his legal troubles against him, and energize the conservative base in the southeastern Wisconsin district.
Bryce, who is also known by his Twitter handle “Iron Stache,” defeated Janesville school board member Cathy Myers in Tuesday’s primary. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, he led Myers 61 percent to 39 percent when The Associated Press called the race.
Bryce will next face former Ryan aide and University of Wisconsin Board of Regents member Bryan Steil, who won a six-way contest on the GOP side. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Steil had 51 percent of the vote.
Myers had invoked Bryce’s previous failure to pay child support as well as his past arrests to argue that he was not a good candidate for the general election. Bryce has apologized for his past and his campaign noted that voters were more interested in how he would fight for them in Congress.
Myers had also been counting on female voters to propel her to victory, but her own fundraising and advertisements were not enough to overcome Bryce, who has been airing television ads in the district for the last six months.
While Bryce has still been able to rake in money, he may not be able to continue raising eye-popping amounts without Ryan on the ballot to energize Democrats looking to take down the most powerful Republican in the House. But the open-seat race also means he will not have to contend with Ryan’s multimillion-dollar war chest.
Steil’s campaign had $631,000 on hand at the end of the pre-primary reporting period on July 25, compared to nearly $1.7 million for Bryce.
The 1st District could be the Democrats’ best target in the Badger State. President Donald Trump carried it by 10 points in 2016, but that was his smallest winning margin among the five GOP-held House seats in Wisconsin. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Leans Republican.
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The Associated Press has not yet called a winner in the primary to take on Duffy between Navy veteran Margaret Engebretson and physician Brian Ewert. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.
In the 6th District, Dan Kohl, the former assistant general manager for the professional basketball team in Milwaukee, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Kohl, the nephew of former Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, has outraised Grothman in a few fundraising quarters. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.
Republicans also have a House target in Wisconsin: Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in the 3rd District. Army veteran Steve Toft ran unopposed in the GOP primary Tuesday night. Inside Elections rates the 3rd District race Solid Democratic.
Teacher Jahana Hayes has won the Democratic nod in Connecticut’s 5th District, defeating the party-endorsed candidate and setting her up to be the likely new member from the safe Democratic seat next year.
With 44 percent of precincts reporting, Hayes led 2006 lietunant governor nominee Mary Glassman 60 percent to 41 percent, when The Associated Press called the race.
Hayes is poised to become the first African-American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress. Running with the backing of organized labor, she is expected to add a progressive voice to the House Democratic Caucus.
Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty opted to vacate the western Connecticut seat after coming under criticism for her handling of a former top aide who was accused of sexually harassing and threatening a staffer.
Glassman had the baking of the state party. A former first selectman of Simsbury in suburban Hartford, she was also endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Hayes was encouraged to run by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Christopher S. Murphy and had support from Africa-American members of Congress, including California Sen. Kamala Harris and Louisiana Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The 2016 national teacher of the year, Hayes had the backing of organized labor groups such as the Service Employee International Union, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.
Esty narrowly won the seat in 2012, but was comfortably re-elected in 2014 and 2016. Hillary Clinton carried the district by 4 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Solid Democratic.
Former state Rep. Joe Randinovich has won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor nomination in Minnesota’s 8th District, which, if the past two cycles are any indication, could be among the most expensive House races this fall.
With 62 percent of precincts reporting, Radinovich led the five-person field with 47 percent of the vote, when The Associated Press called the race.
DFL incumbent Rick Nolan is not running for re-election. After announcing his retirement, he joined a last-minute gubernatorial ticket as the lieutenant governor nominee, but came up short Tuesday night.
Radinovich was Nolan’s 2016 campaign manager. He will face Pete Stauber, who ran with the GOP’s endorsement and easily won his primary Tuesday. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.
A former Duluth police officer and hockey player, Stauber is regarded as a top recruit for Republicans this cycle. President Donald Trump already held a rally for him in June, and Vice President Mike Pence was in the district fundraising for him last week.
This is one district in this year’s midterm landscape where Trump’s strong support could actually be beneficial to the GOP nominee. The president carried the northeast Minnesota district, which includes the mining region known as the Iron Range, by 16 points in 2016, while Nolan won re-election by just half a point. Trump on Monday reiterated his support for Stauber on Twitter.
On a map where Republicans are mostly playing defense, national operatives view this race as a top pickup opportunity. Having avoided a divisive primary, Stauber starts with a cash advantage. He ended the pre-primary reporting period on July 25 with $479,000 in the bank to Radinovich’s $60,000.
But outside groups on both sides of the aisle have already reserved millions of dollars of TV airtime here for the fall, signifying that neither party is going to give up on this race without a fight. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the House majority, so losing this seat would increase the number of seats they need to pick up.
The fight over copper-nickel mining, which has divided the DFL, is likely to be a major issue in this race. Stauber is a strong proponent. Radinovich is open to copper-nickel mining, saying he believes it can be done safely. But Republicans are likely going to try to tie Radinovich to elements of the party that oppose mining. The Democrat most recently served as chief of staff to the Minneapolis mayor, opening him up to criticism of being too allied with metropolitan interests in the Twin Cities.
Although not on the ballot in the 8th District, Nolan could also be a factor in this race with Republicans looking to tie Radinovich to his former boss. The congressman’s reputation has soured in recent weeks for mishandling allegations of sexual harassment against a former top aide.
Radinovich is from Crosby, Nolan’s hometown, and he’s using most of the same consultants who traditionally worked on his former boss’ congressional campaigns. Radinovich’s first TV ad touted him as a top aide to Nolan and a super PAC that dropped $175,000 on pro-Radinovich mailers linked him to the congressman.
But media reports about Radinovich’s role in handling the sexual harassment allegations against the former Nolan staffer have made him look better than the congressman. When he found out about the accusations against the staffer — who’d been let go from Nolan’s official staff and brought on to the campaign — he fired him. Women involved in the sexual harassment allegations in Nolan’s office reached out to the Duluth News Tribune to defend Randinovich.
Radinovich’s latest ad doesn’t mention the congressman and is instead focused on “Medicare for All” and a campaign finance overhaul.
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State Sen. Leah Vukmir won Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary in Wisconsin, notching a victory for the state GOP. Vukmir’s win sets up another opportunity for Wisconsin Republicans to take down one of the last remaining high-profile Democrats in the state.
Vukmir led Marine veteran and businessman Kevin Nicholson 54 percent to 40 percent, when The Associated Press called the race with 56 percent of precincts reporting. She will now take on vulnerable incumbent Tammy Baldwin, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein dumped millions on behalf of Nicholson, which raised questions whether such outside money would come in for Vukmir if she won. Republicans appear to be attempting to quell any concerns about party divisions by hosting a unity fundraiser Friday featuring both Uihlein and Diane Hendricks, a billionaire businesswoman who supported Vukmir.
The Wisconsin Senate race has attracted nearly $18 million in outside spending, the most of any Senate race so far, according to OpenSecrets.org. Along with the millions spent in the GOP primary, several million have also been spent attacking Baldwin.
The challenge for Vukmir is whether she can raise her own money to compete with Baldwin’s sizable war chest. A campaign with its own fortune can be an asset even if there is a deluge of outside spending, since candidates get better rates on television advertisements.
Baldwin had $6.7 million in cash on hand at the end of the pre-primary reporting period on July 25, according to her campaign. Vukmir ended the same period with $430,000 in the bank.
Another key question following the primary is whether the national GOP will be involved in the race. Republicans largely abandoned Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s re-election campaign in 2016, but he ended up scoring a surprising win that fall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in various media interviews has noticeably not named Wisconsin as a top race this cycle.
The conservative Club for Growth Action did assist Johnson in 2016, and backed Nicholson in the primary. David McIntosh, the president of CFG Action Wisconsin, said recently that the group would still direct its donors to Vukmir if she won, but he was not sure if it would endorse her.
National Republicans are expecting the Wisconsin Senate race to pick up. One GOP operative involved in Senate races deemed it the “most underrated race of the cycle so far.”
Republicans see Baldwin as a prime target because of some of her more liberal positions. She is the only Democrat running in a state that President Donald Trump won who signed on as a co-sponsor of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill. (Trump carried the Badger State by 1 point in 2016, the first GOP presidential nominee to do so since 1984.)
Republicans also note the strength of the state party, which scored another victory Tuesday with Vukmir’s win. Vukmir had the Wisconsin GOP’s endorsement as well as support from the state’s Republican congressional delegation, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Baldwin has said she intends to continue to focus on her work combating the opioid crisis and supporting American industries. She frequently touts her “Buy America” legislation, which would require that federal infrastructure projects use American steel and other materials.
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State Rep. Ilhan Omar is the likely new member from Minnesota's 5th District, setting her up to be the first Somali-American in Congress.
With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Omar led the six-way Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party field with 48 percent of the vote, when The Associated Press called the race.
Omar ran with the endorsement of the 5th District DFL in the Minneapolis-based seat. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Solid Democratic.
If she wins in November, as expected, Omar would also be one of first Muslim-American women in Congress. (Michigan’s Rashid Tlaib won the Democratic primary in Michigan’s heavily Democratic 13th District last week, and she faces no GOP opposition in November.)
Omar would bring a progressive voice to the Democratic Caucus. She was endorsed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and several major Democratic organizations such as MoveOn.org, Our Revolution and Women Winning
Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison chose not to run for re-election and to instead seek the DFL nod for state attorney general. The vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Ellison is facing accusations of abuse from a former girlfriend, which he has denied.
Jeff Cirillo contributed to this report.
As more Democratic candidates say they will not support keeping Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader next year, President Donald Trump is urging them to reconsider.
“Democrats, please do not distance yourselves from Nancy Pelosi,” Trump tweeted Friday evening. “She is a wonderful person whose ideas & policies may be bad, but who should definitely be given a 4th chance. She is trying very hard & has every right to take down the Democrat Party if she has veered too far left!”
The sarcasm-dripping tweet aside, Trump’s interest in Democrats backing the House minority leader is likely genuine. One of House Republicans’ primary campaign tactics has been to use Pelosi as a boogeywoman of sorts, trying to tie Democratic hopefuls to her. The California Democrat, like most congressional leaders, has low national approval ratings.
Many Democratic candidates have refused to back Pelosi for speaker if their party takes control of the House in November. NBC News on Friday released a list of 51 such candidates and incumbents who have said they will not support Pelosi.
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Trump’s reference to a fourth chance is about Democrats trying to take back the House. Since losing their majority to the GOP in 2010, Democrats have failed to regain control for three straight election cycles — 2012, 2014 and 2016.
The 2016 loss was particularly troubling for House Democrats, and anti-Pelosi fervor within the party grew. But she still won her race for minority leader that November against Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan by a roughly 2-to-1 margin.
A speaker’s race would be a different animal, however, because not only would Pelosi need majority support from the House Democratic Caucus, she would need a majority of the House to vote to elect her speaker on the floor.
With her unlikely to get any Republican votes, Pelosi would need to hope that some of the Democrats who have said they won’t support her could be convinced to back her in a floor vote.
The Senate will attempt to pass the two biggest spending bills of the year in one fell swoop. Consideration of the Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills could begin this week (senators are expected back on Wednesday).
CQ’s Kellie Mejdrich explains why the package could prove to be a heavy lift.