5 Takeaways From the Minnesota, Wisconsin and Connecticut Primaries

Democrats celebrate likely firsts while GOP women have a mixed night

Pete Stauber, here at a June rally in Duluth, Minn., easily captured the GOP nomination Tuesday night in Minnesota’s 8th District, which is likely to see one of the most expensive races in the country again. (Scott Olson/Getty Images file photo)

Tuesday’s primary action in the Upper Midwest and New England set the fall matchups in a handful of key House races and one competitive Senate contest. 

Here are five key takeaways from those results:

1. A good night for Democratic diversity

Connecticut is likely sending its first-elected African-American Democrat to Congress next year in Jahana Hayes. The 2016 national teacher of the year won the Democratic nod in the open 5th District, a safe Democratic seat. She defeated the party-endorsed candidate who’d been backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Hayes ran with the support of organized labor and will likely be a progressive voice in the House Democratic Caucus.

And in Minnesota, state Rep. Ilhan Omar is poised to become the first Somali-American elected to Congress. She won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor nomination for the open 5th District, another safe Democratic seat. She’s also likely to be among the first Muslim women in Congress.

2. Outside groups: Start your engines

Former state Rep. Joe Radinovich’s victory in the DFL primary in Minnesota’s 8th District makes it likely that the race for this Iron Range seat will once again be among one of the most expensive in the country. Radinovich, the former campaign manager to retiring Rep. Rick Nolan, will face Pete Stauber, a top recruit for Republicans, who already has President Donald Trump firmly in his corner. Having avoided a competitive primary, Stauber starts with a significant cash-on-hand advantage, but outside groups on both sides of the aisle have already reserved millions of dollars of airtime in the district, which attracted upward of $15 million of outside spending in 2016.

3. Another loss for House GOP women

Perennial candidate Jim Hagedorn overwhelmingly won the GOP nomination for Minnesota’s 1st District, defeating state Sen. Carla Nelson. Republican women in Congress, including National Republican Congressional Committee recruitment chairwoman Elise Stefanik, had backed Nelson against male Republican lawmakers, including NRCC deputy chairman Tom Emmer, who stuck with Hagedorn. Some national Republican operatives are concerned Hagedorn’s past derogatory comments about women could come back to haunt the party this year in what could be a GOP pickup opportunity.

Watch: No More Blue Wave Metaphors, 2018 Is About Too Many GOP Fires

4. But a win for Senate GOP women

In Wisconsin, state Sen. Leah Vukmir won the Republican Senate nomination, becoming the only female GOP challenger to any of the 10 Senate Democrats running in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016. Vukmir, who had the Wisconsin Republican Party’s endorsement, handily defeated Marine veteran and businessman Kevin Nicholson, reinforcing the state GOP’s reputation as an effective operation. She will face vulnerable Democratic incumbent Tammy Baldwin in November. 

5. Money still talks — or does it?

A fundraising surge helped Randy Bryce secure the Democratic nod in Wisconsin’s 1st District. “Iron Stache” had 10 times as much cash on hand as primary opponent Cathy Myers going into the final weeks of the race. And his cash-rich campaign allowed him to begin airing television ads in the district in March, likely boosting his name recognition.

But in the GOP Senate race, millions of dollars in outside spending was not enough to propel Nicholson to victory. Vukmir did have a billionaire backer, Diane Hendricks, whose super PAC spent nearly $3 million in the primary according to ProPublica. But that figure paled in comparison to the more than $10 million spent for Nicholson by groups funded by GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein.

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