Contentious Races, Numerous Candidates Define August’s Second Super Tuesday

August 5, 2022 by Dan McCue
Contentious Races, Numerous Candidates Define August’s Second Super Tuesday
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Themis Klarides, speaks during the State Republican Convention, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Mashantucket, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

WASHINGTON — There will be no shortage of names on the ballots in four states as 2022’s elongated primary season continues.

Some of the contests have already taken unexpected twists and turns and all, on some level, will be a measure of how Democratic voters are responding to several recent controversial decisions by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, and which Republican party, Donald Trump’s or the establishment’s will flex its muscles this year.

A breakdown of some of the key contests follows:

Connecticut

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is not facing any primary challengers this year, but a new Republican poll released ahead of Tuesday’s GOP primary for the seat suggests the two-term incumbent may be vulnerable.


Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., questions Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)

The survey, conducted by nationally known Republican pollster John McLaughlin, says Blumenthal would defeat former House Republican leader Themis Klarides 45%-34%, and Greenwich fundraiser Leora Levy, who just picked up former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, 45%-33%. 

Currently, Klarides and Levy appear to be the top two Republican candidates vying to challenge Blumenthal in the fall. The third GOP candidate is Fairfield immigration lawyer Peter Lumaj.

The numbers are consistent with a News 8/The Hill/Emerson College poll conducted in May, which, depending on the Republican candidate, had Blumenthal ahead anywhere from 10 to 16 percentage points.

But the poll, which was released Thursday, also included some hopeful nuggets for Republicans. 

Asked if they would vote to reelect Blumental, only 41% of likely voters said they would, while 47% said they would prefer to see “someone new” in his position.

In addition, while 49% of survey participants said they view Blumenthal favorably, 41% said they view him unfavorably.

Blumenthal began his political career as a U.S. Attorney for Connecticut from 1977 to 1981 before heading to the state’s House of Representatives from 1984 to 1987. 

From there, he moved to the state Senate from 1987 to 1990 and worked as a volunteer attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 

Perhaps his most noteworthy accomplishment in electoral politics is being elected to serve as Connecticut’s attorney general five separate times.

Themis Klaridis is the GOP convention-endorsed candidate running in Tuesday’s primary.

She was first elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1998. From 2014 to 2020, Klarides was the first woman to hold the House Republican leader position in Connecticut’s history. 

In April 2020, she announced she would not be seeking a 12th term, and instead would run for governor this year. But in January, having still not filed her paperwork for that race, she changed course and said she would run against Blumenthal, calling him the poster boy for everything that ails Washington, D.C.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Leora Levy, right, talks with delegates at the State Republican Convention, Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Mashantucket, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Leora Levy has positioned herself as the “America first” candidate in the race and aligned herself with former president Donald Trump — who endorsed her on Thursday.

She wasn’t always in his camp, however. Early in the 2016 presidential primary season, Levy was an ardent supporter of Jeb Bush. She even wrote a Greenwich Time opinion piece in which she called Trump “vulgar” and “ill-mannered.”

But once Trump got the nomination, Levy, a former commodities trader who turned to philanthropy, worked hard for him and raised significant funds for his campaign.

Trump rewarded her with a nomination to be his ambassador to Chile, but the then Republican-controlled Senate never voted on her confirmation.

The third contender in the Republican primary on Tuesday is Peter Lumaj, who escaped communist Albania in 1989 and became a lawyer.

Lumaj previously attempted a run for the U.S. Senate seat as a Republican in 2012  but was not endorsed by the party, which chose Linda McMahon instead. 

In 2014, Lumaj ran for secretary of state against incumbent Democrat Denise Merrill and the Green Party’s Mike DeRosa. Merrill won the election.

In 2018, Lumaj attempted a bid to run as a Republican in the gubernatorial race. But his hopes were dashed once again at the GOP convention that May, when he failed to receive enough delegates to get on the ballot for that year’s primary. 

The other federal level primary on Tuesday is in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Jim Himes.

While Himes has no Democratic challenger, two candidates are vying for the chance to run against him in November. The first is GOP-convention endorsed Jayme Stevenson. She served more than ten years as Darien’s first selectman.

The second is Michael Goldstein. Goldstein’s career experience includes working as a physician and as an attorney

Vermont

The impending retirement of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who is leaving the Senate at the end of his eighth term, has led to a scramble among both Republicans and Democrats to replace him, with seven candidates hoping to get the job.

The Democrats looking to succeed Leahy are Isaac Evans-Frantz, a climate activist and political organizer, Nikki Thran, an ER physician, and Rep. Peter Welch.

Former Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan speaks at a news conference, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Newport, Vt. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring, File)

The Republican candidates are Army veteran and business consultant Gerald Malloy, former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan, and commercial banker Myers Mermel, who once ran for governor in New York State.

There is also a progressive running for the seat, Martha Abbott.

A University of New Hampshire poll released last week has Welch far in the lead among Democrats, garnering the support of 82% of participants, with Evans-Franz coming in at 6% and Thran at 1%.

As for the Republicans, Gerald Malloy led Christina Nolan 30% to 24% with Myers Mermel trailing at 3%. 

Tellingly, 42% of Republican voters said they were still undecided about who they would support.

Because Welch is running for Senate, several candidates are battling it out to take over his position as representative of Vermont’s At Large District in the House.


The Democrats competing in Tuesday’s primary are current Vermont Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, State Sen. Becca Balint, a former educator who is also the first openly gay person to serve as president pro tempore in the Vermont State Senate, and Dr. Louis Meyers, a primary care and hospital physician.

The Republican primary field consists of marketing and management executive Anya Tynio, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2018, Ericka Bundy Redic, an accountant and political activist, and Liam Madden, a Marine Corps. veteran and Independent who is running on the Republican ticket.

Another interesting primary to watch Tuesday is the one that will determine November’s contest for governor.

Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who leads one of the most Democratic states in the nation, is seeking re-election, but he’s facing two challengers on Tuesday from his own party.

One is Stephen Bellows, a landscaping contractor; the other is Peter Duval, a sailing instructor. Both are political novices running in their first campaigns.

As for the Democrats, Brenda Siegel, a one-time intern for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and now a small business owner, is running unopposed for the party’s nomination.

Wisconsin

Both parties have difficult and expensive primaries that will culminate on Tuesday night: Democrats for the chance to challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Republicans for the chance to unseat Democrat Gov. Tony Evers.

In this Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2022, photo, Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch participates in a round table discussion in Pewaukee, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

The three Republicans running for governor this year are former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who served eight years under then-Gov. Scott Walker; Tim Michels, who co-owns Michels Corp., a pipeline construction company; and state Assemblyman Tim Ramthun, who gained national attention by repeating false claims that large scale fraud tainted the 2020 election outcome.

Former President Trump has endorsed Michels, while former Vice President Mike Pence has endorsed Kleefisch.

Also jumping into the endorsement fray in Wisconsin is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who won the state’s presidential primary in 2016, and is also backing Kleefisch.

Meanwhile, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who briefly considered getting into the race himself, has endorsed Michaels.

Former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger formally enters the special election campaign in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District on Thursday, March 10, 2022. (Mark Zdechlik/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

While his opponents are getting all of the attention Ramthun is feigning unconcern. He’s told reporters the “silent majority” will vote for him.

While all this is going on in Republican circles, the Democratic incumbent has been busy on the campaign trail, already running full out for November, regardless of who his opponent is.

At a recent campaign stop in Madison, he warned voters that if one of the Republicans is elected, oversight over future elections could be turned over to state lawmakers.

“We will see elections change to the point where the Legislature makes the final decision and that should scare the living crap out of everybody in this room,” Evers said.

Despite his presence on the hustings, Wisconsin’s governor has largely stayed out of the state’s biggest primary contest — the one that will determine which Democrat faces vulnerable Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, and potentially flip the seat in a key swing state.

Evers has maintained it’d be wrong to weigh in on the contest, especially in light of his friendships with many of the candidates, and that he was looking forward to a “robust” primary.

But that could change this weekend, after three of the leading candidates in a large field suddenly dropped out of the race, seemingly clearing the field for Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who has served with Evers since they were both sworn in in January 2019.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, and Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski  were all early entrants into the race, and their abrupt departures stunned many.

Nelson, the first to announce his exit from the race on July 25, said his campaign simply ran out of money.

Shortly thereafter, Lasry and Godlewski dropped out and all three former candidates promptly endorsed Barnes.

Despite leaving the race, the names of all three departed candidates will still be on the ballot on Tuesday.

The other Democrats who remain in the race are Kou Lee, Peter Peckarsky, Steven Olikara and Darrell Williams. 

Minnesota

Primary Tuesday will also see a special election unfold in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, this one to replace the late GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February.

According to multiple reports out of the state, Republican farmer Brad Finstad is favored to win the race over Democrat Jeff Ettinger, the retired CEO of Hormel Foods, but many still see the contest as exceedingly close.

Finstad, the former USDA Rural Development state director, narrowly defeated Freedom Caucus-backed state Rep. Jeremy Munson in the May primary, 38% to 37%.

The problem for Finstad is Ettinger has proven to be a highly charismatic campaigner.

He’s also a self-styled pro-business moderate who led an iconic Minnesota brand before starting a local charitable foundation.

Republican former U.S Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad, of New Ulm, Minn., poses in this undated photo. (Mark Zdechlik/Minnesota Public Radio via AP)

In short, people just like that kind of guy. And recent polling has support for the candidates effectively tied when margins of error are taken into consideration.

In the state’s 7th Congressional District, Jill Abahsain and Alycia Gruenhagen are running for the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party nod. The winner of the primary will take on Republican incumbent Rep. Michelle Fischbach and Travis “Bull” Johnson, of Legal Marijuana Now.

The Minnesota governor and lieutenant governor seats are also being contested in Tuesday’s primary. 

Democratic voters will choose between incumbents Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan or Ole Savior and Julia Parker. 

As for the Republicans, there are three pairs of candidates running. They are Scott Jensen and Matt Birk; Joyce Lynne Lacey and Kent Edwards; and Bob “Again” Carney Jr. and Captain Jack Sparrow.


Others hoping to appear on the November ballot for governor and  lieutenant governor under the banner of the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis party are Darrell Paulsen and Ed Engelmann, and Steve Patterson and Matt Huff.

Running with the Legal Marijuana Now party are Chris Wright and L.C. Lawrence Converse, and James McCaskel and David Sandbeck.

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