Michels Wins Wisconsin GOP Governor Primary, Will Face Evers
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Tim Michels, a wealthy businessman endorsed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican primary for Wisconsin governor on Tuesday and will face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in a contest that could reshape elections in the marquee battleground.
Michels defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence and had backing from establishment Republicans, including ex-Gov. Scott Walker.
In his victory speech, Michels said the race will be about “standing up for the hardworking people of Wisconsin. They have been left behind by the Democratic Party that just wants to focus on the social issues.” He promised to focus on jobs and the economy.
Evers’ campaign called Michels “the most extreme and divisive nominee possible, one that will tell Donald Trump anything just to keep his endorsement.
Both Michels and Kleefisch falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged, a lie Trump has pushed in an effort to overturn his loss to Joe Biden. Michels said decertifying the results of the 2020 contest was not a priority but said “everything will be on the table.” He supports other changes to voting and elections, including dismantling the bipartisan commission that runs Wisconsin elections.
The governor’s race was the latest proxy war between Trump and Pence, one-time partners who have backed opposing candidates in other swing states as they try to push the GOP in different directions.
The primary comes a day after FBI agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
In the Democratic Senate primary, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes won the nomination to face Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters, after Barnes’ top rivals dropped out of the race late last month. The matchup is among the last to be set before the November general election, when control of the currently 50-50 split Senate is up for grabs, and Democrats see Wisconsin as one of their best opportunities to flip a seat.
Wisconsin’s most powerful Republican, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, held off a Trump-backed challenger. Trump endorsed Adam Steen after Vos rejected the former president’s pressure to decertify the 2020 results. Vos said his victory showed “you don’t have to be a lapdog to whatever Donald Trump says.”
Tuesday’s outcomes have far-reaching consequences beyond Wisconsin, a state that is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and where 2022 will be seen as a bellwether for the 2024 presidential race. The person elected governor this fall will be in office for the presidential election and will be able to sign or veto changes to election laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The next governor and U.S. senator also may sway decisions on issues from abortion to education and taxes.
“We’re a 50-50 state and so every race in Wisconsin, just by definition, is going to be decided by a few percentage points one way or another,” said former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. “And those few percentage points in Wisconsin may well determine what the course of the nation is in the coming years.”
Elsewhere Tuesday, a Trump-backed candidate won the GOP primary for Senate in Connecticut, a state that’s long been home to the Republican establishment. Republican National Committee member Leora Levy, whom Trump endorsed last week, will face two-term Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal after she defeated former state House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, who had support from the state party. Voters in Vermont — the only state to never have a woman in its congressional delegation — chose a woman, Becca Balint, as the Democratic nominee for the state’s lone House seat. She is favored in the race to replace Rep. Peter Welch, who won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat long held by Patrick Leahy, who is retiring. And Minnesota Republicans chose Dr. Scott Jensen, a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic endorsed by the state GOP, to face Gov. Tim Walz.