News Guide: Primary election highlights


Published August 12, 2014 6:45PM (EDT)

Highlights from Tuesday's primary elections in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Connecticut.



In a midterm year where which party controls the U.S. Senate will headline Election Day, Tuesday's top race is Minnesota Republicans' choosing a candidate to face Democratic Sen. Al Franken in November.

Investment banker Mike McFadden muscled his way to the top of a crowded GOP field ahead of the primary, in part by arguing that he was the only candidate who could raise enough money to take on Franken.

After the party endorsed McFadden in May, the only credible challenger to stay in the race was state Rep. Jim Abeler, who ran a shoestring campaign from a reconditioned ambulance and raised only about $146,000. McFadden brought in $4.3 million.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce promised "aggressive" spending for McFadden when it endorsed him earlier this month, and the national party tapped McFadden to deliver its weekly radio address last Saturday.



The Republican rush to take on Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton was an outright stampede, with four major candidates running hard for the nomination and none a clear favorite.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson had the party's endorsement, which meant a presumed edge in the phone bank and door-knock operation that might mean victory in a low-turnout election.

Businessman Scott Honour had the money advantage and cast himself as the outsider with business acumen. Former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers pledged not to raise taxes and reminded voters he had battled with Dayton before. And former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert pursued a low-dollar strategy aimed at rural Minnesota.

Whoever emerges is likely to face a tough campaign against Dayton, who has scored well in approval polls and enjoys a state economy that's outperforming most of its neighbors. Dayton also can point to legislative achievements that include a minimum wage increase and legalized gay marriage.



Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is back on the ballot this fall, seeking re-election to an office he's already won twice — first in 2010, and again in a 2012 recall election. And if he wins in November, he could be on ballots again in 2016 as a candidate for president.

His likely opponent is former Trek Bicycles executive Mary Burke, who faces nominal competition from Brett Hulsey, a state lawmaker who raised almost no money for the campaign and was largely shunned by party leaders, donors and other office holders ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary.

The action on the GOP side of the ballot came in the race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Petri, who is retiring after 18 terms in office. Two state senators, Joe Leibham and Glenn Grothman, face a state representative, Duey Stroebel.

Leibham and Grothman are better-known, but Stroebel, a wealthy real estate developer, has spent heavily on television ads. A fourth candidate, retired technical college instructor Tom Denow, has been largely silent.



Rep. Michele Bachmann's retirement is a plum for the winner of the Republican primary — a perch in Minnesota's most conservative district that could last for years.

Tom Emmer, who lost the 2010 governor's race to Dayton by some 9,000 votes, jumped at the chance and was seen as a strong favorite.

Emmer raised more than $1 million, more than twice that of Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. Emmer has spent the past two years on conservative talk radio and is deeply conservative, but if elected isn't likely to generate the headlines Bachmann did.



Tom Foley, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush, has the GOP endorsement in his race against Senate Minority Leader John McKinney for the Republican nomination for Connecticut governor.

The winner will face Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, seeking a second term. Foley, 62, of Greenwich, is hoping for a rematch with Malloy after losing to him by just 6,404 votes in 2010.

The wide-ranging gun control law passed in the wake of the December 2012 school shootings in Newtown has figured prominently in the primary campaign. McKinney, a 50-year-old veteran legislator whose district includes Newtown, has defended his work to help craft the bipartisan legislation. Foley has avoided outlining specific concerns with the law, but says he disapproves of restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.



Democrats in Montana will select a nominee Saturday to replace Sen. John Walsh on the November ballot. The former Army National Guard general pulled out of his race last week amid allegations he plagiarized large sections of a capstone paper while a student at the Army War College.

A week from Tuesday comes primary elections in Wyoming and Alaska, where the three-way race in the GOP Senate primary is the highlight. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in November.


Associated Press writers Michael Melia in Hartford, Connecticut, Doug Glass in Minneapolis, and M.L. Johnson in Milwaukee contributed to this report.



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