THE NEW NORM
Christine Hallquist and Two More Democratic Women Seal Historic Primary Victories
While controversies quelled the runs of others and some rolled on despite them.
Democrats on Tuesday chose the first transgender gubernatorial nominee in history, the first Somali-American legislator, and a first-time candidate and National Teacher of the Year recipient who would be the first black Democrat elected to Congress in her state.
Christine Hallquist passed the first major hurdle in her quest to become the nation’s first transgender governor on Tuesday, beating three primary challengers in Vermont, including a 14-year-old named Ethan Sonneborn. Running on a progressive platform that includes advocacy for a universal health care system and a $15 minimum wage, the former CEO of an electric company will face incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who has earned a positive reputation in the state for working alongside Democrats.
In Minnesota, a state that has been reliably blue but nearly tipped to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant and state legislator, won the Democratic nomination for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which was previously held for over a decade by Keith Ellison (D-MN). Omar, a member of the Justice Democrats slate, the same group that backed New York Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is likely to be the second Muslim woman elected to Congress, alongside Michigan congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib. Tlaib recently campaigned in the district for Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez endorsed her as well.
As for Ellison, he won his primary for Minnesota attorney general, despite a late allegation of abuse from his ex-girlfriend over the weekend. Kate Monahan had accused Ellison of emotional and physical abuse, allegations Ellison denied.
Higher up on the ticket in Minnesota, Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) won her primary to fill out the remainder of Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) term after Franken resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. Smith defeated former Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter, who ran hilarious and surreal ads featuring real dumpster fires. Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination late Tuesday night, beating out attorney general Lori Swanson, who has been dogged by recent scandal. On the Republican side, former governor Tim Pawlenty lost a comeback bid to Jeff Johnson, a county commissioner in the state.
Connecticut was the scene of the other historic first of the night, with Jahana Hayes, who was selected as the 2016 Teacher of the Year by President Obama, winning her primary in the 5th Congressional District. Hayes, who was not considered the favorite against her well-known challenger Mary Glassman, would be the first African-American Democrat from the state to serve in Congress. The seat was vacated when Rep. Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT) decided not to run following accusations that she did not properly address alleged harassment from a staffer.
The final state that voted on Tuesday night was another one Trump won in the Midwest. In Wisconsin, Democrats have seen indications in both state legislative elections and a recent state Supreme Court race that the voting populace may be swinging back in their favor. On Tuesday night, they selected Tony Evers, the state superintendent who they hope can finally defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker. In one recent poll, Evers lead by double digits in a prospective matchup.
Republicans selected state legislator Leah Vukmir as the Senate candidate to take on incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). That’s despite millions of dollars spent on Vukmir’s opponent Kevin Nicholson. Baldwin, who is part of a challenging Senate map for Democrats, many of whom have to defend their seats in states Trump won, is seen as much safer than a lot of her colleagues in November.
The other marquee matchup in Wisconsin was in the 1st Congressional District, left vacant by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is retiring at the end of this term. Randy Bryce, whose viral ad portraying his employment as an ironworker catapulted him to fame, won the Democratic primary against Cathy Myers, a former teacher who brawled with Bryce in the campaign over his previous arrests, including one for DUI. Republicans selected Bryan Steil, a former aide to Ryan, as their candidate.
Despite becoming one of the largest fund-raisers of the cycle, Bryce will have a difficult challenge in November.
“This win is a victory for all working families in southeast Wisconsin,” he said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Together, we made our voices heard—but this fight is far from over. The GOP will do everything in their power to uphold the status quo and elect a Paul Ryan clone who will be another rubber stamp in Washington.”