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A handful of firsts, an upset and a surprise concession in Tuesday’s primaries

Democrats nominated several potentially history-making candidates Tuesday, including the first transgender candidate for governor and possibly the first African American women for Congress in Connecticut. For Republicans, the night ended with a surprise concession, while another former governor’s comeback bid ended in defeat.

Here are several takeaways from key races Tuesday night:


Progressive Democrat Christine Hallquist won her party’s nomination for governor in Vermont and is the first transgender gubernatorial candidate by a major political party. She’s the fourth LGBTQ gubernatorial candidate Democrats have nominated this year. Hallquist, who was backed by the same group that propelled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to victory in a New York Congressional primary in June, will face incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Ethan Sonneborn, a 14-year-old candidate, finished last in the four-candidate field.

In the state’s Senate race, incumbent Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was a 2016 Democratic candidate for president, easily won the Democratic primary. He will likely decline the nomination to run as an independent again, but his victory assures he will not face a Democratic challenger in the general election.


Two Muslim Americans could make political history in November after their victories in the Democratic primaries in Minnesota.

Rep. Keith Ellison easily won the Democratic nomination for attorney general despite allegations of domestic abuse that emerged over the weekend. The Democratic National Committee is investigating the allegations that Ellison vehemently denies. Ellison would be the first Muslim elected for statewide office in American history. Previously, he was the first Muslim elected to Congress in 2007.

In the race to fill Ellison’s Congressional seat in the 5th District, state Rep. Ilhan Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee two decades ago, is poised to became the first Somali-American in Congress if she wins this safe Democratic district in November. She could also join Rashida Tlaib, who won a Michigan congressional primary last week, as the first two Muslim women in Congress. Omar had the support of Ocasio-Cortez in the crowded Democratic primary and campaigned to back a “Medicare for all” plan and a $15 minimum wage.

Despite outspending his opponent, former two-term Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty lost his comeback bid in the Minnesota GOP gubernatorial primary to former state Rep. Jeff Johnson. Pawlenty, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate and Washington lobbyist, has been critical of President Donald Trump, contributing to his failure with the GOP base. His loss is one of the best examples of how the Republican Party has shifted in the last decade. In the Democratic primary, Rep. Tim Walz defeated party-backed candidate Erin Murphy for the nomination for governor.


In Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, teacher Jahana Hayes beat party-backed candidate Mary Glassman to win the nomination in a safe Democratic district left vacant after Rep. Elizabeth Esty decided not to run for re-election following her handling of sexual harassment allegations within her office. Hayes, who had the support of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and labor groups, will likely be the first African-American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress.

Democrats nominated Ned Lamont, the party’s runner-up in 2010, to succeed outgoing Gov. Dan Malloy. He’ll face Republican Bob Stefanowski in November in one of the best chances the GOP has to flip a Democratic-held seat.


Democrats hope Tony Evers, who emerged from a 10-candidate primary field, will be the one to defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker in his quest for a third term. Walker, who also survived a 2012 recall effort that made him a lightning rod in the labor movement, has seen his approval ratings drop since his failed run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and is facing one of his toughest re-election battles. Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin in 32 years, but Democrats hope the national mood will also help them win the governor’s mansion.

A close Walker ally also emerged as the Republican nominee to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November. State Sen. Leah Vukmir relied on her political experience to defeat Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson. The GOP is hoping to flip the Democratic-held seat and maintain control of the Senate.

In the district of retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republicans nominated Bryan Steil, a lawyer and former Ryan staffer. He easily defeated white supremacist Paul Nehlen and four other candidates in the GOP primary. Democrats nominated ironworker Randy Bryce, who first entered the race before Ryan announced his retirement. Bryce used a massive fundraising advantage he accrued after his introductory campaign ad went viral to overcome revelations of previous arrests and delinquent child support payments.

A final note: Kansas governor concedes primary defeat

Only four states had primary elections Tuesday, but the Kansas gubernatorial matchup was decided, too, one week after voting concluded. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded the Republican nomination to Secretary of State Kris Kobach late Tuesday. Colyer trailed Kobach, who had been endorsed by President Trump, by fewer than 400 votes, but Colyer said he would not ask for a recount and will instead work to elect Kobach.

With Kobach’s name on the ticket, Democrats are in a better position to win back the governor’s mansion. Democratic nominee Laura Kelly, who won the nomination last week, leads Kobach by just one point in a general election poll conducted last month. The same poll showed Colyer would have a comfortable 10-point lead over the Democrat had he been nominated.

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