WASHINGTON (AP) — Progressive Vermont state Senator Becca Balint edged out Lt. Governor Molly Gray to win the U.S. Democratic House primary on Tuesday, immediately positioning her to make history by as the first woman to represent the state in Congress.
Looking to score another victory for the left was Rep. Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, who faces a centrist main challenger. And another key race is unfolding in western Wisconsin, where Democrats Representative Ron Kind Retiring after 26 years in power gives him a seat in a Republican-leaning neighborhood.
Among the Republican primary candidates to replace Kind is a former Navy SEAL who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6, 2021, which preceded the uprising at the United States Capitol.
Minnesota is also holding a special election to fill the Republican’s remaining months Representative Jim Hagedorn following his death earlier this year from cancer. And voters will choose full-term candidates representing the largely rural, Republican-leaning district.
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OMAR FACING THE PRO-POLICE CHALLENGER
A supporter of the “defund the police” movement, Omar is competing in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district against a former Minneapolis City Councilman who has made rising crime an issue in the race.
Don Samuels’ base in north Minneapolis suffers from more violent crime than other parts of the city, and the moderate Democrat helped defeat a ballot question that sought to replace the city’s police department with a new unit of public safety.
Omar defended calls for more public safety funding to be redirected to community programs.
Samuels and others also successfully sued the city to force it to meet minimum police staffing levels required in the Minneapolis charter. Samuels says Omar, one of the leading voices of the national progressive movement, is divisive. He attracted a lot of money to his campaign, although Omar, as a starter, had a significant financial advantage.
Omar, now seeking his third term, crushed a similar primary challenge from a well-funded but lesser-known opponent two years ago. She said she expects to win easily.
“She has already had a lot of adversity and setbacks. I don’t think her job is done and I think she has a lot to contribute,” said Kathy Ward, a 62-year-old caretaker for a building in Minneapolis who voted for Omar. “We have to give him a chance.”
Two other members of the Progressive Party Crew in Congress — Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri — won their Democratic primaries last week.
SPECIAL ELECTION AND PRIMARY ELECTION IN SOUTHERN MINNESOTA
Voters in the 1st Congressional District in southern Minnesota will weigh in on two seat-related races.
In the special election, voters will choose between Republican Brad Finstad, who served in the US Department of Agriculture during the Trump administration, and Democrat Jeff Ettinger, former chief executive of Hormel Foods. The two won a special primary election on May 24 for the seat of Hagedorn, and Tuesday’s winner will serve until January.
Finstad and Ettinger are also running in their parties’ primaries for full terms in the district, which includes Rochester and Mankato. Ettinger faces mostly token opposition, but Finstad expects a tough challenge from state Rep. Jeremy Munson, whom he just narrowly beat in the special election primary.
Munson has the support of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. He said he don’t think President Joe Biden’s victory was legitimatedespite federal and state election officials, courts and Trump’s own attorney general saying there was no credible evidence the election was tainted.
REPLACEMENT OF RON KIND IN WISCONSIN
Republicans see a pickup opportunity in Wisconsin’s 3rd congressional district, with the seat vacated by Democratic incumbent Kind.
The district covers a strip of counties along Wisconsin’s western border with Minnesota and includes La Crosse and Eau Claire. Republican Derrick Van Orden runs unopposed in his primary on Tuesday and has Trump’s endorsement.
Van Orden narrowly lost to Kind in the 2020 general election. He attended Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ rally near the White House, but said he never set foot on the Capitol grounds. during the uprising.
Four Democrats are vying to succeed Kind, including State Sen. Brad Pfaff, who previously worked for the incumbent lawmaker and briefly served as agriculture secretary. Pfaff endorses Kind.
The others are Rebecca Cooke, a small business owner, Deb McGrath, a retired CIA agent, and Mark Neumann, a member of the La Crosse city council.
RARE VERMONT OPEN SENATE SEAT
Vermont is the latest state in the country to add a woman to its congressional delegation. Balint, who immediately becomes the frontrunner in the November general election, would also be the first openly gay member of Congress from Vermont.
It has been endorsed by some of the country’s top leaders on the left, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Balint is in the running for the state’s only seat in the House, which is vacated by Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for the Senate and easily secured the Democratic nomination on Tuesday. Welch tries to succeed Senator Patrick Leahythe longest-serving member of the Senate, who is retiring, creating Vermont’s first open Senate seat since 2006, when Sanders took over from Jim Jeffords.
Gray is a former Welch staffer and was supported by Leahy and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, but that wasn’t enough. Balint’s victory means state congressional politics is poised to swing to the left and adhere more closely to Sanders’ progressive values.
Associated Press writers Doug Glass and Trisha Ahmed in Minneapolis, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., and Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.
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