Yesterday’s primary election was a packed one, and voters came out in droves to vote for their desired candidates. In Dane County, over 129,000 ballots were cast for yesterday’s election, or about 35% of all registered voters. That’s more than in past midterm primaries – 3,000 more than in 2018’s midterm primary and about 76,000 more than in 2014’s midterm primary.
In a packed Democratic primary to unseat Republican Senator Ron Johnson , Mandela Barnes cruised to an easy victory as the Democratic nominee, winning more than three-quarters of the vote. That’s after his three biggest opponents – Sarah Godlewski, Tom Nelson and Alex Lasry – dropped out just weeks before the primary, and threw their support behind Barnes.
But the race for the Republican candidate for governor is where things get a bit more tricky
Tim Michels won the Republican ticket last night, beating other front-runner Rebecca Kleefisch.. Michels won by more than 30,000 votes, winning over 47% of the total vote.
Michels’ win signals a shift in Republican politics, showing the power of a Trump endorsement and the waning influence of an endorsement from former Governor Scott Walker. Michels was endorsed by former President Trump, while Kleefisch was Lieutenant Governor during Scott Walker’s administration, and received his endorsement.
At a victory party in Waukesha last night, Michels thanked former President Trump for his endorsement.
“It was a tremendous validation of our meteoric rise in this campaign. He knows that we need new leadership in Madison, and he sees a lot of similarities. He didn’t need to run for President, I didn’t need to run for Governor. He wanted to drain the swamp, we found it’s a really deep swamp, and I know that Madison needs strong, firm leadership, and that’s what I’m going to do as Governor,” Michels says.
Kleefisch, who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence in addition to Walker, conceded at around 10:30 last night.
“I urge you all to stay in the fight, because the fight now is truly against Tony Evers and the liberals that want to take away our way of life. I honestly still believe that hard work does still matter, particularly in our local races,” Kleefisch says.
Michels’ victory comes as he performed better than expected in southeastern Wisconsin, an area that voted heavily for Scott Walker in 2018.
Take, for example, Ozaukee county. In 2018, the county voted almost two-to-one for Walker and Kleefisch over Tony Evers in the general election, and voted over 90% for Walker in the primary.
But last night, Kleefisch won the county by just over 5,000 votes, not enough of an edge to beat out Michels on the state-wide stage.
In Washington County, where Walker and Kleefisch won by more than 30,000 votes in 2018, Michels actually beat Kleefisch by just a few thousand votes.
The end results? The Trump-endorsed candidate beat out the Walker-endorsed candidate.
Michels is now looking ahead to November, when he will take on Governor Tony Evers. After thanking his opponents in his victory speech last night, Michels then went on the offensive.
“…that’s what this race has always been about, and that’s what the general election race is going to be about as well. Standing up for the hard-working people of Wisconsin, they have been left behind by the Democratic party who just wants to focus on the social issues. On my first day in office to my very last day as Governor, jobs and the economy are going to be my number one priority,” Michels says.
Meanwhile, another Trump endorsed candidate gave Wisconsin’s top Republican a run for his money.
It was a squeaker for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who won by just 260 votes against challenger Adam Steen.
Trump, who endorsed Steen, may have mobilized voters to turn against the state’s top Republican.
Steen, who held a “Toss Vos” party on the eve of the primary to slingshot the incumbent in effigy, ended up gaining 4,824 votes to Vos’s 5,084 votes in the Racine & Walworth County district.
Vos has been criticized by some in the GOP for drawing a line in the sand – saying it’s impossible to decertify the 2020 presidential election.
Even a former Vos ally, Michael Gableman, endorsed Steen. Gableman, who was hired by Vos to review the 2020 presidential election last year, endorsed Steen, and attended his watch party last night near Burlington.
In a victory speech, Vos called Gableman an embarrassment to the state, and suggested his election review could come to an end – an idea Democrats latched onto and called for again today.
And Steen, who denies the results of the 2020 presidential election, has yet to concede to Vos.
Eight other incumbent GOP state lawmakers faced primaries yesterday. Of those, this was the only race that was close.
Dane County, meanwhile, had several races in the state legislature. Dane County Supervisor Melissa Ratcliff beat out fellow board member Analiese Eicher and former Madison Alder Syed Abbas for the Democratic nomination for Assembly seat 46. She will be taking on Republican Andrew McKinney, who ran for a seat on the county board earlier this year.
Alex Jours won the Democratic nomination for Assembly District 79, where he will be running against Republican candidate Victoria Fueger.
In Assembly District 80, containing Mount Horeb and Verona, Mike Bare beat out four other candidates to win the Democratic nomination. He’ll be facing Republican Jacob Luginbuhl in November.
The fall general election takes place on November 8.
Photo courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team