Ilhan Omar grinds to victory – and other Tuesday night primary surprises: analysis

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The primary vote in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin on Tuesday brought both a very strong appeal for one of the nation’s most prominent progressives — or polarizing, depending on the viewpoint — to the House and opened the door to delivering several historic firsts to Washington.

In Minnesota’s 5th District, Rep. Ilhan Omar picked up a win over challenger Don Samuels by roughly 2%, while in Vermont and Wisconsin, Senator Becca Balint and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, respectively, won. won their Democratic nominations to seek the House and gubernatorial seats. Barnes took the win by around 78% after his main challengers all gave up in recent days, coalescing around him as the best chance to unseat Republican incumbent Senator Ron Johnson.

Meanwhile, a special election for Minnesota’s 1st District was another small but growing example of Democratic strength despite major political challenges, like President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and high inflation: special election for a historically red seat, Republican Brad Finstad won over Democrat Jeff Ettinger by just 4%.

Maggiy Emery, a spokesperson for Ettinger, told ABC News that enthusiasm for him was partly due to abortion rights following the reversal of Roe v. Wade: . Not as much as inflation, but it’s certainly a priority for many voters, especially women, in the district.

Also in Wisconsin, Republican State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos defeated a Donald Trump-backed challenger, Adam Steen, in the continued Trump fallout targeting those he perceives to be insufficiently true to his lies 2020 elections.

Here’s a look at Tuesday’s surprises and what they mean.

A MAGA wave in Wisconsin

And as is common in Republican primaries, voters continue to increase the impact of right-wing MAGA candidates within their own party — even if Trump is not running for office.

In Wisconsin, several ridges continued to develop into an internal red wave. In the GOP contest for governor, Trump-backed Tim Michels defeated former Vice President Mike Pence’s choice, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

But even in the proxy battle between the former president and his former running mate, there is little daylight between their favored candidates when it comes to groundlessly questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election – a position as Michels’ future challenger, the Democratic incumbent governor. Tony Evers was quick to point out on Tuesday.

“As governor, my No. 1 priority is to take care of the hard workers of Wisconsin,” said Michels, who Trump called “an incredible achievement,” said in his victory speech.

Rep. Ilhan Omar attends an event on Capitol Hill, July 20, 2022.

Win Mcnamee/Getty Images, FILE

Denying Biden’s presidential win isn’t just a requirement for Trump’s endorsement — the issue has become critical to capturing a sizable slice of the Republican electorate, regardless of what outside endorsements a candidate seeks.

The reverse carries a big risk: On Tuesday night, Washington Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler conceded her race — another of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year to lose her seat. (Only two, David Valadao of California and Dan Newhouse of Washington, have hung on so far.)

Wisconsin voters also delivered a victory for Senator Johnson, one of 10 Republicans in the upper house who pushed for an audit of the last presidential election.

Democrats believe Johnson’s close ties to the GOP base could leave him vulnerable in November on one of the most divided battlegrounds in the country.

Democrats hope to defy political headwinds

While many Republican victories on Tuesday were expected, the real excitement was in the Democratic races. That includes the primary win for Barnes, who, if elected in the fall, would be the state’s first black senator and join the ranks of the very few black senators in Congress.

State Senator Balint’s victory in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s General House seat also grabbed headlines as she becomes her state’s next presumptive representative – and the first woman Vermont has ever had. never sent to Congress. She would also be the first openly gay member of the Vermont House.

And another unusual result in Vermont: Republican perennial nominee H. Brooke Paige won — in one fell swoop — her party’s nominations for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, and state treasurer. This means that Paige now has the pleasure of choosing which nomination to accept and run in the general election.

PHOTO: Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes speaks during the U.S. Democratic Senate debate in Milwaukee, July 17, 2022.

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes speaks during the U.S. Democratic Senate debate in Milwaukee, July 17, 2022.

Milwaukee Journal via USA Today, FILE

Omar’s near loss snaps his winning streak

Elsewhere, progressives may be watching the narrow victory of Rep. Omar, a member of “the team”. One of the more visible members of the Democrat’s left flank, she squealed at the more centrist challenger Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Councilman who had parted ways with her over police reform and government issues. public security.

Some may interpret Omar’s slim victory of 2,500 votes as a warning sign for progressives, but it’s important to remember some of the factors that contributed to the race. In the final weeks of the primary, Samuels’ supporters, Super PAC Make A Difference MN05, spent more than $400,000 to boost him.

Omar declined to debate Samuels and opted not to run any TV ads, perhaps an indication that his campaign believed it would replicate its double-digit primary wins in 2018 and 2020.

During his concession on Tuesday night, Samuels said he felt his narrow loss sent a message about what kind of candidate is eligible.

“The fact that we could be two and a half points behind an incumbent in the United States Congress indicates that if the playing field were level – if it weren’t for an incumbent challenger situation – we would win. this race,” Samuels told a crowd of supporters.

“Getting this close means we have our finger on the pulse of the exhausted majority,” he said.

And to Omar, he issued a warning: “My only hope is that my opponent will have learned a lesson from this. You cannot do your constituents a disservice – put your own dreams above dreams, visions and desires of their community.”

PHOTO: Vermont State Senator Becca Balint, who is seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to run for Vermont's vacant U.S. House seat, speaks to voters in Colchester, Vermont, on July 24, 2022.

Vermont State Senator Becca Balint, who is seeking nomination by the Democratic Party to run for Vermont’s vacant U.S. House seat, speaks to voters in Colchester, Vermont on 24 July 2022.

Wilson Ring/AP, FILE

In his post-victory statement, Omar did not address Samuel directly, instead saying his victory was a “testament” of the extent to which his constituents share his values: “the collective values ​​for which we fight and whatever they are willing to do to help us overcome defeat.”

“This victory is for them and for all who still believe that hatred, division and regression will not be the legacy of the Fifth,” she said.

Asked by ABC News about Samuels’ comments, Omar’s spokesman, Jeremy Slevin, referred to his statement on Tuesday evening.

ABC News’ Will McDuffie contributed to this report.

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