ABC’s Shushannah Walshe and Caleb Jackson report:
WHO’S ON THE BALLOT? Voters cast ballots today in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We will find out who will take on Sen. Al Franken, as well as the candidate who could go on to succeed Rep. Michele Bachmann. There’s even a challenger running against Rep. Paul Ryan…with the same last name, and two gubernatorial GOP showdowns in Connecticut and Minnesota, and much more.
Here’s seven races to watch today:
GOP SHOWDOWN IN CONNECTICUT: While Connecticut’s congressional nominees are chosen through state nominating conventions, there is still a contested Republican gubernatorial primary today. Connecticut state senate minority leader John McKinney is squaring off against former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and businessman Tom Foley for a chance to run against incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy in November. WHY IT MATTERS? Foley definitely has the edge with the backing of both the Connecticut Republican Party and an endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. The RGA itself has not backed Foley as they do not get involved in primaries and they have not spent any money on Foley’s behalf. Instead Christie made the decision to get involved on his own after Foley was endorsed by the GOP convention in May. Foley, 62, also ran in 2010 and just barely lost to Malloy besting him by about 6,500 votes. McKinney, 50, isn’t a no-name challenger, having served 15 years in the state legislature and he’s also the son of former Rep. Stewart McKinney, who represented Fairfield County in Congress for eight terms. One issue that has become prominent in the campaign is gun control. McKinney voted for the 2013 ban on large-capacity gun magazines that Connecticut passed in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting. Foley–who has been trying to run as an outsider and calls McKinney a “career politician”–says the legislation didn’t do enough to combat mental health issues and he’s become a favorite of gun rights supporters across the state. Besides that he hasn’t taken a position on the law and has been vague preferring just to say his legislation would be different. It may look good for Foley, but with a likely low turn-out primary there could be a surprise. No matter who wins it will be a tight general election, and if it’s Foley it will be a November re-match against Malloy.
WILL THE GOP PICK WIN IN MINN? Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has been endorsed by the Minnesota GOP to challenge Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in November, but he still has a primary. If he loses it won’t just be a personal loss, but the state GOP will take a knock as well. WHY IT MATTERS? The Minnesota gubernatorial GOP primary is hotly contested with three other challengers on the ballot including former state House Speaker Kurt Zellers, businessman Scott Honour, and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert. Some establishment Republicans believe the party’s endorsing process favors the tea party wing of the party and that’s why you see others challenging their choice. Seifert narrowly lose the GOP endorsement for governor in 2010. Dayton is favored in November and in state polls he is leading his challengers, but expect whoever wins to try and take what looks like will be a good year for Republicans nationally to Minnesota.
AL FRANKEN’S OPPONENT: Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken is currently favored to win re-election in November, but in 2008 he just barely beat incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman in a race that included both a recount and a legal challenge that took eight months. Franken is already taking nothing for granted running positive television ads in the state stressing his work in the senate. Today he will find out who will challenge him in November as a group of Republicans are battling it out in the Minnesota senate primary. WHY IT MATTERS? Investment banker Mike McFadden is favored in the race and already has the backing of the state GOP and has raised over $3.4 million. He’s already running positive ads in the state that stress his opposition to Obamacare, as well as being both a father and a football coach. He’s up against state Rep. Jim Abeler who has been backed by the Minnesota Star Tribune and former Sen. Dave Durenberger. McFadden and Abeler are also up against three lesser known challengers.
AFTER MICHELE BACHMANN: Rep. Michele Bachmann is retiring after four terms in the House, one presidential bid, and plenty of eyebrow raising comments. The founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, her 2012 presidential campaign is still under investigation for alleged campaign finance violations, but today we will find out the GOP nominee that will run to succeed her in Minnesota’s sixth district. WHY IT MATTERS? Conservative radio host and former state Rep. Tom Emmer is the favorite. He barely lost to Gov. Mark Dayton in 2010. The race went to a recount, which showed him trailing Dayton by nearly 9,000 votes. Emmer has been backed by the state GOP and Bachmann, but he’s still up against Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah who he has badly out raised five to one. He’s brought in over $1.1 million to Sivarajah’s $256, 925 and $174,337 she donated to her campaign, according to federal filings. In this heavily conservative district, the winner is favored in the general election against the Democratic candidate, Sartell Mayor Joe Perske.
AFTER 35 YEARS, A BATTLE TO SUCCEED: Four GOP candidates are looking to replace Republican Rep. Tom Petri, who after serving 35 years in Congress, is retiring. The GOP primary for Wisconsin’s sixth district is the most closely watched race in the state today and several of the contenders are members of the Wisconsin state legislature. WHY IT MATTERS? State Sen. Glenn Grothman, state Sen. Joe Leibham, and state Rep. Duey Stroebel are all vying for the nomination, as well as Tom Denow, a political newcomer and former instructor at a state technical school. Grothman has supported conservative causes over the years including proposing a bill that would target single parents saying it would formally consider single parenthood a contributing factor to child abuse. Stroebhel has stressed his business background and Leibham says he works to bring people together. This district leans Republican, but the winner will go up against Democratic candidate Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris.
DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR WISCONSIN’S FOURTH DISTRICT: Five-term incumbent Rep. Gwen Moore, the first African-American congresswoman to represent Wisconsin is being challenged by Gary George, a former state senator turned convicted felon who after 23 years in the state legislature spent four years in prison for conspiring to defraud the government. His law license has been re-instated and as a felon he can’t run for state or local office, but is not barred from running for federal office. While George obviously has name recognition, though not necessarily the favorable kind, he lacks significant cash flow. While Moore has raised more than $765,000 and is heavily favored to hold on to her seat, George has not filed federal campaign financial statements, indicating he may have raised less than the $5,000 required to file. On the GOP side, car repair shop owner Dan Sebring is up against David King, a pastor. Sebring considers himself a tea party Republican and has run unsuccessfully against Moore three other times and King has ran for several other offices in past campaigns.
WISCONSIN’S FIRST DISTRICT: Rep. Paul Ryan is seeking a ninth term and is heavily favored, but he does have a GOP challenger and while they share a last name they are not related. Jeremy Ryan is actually a liberal activist who doesn’t live in the district and according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the state GOP filed a complaint saying he did not have the required numbers of signatures to get on the ballot as a Republican. The complaint said Jeremy Ryan told people they were signing a petition to legalize marijuana, but the Government Accountability Board found that the state party did not prove its claim. The former GOP vice presidential nominee is favored not only in the primary, but also the general election, but he will find out his Democratic opponent today as well. Former Kenosha County supervisor Rob Zerban, who lost to Ryan in 2012, is up against filmmaker Amardeep Kaleka, whose father Sikh Temple President Satwant Singh Kaleka was murdered by a white supremacist at the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting two years ago. Kaleka has said his father’s murder inspired him to run for Congress.