8/9 Primary Preview
Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin
Secretary of State
Maritza Bond vs. Stephanie Thomas
At their state convention, the Connecticut Democratic Party endorsed state Rep. Stephanie Thomas, of Norwalk. While losing the endorsement is the end of many campaigns in convention states like Connecticut, Maritza Bond, New Haven’s Director of Public Health, decided to soldier on to the election. Press coverage has focused more on the personality and experience of the two candidates, as opposed to their stances on issues, and indeed often mentions that they seem to disagree on very little. It’s hard to get excited about either candidate. Thomas, despite only two years in the house representing a swingy suburban seat, has left a full record to feel ambivalent about. While she has always voted for big Democratic priorities, she’s also sided with local governments that want to keep single-family zoning, and supported the militarization of the police, neither of which are areas where the Secretary of State’s office has direct oversight, but are important in state government nonetheless. Conversely, Bond, while she seems to have done a good job handling the pandemic in New Haven, has very little public record to draw conclusions about her stances on issues from. Given the campaign’s lack of focus on the issues either, she’s a minor enigma. One major point in her favor, and perhaps the reason she continued her campaign past the convention, is the support she’s received from organized labor, most notably, but not limited to, the state AFL-CIO chapter. However, her unofficial tagline this election has been “my word is my Bond — literally!” and wordplay that bad cannot be allowed to stand.
Dita Bhargava vs. Karen DuBois-Walton vs. Erick Russell
Incumbent Shawn Wooden is retiring due to what legitimately appears to be a desire to spend more time with his family. There’s a rare three-way race to succeed him. By our count it’s only the second three-way primary this century. The party endorsement went to Erick Russell, a municipal bond lawyer and prior Vice President of the Connecticut Democratic Party. While there’s little policy discussion in races like this one, one of his opponents is running more as progressive than him. Karen DuBois-Walton, a member of the Connecticut Board of Education, is endorsed by the Working Families Party, as well as several progressive members of the state legislature. Nonprofit leader and former Vice Chair of the Connecticut State Democratic Party Dita Bhargava ran for this office in 2018, but lost to Wooden in a close race. She’s a former hedge fund manager and has been endorsed by the chair of the state’s moderate caucus, both of which are concerning. Russell, as the party-endorsed candidate in a low-turnout race facing divided opposition, is the favorite in this race.
Dennis Bradley (i) vs. Herron Gaston
Dennis Bradley is probably the most conservative Democrat in the state Senate. He was elected only after two close and very contentious primaries in 2016 and 2018 (which he lost and won, respectively), but he managed to avoid competition in 2020. Bradley may be vulnerable now for just how out of step he is with the caucus—voting with Republicans on legal marijuana, COVID guidelines, and reproductive rights (repeatedly). He also flat-out opposes the existence of absentee voting, though given that he’s from Bridgeport, his concerns about it being used for ballot fraud may be sincere and not a cynical excuse. The bigger reason that he may be in trouble this year isn’t his votes, it's that he’s been indicted for campaign finance crimes and now faces 20 years in prison. Bradley, according to federal investigators, started fundraising before actually launching his campaign, and then filed fraudulent documents with the state to obtain public financing. These are incredibly steep charges, and the feds have him on video, but it may not be the end for Bradley. This is Bridgeport, the city that gave comically corrupt ex-mayor Joe Ganim his job back after he got out of prison for racketeering, extortion, racketeering conspiracy, bribery, bribery conspiracy, mail fraud, and filing false tax returns. Herron Gaston, a local pastor who's been advocating for criminal justice reform (arguably the one issue Bradley is actually good on) for years, has the state party endorsement.
Melissa E. Osborne vs. Eric Wellman
This election pits family court lawyer Melissa Osborne, who was the nominee for Simsbury’s state Senate district in 2014, 2018, and 2018, against ex-Simsbury Selectman Eric Wellman, the party’s endorsed candidate. Melissa Osborne made sense as a swing district nominee in suburban Connecticut, and we mean that as an insult. She’s the choice of the outgoing incumbent, John Hampton, a very moderate member of the House who recently was one of a small group of Democrats to vote against the major protecting reproductive rights bill advanced through the legislature. A look at her social media shows her repeatedly arguing that the Democratic Party needs to reject the left and that the top priority of Connecticut Democrats in Congress should be reducing taxes paid by wealthy homeowners hit by the SALT cap. Eric Wellman is also, at the very least, annoying: he brags about his “conservative fiscal management” of the city that “kept taxes in check” and worked for insurance giant Aetna until recently. But for all of his problems, Osborne is determined to prove she’s worse. In reaction to him calling himself a fiscal conservative, she “criticized Wellman, saying he claims to be a fiscal conservative while, at the same time, seeking and receiving the endorsement of The Working Families Party, ‘a progressive left party that is the opposite of fiscally conservative.’” The Working Families Party has indeed endorsed Wellman, as has Rep. Jahana Hayes, a sign of just how much progressives want to keep Osborne out of the House.
HD-98 (Central coast)
Andy Gottlieb vs. Moira Rader
The party’s endorsed choice here is Guilford Board of Education President Moira Rader, who looks like a pretty typical Democrat. The non-endorsed candidate is Andy Gottlieb, a member of the Guilford Democratic Town Committee, who is running as a progressive and makes no secret of his support of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns.
HD-116 (West Haven)
Treneé McGee (i) vs. Joseph Miller
Treneé McGee is running for her first full term in the House. After this district’s incumbent got convicted of wire fraud in 2021, McGee, then a West Haven City Councilmember, was chosen by the party committees as their nominee, and won in a dismally low-turnout special election. After her election, Democrats began advancing a reproductive rights package in response to the impending demise of Roe v. Wade, and McGee made her anti-choice views on abortion clear, not only voting against the bill but serving as a spokesperson for the anti-choice coalition who had voted against it. McGee also opposes medically-assisted euthanasia and taxpayer funding of abortion as part of her “pro-life” stance. Joe Miller, a 24-year-old Democratic Party activist, is also on the ballot and primarily campaigning on abortion rights, but his is a longshot campaign. He doesn’t have much money and McGee was endorsed by the state party for reelection. On top of that, he’s a white man running for a plurality Black district, and the racial politics of this election have been fraught. McGee’s stance is that Miller is either a white supremacist, or contributing to white supremacy by running a campaign based on abortion rights, saying, “He, as a white man, can’t ever give voice to what it means to be a woman and a Black woman. If he was pushed to run against me from the historical evidence and stats that I stated on the floor, then I think that that adds to a certain complexity which we call supremacy.”
HD-127 (NE Bridgeport)
John “Jack” Hennessy (i) vs. Marcus Brown
Jack Hennessy has had a long career in Bridgeport politics, much to the chagrin of the city’s establishment. After nearly two decades, he finally gave them an opening against him by engaging in anti-vax bullshit until House leadership kicked him off his committee chairmanship. Hennessy’s been an anti-vax crank for years, but it’s only recently that the issue’s become this salient and he’s become this strident. Here’s a picture from his official government website, in case it wasn’t already clear he’s gotten far down the anti-vax rabbit hole.
Marcus Brown, a Bridgeport Councilmember and ally of Mayor Joe Ganim, has the party endorsement instead. That’s a pedigree that doesn’t suggest a good member of the legislature, but at least he won’t be off-the-rails nuts.
MN-04 (St. Paul and suburbs)
Betty McCollum (i) vs. Amane Badhasso
Betty McCollum frequently earns attention for breaking from the Democratic consensus, in a good way. McCollum is rightly known for her frequently courageous stands for the rights of Palestinians. Some people extrapolate from that one stance that she's one of the most progressive members of Congress. In reality, she's to the left of the median Democrat, but still in the large part of the bell curve. McCollum, in her 22-year tenure in Congress, hasn't distinguished herself on much else, and represents a city—Saint Paul—which has been undergoing a lot of change as it's shed its former roots and begun to grow a progressive political culture of its own. There's an opening there if any candidate is able to take advantage of it.
Amane Badhasso, an Oromo refugee who has spent most of her adult life in politics, both within official party politics as a field director, and outside of it, most recently as a leader of Take Action Minnesota, is running the first serious challenge McCollum has had since her initial election to Congress in 2000. There's a neat symmetry, should she win: the district directly next to hers or held by former Somali refugee Ilhan Omar, and Somalia is directly next to Badhasso's original home of Ethiopia. Badhasso is running a very progressive campaign, and has obviously rattled McCollum, whose initial defensiveness has since given way to more active measures, like finally getting around to cosigning Medicare for All. She realizes she's past the point in her career where she could sleepwalk through reelection.
Unfortunately, the actual details of that election have, for Badhasso, been a series of close misses. She raised solid amounts of money but failed to pull in any outside groups in the winter. She made it to the final round of the DSA endorsement process, but ultimately wasn’t picked. She amassed a strong collection of delegates, but, after some shenanigans from a few party leaders, didn’t have enough left to block a DFL endorsement of McCollum. At this point, TakeAction Minnesota, while they still support her, admits she’s not likely to win and has downgraded the race in importance compared to MN-05.
Ilhan Omar (i) vs. Don Samuels
Ilhan Omar had a closer call than the other two Squad members who faced challenges in 2020—Rashida Tlaib easily beat back a somewhat serious challenge from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, and AOC coasted to reelection over a field of amateurs, cranks, and actual Republicans. Omar faced an exceptionally well-funded campaign from lawyer Antone Melton-Meaux, who ran an incredibly bland but also incredibly negative campaign, aided by copious amounts of outside spending and the support of much of the Minneapolis establishment (though Omar still won the DFL endorsement); despite an enormous spending disadvantage, she beat Melton-Meaux by nearly twenty points. Once again, she’s the Squad member who faces the toughest primary—but she still won easily last time, and it’s hard to see things changing much this time around. Sure, her new challenger, former Minneapolis City Councilmember Don Samuels, actually has a preexisting base of support and name recognition unlike Melton-Meaux, and maybe he can cut into Omar’s previous strength in the city of Minneapolis, particularly among lower-income voters—Melton-Meaux’s support was very concentrated in the richest parts of the district, especially the suburbs. And he still has the same coalition of establishment support that Melton-Meaux had, plus additional public awareness from his role as a public face of the opposition to a 2021 ballot measure which would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new, hopefully less murderous Department of Public Safety. But he’s benefited from far less spending, and he’s got far more baggage than Melton-Meaux, a blank slate if ever there was one.
In 2020, Samuels and his wife accompanied a group of neighborhood kids on a bike ride to a park along the Mississippi River, where one of the children, a six-year-old boy, was swept away by a strong current and drowned while playing on the riverbank. The Samuelses ended up agreeing to pay a $301,000 wrongful death settlement to the boy’s family for negligence in letting the children play along the shore given the strong currents and the fact that only Don’s wife Sondra could swim; according to eyewitnesses, Sondra dove into the river to save the boy, but nearly drowned herself because of the strong current and lost her grip on the boy before she could be rescued by a passerby. Samuels, who cannot swim, stood distraught on the shore begging passersby for help. It was a horrible tragedy—which made it, uh, jarring when he responded to a tweet blasting him for the child’s death with a cavalier “Can’t swim but can govern.” He also has a history of bombastic, offensive statements—a good example is the time he said an underperforming Minneapolis public high school should be burned down. Generally speaking, candidates for office who have good reason to fear voters Googling them struggle to win. Ilhan Omar is a lightning rod for criticism (and racism, Islamophobia, and violent threats), but she’s a lightning rod who won a convincing majority in her last primary in the face of an extremely strong challenge. It’s hard to see her losing, because just like in 2020, her opponent’s camp have made the race a referendum on Ilhan Omar—and after 2020, it sure seems like the average Democratic primary voter in MN-05 likes having her in Congress. The fact that two other Squad members who faced serious challenges this cycle, Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib, each ended up winning by landslide margins last week only makes a Samuels win seem even less likely.
SD-38 (NW Minneapolis suburbs)
Huldah Hiltsley vs. Susan Pha
Community leader Huldah Hiltsley and Brooklyn Park Councilmember Susan Pha are locked in what is by all accounts a very tight battle to replace Chris Eaton in the Senate. In fact, Hiltsley and Pha wound up with a rare draw at the DFL convention—Hiltsley managed to get 54% of the delegates to Pha’s 46%, but that was nowhere close to the 60% she needed for an endorsement. Though the candidates differ little on policy on their website or in forums, Hiltsley has become a favorite of progressive groups, including most labor unions and LGBTQ+ groups Stonewall MN and OutFront MN and environmental groups like the Sierra Club, while Pha is supported by Eaton, who was more of a moderate in the Senate. We don’t like inferring ideology solely through endorsements, and the fact we had to means the differences probably aren’t that large, but those endorsements do all point in the same direction, towards Hiltsley.
SD-44 (NE St. Paul suburbs)
Leslie Lienemann vs. Nancy Livingston vs. Tou Xiong
State Rep. and former Maplewood City Councilor Tou Xiong lucked out when his Senate district opened up after he’d only been in the House for two terms. Open state Senate seats don’t come around often. Which is why he probably wishes he hadn’t decided to drive home drunk in January. If that hadn’t happened, we’d feel comfortable saying he’s going to win and stopping there, but that kind of scandal complicates things. Xiong is still the favorite, and still has the party endorsement, but he’s not as able to effortlessly glide into the senate as he was last year. Instead, labor-side employment lawyer Leslie Lienemann or outgoing state Sen. Chuck Wiger’s legislative assistant and District 622 School Board member Nancy Livingston might be able to make their longshot campaigns work. Of the two, Livingston comes across as more moderate, talking up her Chamber of Commerce membership, while Lienemann focuses on the labor side of things. In fact, Lienemann managed to convince the AFL-CIO to pick her over the party-endorsed candidate, which doesn’t usually happen. Tou Xiong still probably wins, especially with two opponents, but if he doesn’t, he has no one to blame but himself.
SD-56 (Southern Twin Cities metro)
Justin Emmerich vs. Erin Maye Quade
This is one of the clearer ideological primaries in the state—legislative staffer and HOA president Justin Emmerich has the support of police unions, the Chamber of Commerce, and, controversially, the DFL. He only has that endorsement because former state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, a staunch progressive and former candidate for lieutenant governor, had to withdraw from the endorsing convention because she went into labor. Emmerich led Maye Quade 55% to 44% among delegates in the first round of voting—not enough to clear the 60% threshold required to win the endorsement under party bylaws—but won by default once she had to withdraw and leave the convention to go to the hospital. Anyone with a shred of integrity would’ve declined to accept an endorsement they only won because the other candidate had to leave to give birth; Emmerich still brags about his DFL “endorsement.” Rooting for Maye Quade on the basis of that alone would be understandable; that she’s a progressive enthusiastically backed by labor unions and prominent progressive groups only sweetens the deal.
SD-62 (South-central Minneapolis)
Omar Fateh (i) vs. Shaun Laden
In 2020, activist and DSA member Omar Fateh didn’t just upset the incumbent, he took the party endorsement with an astonishing 72% of delegates, and stayed in the driver's seat for the entire rest of the campaign. Profiles about his victory and what it meant for the left were being written before the primary election had even happened. Now, he’s in the novel position of running for reelection, and doing so under an ethical cloud. To be clear, the cloud is mostly bullshit, fantastical accusations by Republicans that he took bribes, rigged votes, etc. But, because Republicans control the Senate, those accusations were investigated and, for several months, it looked at least theoretically possible that he could be in real trouble, which is, in all likelihood, why the campaign of teachers’ union leader Shaun Laden exists. However, the DFL endorsed him, as did most of his allies like Ilhan Omar—and just a couple weeks ago, the bipartisan committee investigating him dismissed pretty much every complaint, finding only that he’d failed to disclose a single $1,000 ad he bought. If Laden’s campaign was a longshot before that announcement, it’s a moonshot now.
SD-63 (SE Minneapolis)
Zaynab Mohamed vs. Todd Scott
Despite how exciting Zaynab Mohamed is as a candidate—leader in the Council of American Islamic Relations, criminal justice reform organizer, DSA endorsee, and all at just 24 years old—this race is pretty boring, because she’s expected to win by a massive margin over lawyer Todd Scott.
SD-65 (Central Saint Paul)
Sandra “Sandy” Pappas (i) vs. Zuki Ellis vs. Sheigh Freeberg
Sandy Pappas has been in the Senate since 1991, making her the second-longest-serving member of the body. Though she hasn’t overtly screwed anything up recently, Central Saint Paul doesn’t make the list of places moderate longtime incumbents should feel safe. That’s a lesson Pappas must have learned when she won by a relatively weak 64-36 over an unheralded challenger in 2020. So let’s herald one of her challengers this year. Sheigh Freeberg is a union organizer who is running for office because he believes that Pappas has an “old-school understanding of politics” and is doing little more than “taking a vote and going home” during a period of turmoil and struggle in Saint Paul that requires more engaged and active leadership. Pappas is running on incumbency and seniority, which suggests that her understanding of voters may also be old-school. Sandy Pappas has met the minimum threshold of what you’d expect a competent incumbent to do: getting the party and most union endorsements, running a few ads, but her campaign has been unspectacular, and relies on inertia during a redistricting year. Freeberg’s campaign, which is supported by the DSA as well as Unite Here!, the union he works for, has had to be nimbler without the institutional heft Pappas has, but he’s run a good campaign. It’s anyone’s guess how this one goes.
Arik Forsman vs. Alicia Kozlowski
Duluth City Council President Arik Forsman is a shameless booster of the mining industry, no matter the environmental costs—which might make sense north of Duluth in the mining towns of the Iron Range, but Duluth itself is a left-leaning college town. Organized labor likes him (mining has historically been a big part of organized labor in northern Minnesota), and so does the moderate faction of Duluth politics. Progressives, environmental groups, Mayor Emily Larson, and the DFL are behind Alicia Kozlowski, the city’s Community Relations Officer, who is running a staunchly left-wing campaign. Organized labor is quite strong in Duluth, and Forsman is an elected official while Kozlowski is a first-time candidate, but Kozlowski is the DFL pick and seems a more natural fit for this district. In a primary an awful lot like this one back in 2020, DFL-endorsed democratic socialist and workers’ rights attorney Jen McEwen trounced centrist mining booster Erik Simonson for Duluth’s state Senate district, then numbered SD-07, by a lopsided 73.5%-26.5% margin—and Simonson was the incumbent state senator. Still, Forsman had outspent Kozlowski more than three to one as of mid-July, though they had similar amounts of money left to spend; it’s far from guaranteed he’ll meet the same fate as Simonson two years ago.
HD-50B (Bloomington, southern suburb of Minneapolis)
Andrew Carlson (i) vs. Steve Elkins (i)
In the first of two incumbent-on-incumbent contests, two very similar politicians, state Reps. Andrew Carlson and Steve Elkins, are fighting for their political lives. For whatever reason, a cross-ideological slice of Bloomington politics, from the Mayor to the Chamber of Commerce, to the statewide AFL-CIO just seems to like Elkins better, though that may just be because no one has any strong opinions on which standard center-left Democrat goes back to the House next year, so everyone’s going with who they guess will win, and that’s Elkins, who represents most of this district, and not Carlson, who represents very little of it.
HD-52A (Southern Twin Cities metro)
Sandra Masin (i) vs. Liz Reyer (i)
We have no idea why 79-year-old Sandra Masin didn’t take this opportunity to just retire. She was first elected in 2006 (probably the last time she made any big changes to her website—look at this thing), and she’s had a good career. Yes, the district is basically hers and not Liz Reyer’s, but after Reyer won the party’s endorsement, it would have been a great time for Masin to hang it up. But she didn’t, and now we have another primary between two basically identical incumbents.
HD-62A (South-central Minneapolis)
Aisha Gomez (i) vs. Osman Ahmed
Aisha Gomez is in her second term in the state House, where she’s a reliably progressive vote. She has the DFL endorsement, support from across the Democratic Party spectrum in Minneapolis, and has support from organized labor and many progressive organizations. Osman Ahmed, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, has the support of Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins and Ward 6 Councilmember Jamal Osman, but it seems unlikely to be enough to unseat Gomez, who’s raised and spent more than Ahmed and has no glaring vulnerability to speak of.
HD-65B (Central St. Paul)
Anna Botz vs. María Isa Pérez-Hedges
Insulin activist María Isa Pérez-Hedges is outraising and outspending late-entering candidate Anna Botz, and she’s lapping her in endorsements, too. Pérez-Hedges’s platform is generally progressive and includes supporting the state’s proposed single-payer healthcare plan, HF 1774; Botz’s campaign paid for mailers bragging that Botz wants to ban abortion. Yikes.
HD-66A (NW St. Paul and suburbs)
Leigh Finke vs. Dave Thomas
Longtime progressive activist Leigh Finke is, in all likelihood, going to win this one in a walk. Teacher and veteran Dave Thomas is running an extremely bare-bones campaign that’s garnered virtually no public support, while Finke, who would be Minnesota’s first out trans legislator, has support from organized labor, Democratic politicians across the state and across the ideological spectrum, and a whole bunch of progressive and liberal groups. Finke is running in part in response to the sharp rise in anti-LGBT and specifically anti-trans rhetoric and legislation since 2021, and is willing to honestly describe the modern American right as “a violent fascist white movement [...] backed by the Supreme Court and a political party.” For someone who’s facing almost-nominal opposition, that’s pretty cool.
HD-67A (St. Paul’s East Side)
John Thompson (i) vs. Liz Lee
John Thompson was expelled from the DFL caucus in 2021 after he was pulled over in a traffic stop for a missing front plate and presented a Wisconsin driver’s license (meaning he may have falsely claimed to reside in Minnesota in order to run for office, as residency is required for a Wisconsin driver’s license), his Minnesota driving privileges (he did not have a Minnesota license) were revoked over a 2019 child support issue, and reports surfaced of five separate domestic abuse allegations against him from the years 2003 to 2011 all within a month. It was the last one that convinced DFL leadership he needed to go; after he refused to resign despite pressure from all the state’s top Democrats, the House DFL voted to expel him from the caucus, denying him access to party resources and decision-making. What the caucus couldn’t do was prevent him from running in the Democratic primary.
The DFL convention of party activists, unsurprisingly, chose one of Thompson’s two challengers, former congressional staffer Liz Lee, rather than the incumbent. (The other, Hoang Murphy, chose not to proceed to the primary after losing the endorsement, ensuring Thompson couldn’t win with a plurality.) Pretty much everyone in St. Paul politics is staying neutral or backing Lee, who’s running a quietly, vaguely progressive campaign tolerable to pretty much all factions of the Democratic Party, at least compared to Thompson. It’s not often that an incumbent appears to be an underdog, but we’re inclined to think that’s the case here.
Dakota County Attorney
Kathy Keena vs. Elizabeth Lamin vs. Matt Little vs. Jeffrey (Jeff) Sheridan
Matt Little, a Democratic state senator who lost reelection in 2020, is awkwardly trying to position himself as a tough-on-crime candidate like his two biggest opponents, Kathy Keena, a career prosecutor supported by the outgoing County Attorney and the County Sheriff, and Elizabeth Lamin, another career prosecutor backed by a few labor unions. Defense attorney Jeff Sheridan is the only one here who actually wants to change how the office operates, but he’s the least likely to win.
Hennepin County Attorney
Martha Holton Dimick vs. Jarvis Jones vs. Tad Jude vs. Mary Moriarty vs. Paul Ostrow vs. Saraswati Singh vs. Ryan Winkler
In deep-blue Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis and many of its suburbs, tough-on-crime DA Mike Freeman is retiring, after a stiff challenge from criminal justice reformers in 2018 and the heightened scrutiny of his office after the murder of George Floyd probably made reelection untenable. The field to succeed him is…very crowded. Local elections in Minnesota are nonpartisan top-two elections, so the top two vote-getters will advance to November and the candidates’ partisan allegiances will not be listed on the ballot; however, all candidates but Tad Jude are Democrats, at least nominally. Jude, a former state legislator turned local politician, was a Democrat early in his career, but was always a staunch conservative even before his party switch in 1992; he’s the only Republican, so his best hope at making the November election is consolidating the Republican vote in this nonpartisan election. He’s doing so by running hard to the right; unfortunately for him, a couple of the Democrats are dabbling in conservative messaging themselves. Paul Ostrow, a former Minneapolis city councilor, and Martha Holton Dimick, a judge and former prosecutor, are both running distinctly tough-on-crime campaigns with support from the right flank of Minneapolis politics. Ostrow touts the endorsements of former Gov. Arne Carlson and former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, both Republicans; Holton Dimick has anti-reform centrist Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat but a shitty one, and former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, now an independent but a Republican during his 16 years in the Senate, in her camp. Both are Democrats, but clearly see conservative voters as part of their path to victory. State House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Saraswati Singh are running as vaguely reform-friendly mainline liberals; they at least eschew the gratuitous fearmongering and cop worship Ostrow and Holton Dimick have made central to their campaigns. Winkler and Singh might siphon off some progressive voters, but the main progressive candidate seems to be Mary Moriarty, a former public defender who won the DFL endorsement and additionally has the support of Ilhan Omar, Keith Ellison, and a wide array of progressive and pro-criminal justice reform groups. The DFL endorsement carries a lot of weight and comes with access to official party resources, so if we had to guess we’d predict Moriarty makes it to November; Winkler and Holton Dimick are the Democrats other than Moriarty with the most money and support, while Jude has the advantage of being the only Republican (which will become a distinct disadvantage if he makes it to November, since Donald Trump got less than 30% of the vote in Hennepin County in both 2016 and 2020.)
Hennepin County Sheriff
Joseph Banks vs. Jai Hanson vs. Dawanna Witt
The Sheriff’s office is nonpartisan, meaning this race will ultimately serve to eliminate one of the three candidates for the runoff in November. We hope it’s Jai Hanson, a cop with a shaky disciplinary record, running as an independent who wants to “depoliticize” the office, by which he seems to mean reversing some of the more liberal policies put in place by the last sheriff. Dawanna Witt, the DFL endorsed candidate, is no reformer, but at least she won’t be making anything worse. Police officer Joseph Banks is running the least serious campaign and will probably be the odd one out in today’s race.
Vermont is too complex for us to do a comprehensive preview at the state House level—they have a real left-wing third party in the Progressive Party, federal partisanship determines far less than in most states’ legislative elections, many districts elect two members rather than the standard one, and at 150 members it’s one of the largest lower chambers in the country. Since Vermont is one of the least populous states, that means each state representative has only a few thousand constituents. Thankfully, reader and Vermonter Nick Cook generously provided us with some local perspective to parse the state’s marquee legislative primaries, which was hugely helpful. (Vermont’s state legislative districts, like Massachusetts’s and New Hampshire’s, are numbered by county, so the district naming may seem odd.) But first, the federal races—Vermonters are voting in an election without an incumbent seeking reelection to Congress for the first time since 2006, when then-Rep. Bernie Sanders left the House to run for an open Senate seat.
Peter Welch vs. Isaac Evans-Frantz vs. Niki Thran
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is going to win the state’s open U.S. Senate seat in a landslide over Isaac Evans-Frantz, an activist and former student member of the Vermont State Board of Education, and Dr. Niki Thran, an emergency room physician. Evans-Frantz has the support of the Vermont Progressive Party, but it’s pretty clear that this is just because they feel obligated to ensure that Welch’s election isn’t a total coronation; Welch is establishment-friendly, for sure, but he’s a consistently progressive member of the House with pretty much unanimous support from the state’s most prominent politicians, including Bernie Sanders.
Becca Balint vs. Molly Gray
If the polls are right, this is going to be a short night. It didn’t start out looking like that would be the case—Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, the latest star to come from the Kunin/Dean/moderate wing of the party, declared, and immediately became a frontrunner, with no clear progressive candidate ready to go head to head against her. Eventually, two progressives emerged: State Senate President Becca Balint and state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale. Eventually, Ram Hinsdale dropped out of the election and endorsed Balint to unify the progressive vote and defeat Gray. Now, the final two polls of the race show Balint crushing Gray by close to 30%.
Gray first entered electoral politics in 2020 when she defeated progressive (and Progressive) Tim Ashe for the Democratic LG nomination. Her substance-free campaign infuriated progressives, but it worked. When, only a year into office, she found out that the state's congressional seat was opening up, she attempted to run from the same playbook. Immediately, there were clear signs that she was going to have trouble adapting to the hard-hitting and high profile environment of a congressional race. She made clean campaign funding a key issue, hosted fundraisers with lobbyists, and then justified it by…saying she would follow the law when reporting their contributions? Her surrogates talked about electability for some reason. She came out against marijuana decriminalization in Vermont.
Becca Balint, by contrast, has been in electoral politics for a long time. She started out supporting the Progressive Party over 20 years ago, got elected to local offices, and won a state Senate seat in 2014 as a Democrat. The Democratic Senate caucus elected her majority leader soon after, in 2017. She’s run a savvy campaign so far, positioning herself at once as the progressive in the race and the pragmatic get-things-done candidate, while Gray has twisted herself in knots trying to present her moderate views in a more acceptable way. To get a sense of how awkward Gray’s been, check out this nonanswer of hers at the last debate:
“[Gray] said she’s ‘open to a conversation’ about ending qualified immunity — but only if that includes getting rid of it for all public servants, not just police.”
Pissing off one side of an issue is easy. Pissing off both sides of an issue is difficult. Pissing off both sides of an issue, and also people who care about another, different issue? That that takes true talent.
Balint has benefitted from an unusual amount of outside spending for a Vermont race, most of it from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, something that Gray and her allies have tried to make an issue of, but have found no traction. Two pollsters were in the field for this race’s final weeks: University of New Hampshire and Data For Progress, the former of which found Balint up 61% to 23%, and the latter found her up by a smaller, but still massive, 59% to 27% margin. Even Gray seems to realize she’s losing, because we can’t think of another reason a candidate for office in Vermont would decide it was a good idea to explicitly run on being the anti-Bernie Sanders other than feeling like they’ve already lost:
"The choice Vermonters have is: do they want to send the next member of ‘the Squad’ or the Congressional Progressive Caucus to Washington? The next Bernie Sanders?" Gray said in an interview with NBC5 Monday. "Or do they want to send the next Pat Leahy or Peter Welch? Someone who’s a pragmatic Democrat, who has a track record of working across the aisle?"
Senate - Chittenden District (Burlington) Top 3
Philip Baruth (i) vs. Dawn Ellis vs. Martine Gulick vs. Erhard Mahnke vs. Tanya Vyhovsky
Vermont finally took a redistricting cycle as an opportunity to seriously reconfigure some districts, resulting in a “new” Burlington district that the left is very excited about. The basic outline of this election is that three of the candidates are cross-endorsed by the Progressive Party, and three are endorsed by the Democratic Party. Naturally, the former three are the more progressive candidates, and the latter three are more moderate. (Well, sort of—incumbent Philip Baruth was endorsed by both, and he leans more progressive). The progressive camp includes Baruth, state Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky (a rising star in lefty Burlington politics), and Erhard Mahnke, a throwback who served as city council president during the mayoral administration of one Bernard Sanders. Philip Baruth is a shoo-in, and Tanya Vyhovsky is widely expected to finish in the top 3 as well. It’s Erhard Mahnke that Progressives are going to have to work the hardest to elect.
House - Addison-2 (rural towns near Middlebury)
Peter Conlon (i) vs. Wendy Harlin
Wendy Harlin, a school board director and farmer, is running against state Rep. Peter Conlon, who chairs the House Education Committee. Harlin is criticizing Conlon for not directing more funding to rural schools; she’s also running to his left in general, and is supported by the progressive group Rights & Democracy, an affiliate of the Center for Popular Democracy that has been promoted by Bernie Sanders.
House - Chittenden-4 (Hinesburg)
Christina Deeley vs. Phil Pouech
Hinesburg Selectman Phil Pouech and social studies teacher Christina Deeley are facing off here; women’s groups, Rights & Democracy, and the unions representing public school teachers and state employees are on Deeley’s side, and she’s clearly the more progressive candidate here.
House - Chittenden-5 (Charlotte)
Michael Yantachka (i) vs. Chea Waters Evans
State Rep. Michael Yantachka has a mostly progressive track record, and is vulnerable entirely through his own fault. When a constitutional amendment to guarantee abortion rights came before the state legislature, Yantachka voted against it, saying it was too broad because it protected late-term abortions, which he wants to restrict. Local journalist Chea Waters Evans decided to run against him after he cast that vote (which he quickly walked back once he realized it might cost him his job.) Some progressive groups and organized labor are sticking with Yantachka, and Waters Evans is pretty vague on issues other than abortion, but if Yantachka ends up losing it’ll be hard to feel bad. Don’t vote against abortion protections next time, man.
House - Chittenden-16 (Downtown Burlington) Top 2
Jill Krowinski (i) vs. Ryan Addario vs. Kate Logan
State House Speaker Jill Krowinski has been moderate enough to get on just about everybody’s bad side in left-leaning Burlington. In particular, her push to cut pay and pension benefits for state employees while increasing hours really pissed off organized labor, and Vermont’s top Democrats aside from Krowinski publicly opposed the plan (including both Becca Balint and Molly Gray, despite their very different ideological leanings.) She’ll very likely get another term anyway, because there’s only one progressive running for this two-member district, but progressives and organized labor really want to embarrass Krowinski in retaliation for the pension fiasco. They’re backing Kate Logan, a democratic socialist nonprofit director and former union organizer, for the second seat in Krowinski’s district, instead of Krowinski’s candidate, former Burlington City Council candidate Ryan Addario.
House - Washington-4 (Montpelier) Top 2
Conor Casey vs. Ken Jones vs. Kate McCann vs. Merrick Modun vs. Ethan Parke
This incredibly crowded field has a slate of two progressives: Montpelier City Councilor Conor Casey and former Vermont Teacher of the Year Kate McCann. Ken Jones and Ethan Parke are both fixtures in Vermont politics—Jones as a past or current member of plenty of advisory boards, commissions, and nonprofits in Montpelier, and Parke as a state government official (most prominently in the administration of Howard Dean, a leader of the moderate faction of the state’s Democratic Party, which isn’t a great sign.) High school student and organizer Merrick Modun is the student representative on the Montpelier-Roxbury School Board and also chairs the city government’s advisory Complete Streets Committee—despite being just 17 years old, he has a bio of enough hyperlocal community involvement and government service that it wouldn’t be out of place in a state legislature like Vermont’s, where districts are tiny enough that the only real barrier to entry is the willingness to go door-to-door talking to your own neighbors. He’s running as a progressive, but McCann and Casey seem to have that lane sewn up.
Whichever two candidates come out on top will face perennial candidate Glennie Sewell, who has the Progressive Party’s nomination uncontested. While some Progressive Party nominees are able to win general elections without also having the Democratic ballot line, Sewell is a ghost hunter who has fared very poorly in every past campaign, so the Democratic primary is probably the ballgame here.
House - Windsor-Orange-2 (Upper Connecticut River Valley, along the New Hampshire border) Top 2
James Masland (i) vs. Diedre Gish vs. Rebecca Holcombe
Former Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, after running for governor as the moderate candidate to Progressives’ David Zuckerman in the primary, is honestly looking at a downgrade by running for state house, but if she wants it, she’ll probably get it. All we can find about her opponent, Diedre Gish, is that she’s an accountant. (Incumbent James Masland is likely to win the other ticket to November.)
Chittenden County State’s Attorney
Sarah Fair George (i) vs. Ted Kenney
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George has been a modestly prominent reform DA since taking office; she ended cash bail, instituted a policy of declining to prosecute low-level offenses and cases resulting from certain types of traffic stops, and began diverting a large number of cases to restorative justice processes outside of the carceral side of the legal system. Ted Kenney, who resigned from a position in the Vermont Attorney General’s office to run against her, is, in a story that we’ve heard before, running against the progressive incumbent by simultaneously claiming to be a reform-minded progressive and hitting every conservative talking point imaginable, including fearmongering about a crime wave that doesn’t really exist when you actually look at data. Police unions have gone all in for Kenney; as a rule, police unions do not support candidates who claim to be reformers unless those candidates are lying. Hell, one individual officer was caught on his body camera using a routine investigation as a chance to blame George for there supposedly being “a lot of crack houses in Winooski” and promote Kenney. Tough-on-crime backlash candidates like Kenney have repeatedly failed to beat well-known reform DAs like Larry Krasner, Kim Foxx, and Kim Gardner; here’s hoping George can follow the pattern and win another term, even though she has a much whiter constituency than most reform DAs.
AD-10 (North Milwaukee and suburbs)
Bryan Kennedy vs. Darrin Madison Jr.
Bryan Kennedy has an impressive pedigree: current mayor of Glendale (pop. 13,000), former congressional candidate and president of the Wisconsin AFT, and near-Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair. By all accounts, he should be waltzing into this seat. Activist Darrin Madison Jr. has his work cut out for him. Still, Madison might be up to the task. He ran for County Board of Supervisors in 2020 and lost by just 12 votes. Madison’s campaign in that election was backed by the DSA, and they’re supporting him again. But his greatest asset may be geography: the district is majority Milwaukee and majority Black. Darrin Madison is a Black Milwaukee politician, while Bryan Kennedy is a suburban white politician. Madison’s socialist ties haven’t stopped the Milwaukee establishment from closing ranks around him—Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Sen. Chris Larson, and the district’s outgoing Rep. David Bowen are all behind him. Politicians from the white suburban communities of Shorewood and Glendale are backing Kennedy, as are trade unions and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. This is a geographic contest as much as an ideological one.
AD-43 (Rural towns south of Madison)
Jenna Jacobson vs. Matt McIntyre
Running for this open seat are Dane County Housing Program Specialist Jenna Jacobson, who also serves as a Trustee for the Village of Oregon, and truck driver Matt McIntyre, who served as mayor of Edgerton for a decade before losing reelection and repeatedly trying and failing to make a return to the Board of Alders. Jacobson, a standard liberal-to-progressive Democrat is a strong favorite because she is running what is known as “a real campaign” instead of “putting yourself on the ballot out of what appears to be boredom.”
AD-45 (Beloit and rural towns south of Madison)
Clinton Anderson vs. Ben Dorscheid
Beloit City Council President Clinton Anderson is running a very low-key campaign, but local high school history teacher Ben Dorscheid, who hails from the rural part of this district, is running an even lower-key campaign, so Anderson seems like a clear favorite.
AD-46 (Eastern Madison and suburbs)
Syed Abbas vs. Analiese Eicher vs. Andrew Hysell vs. Mike Jacobs vs. Melissa Ratcliff
Usually in races this crowded, it’s not hard to narrow down the field to two or three candidates who could win, but Sun Prairie (pop. 36,000) alderman Mike Jacobs, lawyer and nonprofit leader Andrew Hysell, former Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, Dane County Supervisor Melissa Ratcliff, and Madison City Council President Syed Abbas are plausible victors here. Of the herd, Abbas is probably the most progressive, and not shockingly, the most Madison-centric candidate, even though he’s not really part of the progressive wing of the Madison City Council. While Abbas is only somewhat running as a progressive, no one else is really even trying. In particular, Hysell has contributed money to Republican candidates in the past and isn’t ashamed of doing so. The rest of the candidates are running similar center-left campaigns that don’t distinguish themselves from each other too strongly.
AD-79 (North Madison and suburbs)
Alex Joers vs. Brad Votava
Former staffer to state Rep. Dianne Hesselbein and current Dane County Supervisor Alex Joers is a strong favorite here, supported by seemingly every local Dane County politician, as well as several progressive organizations. Meanwhile, geospatial imaging company owner Brad Votava is just kind of…there.
AD-80 (Rural towns west of Madison)
Mike Bare vs. Anna Halverson vs. Chad Kemp vs. Doug Steinberg vs. Dale Yurs
Longtime Assemb. Sondy Pope is retiring from this Madison-area district and leaving quite the field to replace her. She personally favors Verona (pop 14,000) City Council President Chad Kemp. As has happened in a few elections this year, the candidates all agree on opposing the Republican majority in the Assembly, but have little to say about policy beyond that. Dane County Supervisor Mike Bare is a minor exception with his focus on labor issues, and he has been endorsed by the SEIU and AFSCME. Anna Halverson, the lone woman in the race, is supported by EMILY’s List, and has touted her work with Moms Demand Action.