The latest round of party primaries in the United States has given shape to key races in the upcoming midterm elections, which will determine the makeup of the US legislature as well as key positions in states across the country.
The polls on Tuesday saw yet another proxy battle within the Republican Party, this time in Wisconsin, where Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, who owns a construction company, overcame former state Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who had been endorsed by Trump’s former vice president and possible 2024 Republican opponent Mike Pence.
The high-profile race was the third this year in which Pence, who has distanced himself from his former boss’s unfounded claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and Trump backed opposing candidates.
Michels, in the waning days of the race, had increasingly taken on Trump’s election claims, which continue to divide the Republican Party.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, Republican voters nominated Scott Jensen, who has also perpetuated misinformation that the 2020 presidential election was marred by widespread fraud, as their party’s gubernatorial candidate.
Both Republican candidates have also staked staunch anti-abortion positions, an issue that is set to define the midterm races in November following the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalised abortion across the country. Several states have since moved to ban the procedure.
Michels, who will face Democratic Governor Tony Evers, has pledged to enforce the state’s 19th-century abortion ban, which went into effect after the Supreme Court ruling and is currently being challenged by the Democrat administration led by Tony Evers, which has promised not to prosecute doctors who perform abortions.
Jensen, meanwhile, has said he will move to ban almost all abortions in Minnesota, even following instances of rape or incest, a position that is controversial among opponents of abortion. He will face Democratic Governor Tim Walz, who has pledged to protect access to abortion in the state.
A physician, Jensen has also gained national attention for downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19 and suggesting death counts were skewed.
In the Democrats’ camp, Representative Ilhan Omar, a member of the so-called “squad” of progressive legislators, which also includes high-profile US Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, eked out a closer than expected victory in Minnesota over a more moderate challenger who questioned the incumbent’s support for the “defund the police” movement.
Omar said the victory “is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values we are fighting for”.
In Wisconsin, progressive Mandela Barnes, the state’s current lieutenant governor, won the Democratic primary to face off against incumbent Republican US Senator Ron Johnson.
Barnes was endorsed by powerhouse progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The progressive leaders also endorsed Becca Balint for an open House of Representatives seat in Vermont. Balint would become the state’s first female member of Congress if she wins in November.