Last night, Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin held primaries for the 2018 midterms. The results reflect this year's trend of nominating possibly the most diverse slate of candidates there has ever been, with many of them being women. Today we break down the results into three parts: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
RANDY BRYCE (D-WI)
Randy "Iron Stache," Bryce, whose campaign announcement ad caused a viral sensation upon its debut last summer, faced a strong challenge from opponent Cathy Myers and braved several attacks on his character to become the Democratic nominee in Wisconsin's first district, home of Paul Ryan. His populist message resonated with local Democrats, and it helps that his background as an army vet and steelworker, plus his aw-shucks personality, make him seem like a Jimmy Stewart character come to life. If he wins, he will be the first Democrat to hold this seat since Peter Barca, who lost it in 1994's Republican Revolution.
CHRISTINE HALLQUIST (D-VT)
Hallquist became the first transgender woman ever nominated for governor of a US state last night. The former head of Vermont Electric Cooperative, she campaigned on ensuring internet access for the state's rural population and cited her experience turning the company around. She faces a steep challenge running against popular Republican incumbent Phil Scott, but even if she loses, she has still made history.
ILHAN OMAR (D-MN)
When she was eight, Ilhan Omar and her family fled Somalia during its civil war and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp, emigrating to Minnesota when she was 12. In 2016, she became the first Muslim woman ever elected to its state legislature. Now she has won the Democratic primary to succeed outgoing Congressman Keith Ellison, and is all but guaranteed victory in November. Next January she will become one of possibly the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress - the other, Rashida Tlaib, is running from Michigan, and has a strong shot at winning too.
JAHANA HAYES (D-CT)
Hayes has been a teacher in Waterbury, Connecticut, for more than ten years, becoming 2016's National Teacher of the Year in the process and receiving honors at the White House from Barack Obama. Despite her political inexperience, she threw her hat into the ring to succeed outgoing Congresswoman Elizabeth Etsy because, as she put it, "I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I have a responsibility to speak up for my community...all these people who work every day and contribute in our community...feel like they’re left out of the conversation." Her inspiring story and pragmatic politics contributed to her victory, and should she win again this fall, she will be Connecticut's first ever non-white representative.
JEFF JOHNSON (R-MN)
Former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty had his comeback fantasy quashed when he lost the governor's primary to Jeff Johnson last night. The deciding factor may have been Donald Trump, whom Pawlenty disavowed following the release of the Access Hollywood tape, while Johnson stood by the President. Minnesota has been the most reliable blue state in presidential elections for more than forty years, but Republicans now control both the state House and Senate, and the results in 2016 were down to the wire between Clinton and Trump. A Johnson victory would give them complete control of the state government for the first time in decades, which could result in disastrous gerrymandering for the 2020 census.
KEITH ELLISON (D-MN)
Ellison won his primary to become Attorney General of Minnesota last night, but last Sunday, the son of his former girlfriend, Karen Monohan, released a statement accusing Ellison of physically abusing his mother during their relationship and hinting at a video that proves it - one which Monohan has been unable to find. Ellison denied the allegations and the Minnesota press has been unable to corroborate them. It is not the first time he has been accused of abuse - Amy Alexander accused him of being violent towards her in 2006 - but her story is not foolproof either. The DNC will review their charges: whether they are proven or not remains to be seen, but they still threaten his candidacy either way.
LEAH VUKMIR (R-WI)
Vukmir, a Wisconsin State Senator who won the GOP nomination against incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin, is the kind of Republican who will do or say anything to get elected. During her campaign, she accused Baldwin of sympathizing with terrorists, even airing a much-criticized ad juxtaposing the Senator's face next to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's. She also attacked Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan's proposal to abolish ICE by saying it would "eliminate border enforcement," even though Pocan's plan does not say any such thing, and ICE does not actually enforce the border. Baldwin has an advantage in the polls, but even if she wins, it will still be one of the nastiest races in the country.
KRIS KOBACH (R-KS)
Although Kansas's primaries were held last week, the Republican governor's primary was deadlocked between incumbent governor Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who were only separated by a handful of votes. Despite concerns over Kobach's office overseeing the recount, he prevailed by a little more than 300 votes, and given the blood-red politics of Kansas, he will probably win. The Republican Party has made Kansas a failed state, thanks to former governor Sam Brownback's austerity and Kobach's numerous voter ID laws that have made it one of the hardest states in which to vote. Despite Kobach's monstrous views on race and immigration, Democrats can take consolation in the fact that he is not very bright, having lost all of his lawsuits against the ACLU and offering weak defenses in return. Kansas Democrats have a chance to outsmart him: all it takes is checking their voter registration vigilantly and making sure they go to the polls in November.