Wisconsin Primary Winners Include Old, New Political Stars

Tony Evers, with his wife, Kathy, speaks after his win in Wisconsin’s Democratic gubernatorial primary election during an event at Best Western Premier Park Hotel in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

MILWAUKEE (CN) – Wisconsin’s primary elections resulted in wins for establishment-backed candidates as well as political newcomers, with Randy Bryce winning the Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District, Leah Vukmir winning the U.S. Senator nomination for Republicans and Tony Evers taking the Democratic election in the race for governor.

Bryce, a former ironworker and first-time candidate, won the primary after a quick ascension to prominence on the national stage over the last year. The race between Bryce and retired schoolteacher Cathy Myers was called just before 9:30 p.m. CDT with Bryce taking about 60 percent of the vote.

Bryce has been riding a lot of viral energy behind his campaign, gaining endorsements from celebrities and prominent political allies including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Bryce raised about $6 million, about six times what Myers raised.

“The Iron Stache,” as he has come to be known, will face off against Republican Bryan Steil, who held 51 percent of votes counted when the race was conceded. Steil has the endorsement of Paul Ryan, who is vacating his 1st District seat this fall after nine terms in office. Steil was once a staffer of Ryan’s.

As for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator, state lawmaker Leah Vukmir beat out former Marine and businessman Kevin Nicholson, garnering just over 50 percent of the vote when the race was declared over shortly before 9:45 p.m. CDT. Vukmir’s numbers were especially substantial in her southeastern Wisconsin base, while Nicholson performed better in the northern and western parts of the state.

The race between Nicholson and Vukmir was a contentious one, with much of the energy between them resulting in a tit-for-tat over who is more closely aligned with President Donald Trump. Just two weeks ago, Nicholson’s camp developed press out of a tape Breitbart released from a March 2016 exchange in which Vukmir dubbed then candidate Trump “offensive to everyone.” But that did not seem to discourage Wisconsin voters. Trump, after all, lost the 2016 Republican Primary in the state to Sen. Ted Cruz by 13 percent of the vote. So it seems that the candidate anointed by the conservative establishment, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, won out over someone who made a point of branding himself a political outsider.

Vukmir, in her speech, thanked an excited crowd for helping to make hers a strong conservative victory. “We’re going to take that to Washington where they need the help of a strong conservative to join the ranks…to help President Trump make America great and keep America great.”

The battle for the governor’s mansion also took shape Tuesday, as Wisconsin state schools Superintendent Tony Evers won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, separating himself from the seven other candidates in a busy field. He had roughly 41 percent of the vote when the race was called at around 9:30 p.m. CDT.

The Democratic hopefuls were more or less united on many of the issues, including the intention to hit the brakes on the state’s $10 billion deal with electronics manufacturer Foxconn, expanding healthcare and renewing focus on education funding. Evers has been a bit more moderate than his peers on some issues, like the initiative to legalize marijuana in the state.

Evers will be facing off against two-term Gov. Scott Walker Nov. 6. As can be the case in races against incumbents, Walker’s campaign has dwarfed Evers’ as far as funding is concerned. As of early August, Evers had just over $150,000 in cash on hand; Walker had about $6 million. President Trump tweeted out his support of Walker on Monday, calling him “a tremendous Governor who has done incredible things for that Great State.”

Evers, for his part, does not seem intimidated. He says, “I will take the fight to Scott Walker, but I will also be equally passionate about the issues.”

Another notable outcome of the Wisconsin primary was for Milwaukee County Sheriff, where former Milwaukee Police Captain and Major League Baseball security official Earnell Lucas beat out acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt by a healthy 57 percent to 34 percent. Lucas will go on to replace the polarizing David Clarke as Milwaukee’s Sheriff.

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