Primary Review: Hawaii, Vermont, Connecticut, & More

primary review


Hawaii had their primaries on Saturday, and the heavily Democratic state chose its likely winners and runners-up. Senator Mazie Hirono walked through an uncontested primary, while Ron Curtis won the Republican primary to challenge her in November. Curtis can certainly be described as liberty-leaning, and while I can’t see the term libertarian ever self-described, the retired government contractor likens his politics to John F. Kennedy and Thomas Jefferson, and cites Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand as books that best describe his politics, according to a survey with Ballotpedia. While I could discuss his politics at length, it likely won’t matter. Hawaii went for Hillary Clinton by 32 points.

Governor David Ige survived a strong primary challenge from US Representative Colleen Hanabusa, 51%-44%, prompted largely by his failure of leadership in the notorious missile alert false alarm. Republicans nominated Andria Tupola, a moderate serving in the state house, by a wide margin.

In the seat vacated by Representative Hanasbusa, conservative Democrat and former US Representative Ed Case won by 15 points over the next challenger in a seven-wide race for the D+17 district. His victory is another for the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, which is taking heat from the progressive wing in nearly every contested primary this year. The Republicans nominated Cam Cavasso, and the Libertarian Party will run Michelle Tippens. In Hawaii’s other district, civil libertarian Tulsi Gabbard easily defended her seat against two primary challengers, and Republican Brian Evans was uncontested for the November contest.


While the media is abuzz that Democrats chose Christine Hallquist as their candidate to become the first transgender governor in the country, a look at her policies should sour any celebration. The far-left Democrat supports a $15 minimum wage, single-payer health care, and paid family leave along with all other hallmarks of a so-called progressive. Simply put, I hope the Free State to the east believes in borders. Republicans hope to defeat Hallquist with their unpopular governor Phil Scott, who has no redeeming qualities. Vermont Democrats also nominated Bernie Sanders for Senate for the third time in as many elections. Sanders will decline the nomination and run as an independent against Republican Brooke Paige, as will the incumbent at-large Congressman Peter Welch for that seat, and the Secretary of State Jim Condos for that seat. I don’t know whether Paige will turn down the latter two to run for Senate, or if he’s allowed to run for all three (which I doubt), but I can’t imagine a Republican winning a single statewide race in Vermont this fall, so it does not matter.


Connecticut’s gubernatorial race is expected to be unusually close, given the unpopularity of Governor Malloy, who was found to be the second-least popular governor in the country in a July poll. He is not running for a third term, but the Democrat seeking to replace him will have to distance their policies. Progressive Ned Lamont took the primary with ease and has no ties to the current administration. Despite promising to repeal the unpopular property tax hike, Lamont will have a hard time separating himself from high taxes while running on a progressive agenda. He will face Bob Stefanowski, who wants to phase out the corporate income tax and business entity tax in two years, the state income tax in eight years, and gift and estate taxes immediately. He also wants to enact “zero-based budgeting,” which makes all spending discretionary, and privatize public services like the DMV. He also proposes a “taxpayer bill of rights,” which would impose term limits, allow for recall votes, require a supermajority for any new taxes or fees, allow referendums, and increase transparency for private entities that receive taxpayer dollars. Time will tell if his radically capitalist tax policies can appeal to the far-leftists tired of far left policy.

For Senate, Republicans chose Matthew Corey, a social moderate, to face Senator Murphy in the fall. The race is not expected to be close, but Corey is counting on the disapproval of the governor to have wider effects in the state. Corey is pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, not terrible on the war on drugs, and fairly capitalist, but he tows party line on the Department of Defense. Libertarians will field Richard Lion. In the Fifth Congressional District, Democrats chose former Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes over US Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Mary Glassman, and Republicans chose former Meriden mayor Manny Santos. Santos seems to be a moderate Republican, and is notably a US Term Limits pledge signer.


Minnesota will choose this November between Congressman Tim Walz and Republican Jeff Johnson for their next governor. Walz gathered 41.6% of the vote to defeat two other Democrats, and Johnson used populist messaging to court Trump voters and defeat former Governor Tim Pawlenty. Democrats hope for a sweep in almost-Canada, where they will also be electing two Senators. Incumbent Tina Smith won the DFL primary for Al Franken’s seat, and State Senator Karin Housley got the nod for Republicans. Republicans also nominated Jim Newberger, who will face Senator Amy Klobuchar. Newberger, a state representative, is the bigger Trump supporter of the two Republicans, with Housley being more traditionally conservative. With Tim Walz vacating the First Congressional seat after winning by less than a full percentage point (in a district Trump won by nearly 15), Republicans are eyeing a steal amidst the supposed Blue Wave. They nominated Jim Hagedorn, a repeated failed candidate who the Washington Examiner called “The worst Republican candidate in America,” whose locker room talk makes Trump look like Pope Francis. Democrats nominated Dan Feehan, an Iraq war veteran. In one of the few districts in America where Clinton won along with a Republican for Congress, Democrats nominated Dean Phillips to face incumbent Erik Paulsen. Keith Ellison’s vacated district saw Ilhan Omar nominated to face Republican Jennifer Zielinski, and in the swing Seventh District, Republicans nominated Dave Hughes to face the incumbent Peterson. In the Eighth District, where Trump won by 15.5% and the Democrat Nolan is not seeking re-election, Democrats nominated Joe Radinovich and Republicans chose Pete Stauber nearly unanimously.


Governor Scott Walker coasted through his primary as he seeks a third term in the union blue state that Trump won by only a handful of votes in his 2016 victory. Walker is famously anti-union, and Democrats hope to use that to succeed where they’ve failed 3 times prior (including a recall vote). Democrats nominated educator Tony Evers, who is running on a traditional Democratic platform focusing on education, infrastructure, and healthcare. Republicans nominated Leah Vukmir, a nurse and adamant conservative, over the quick-tongued and heavily-funded Kevin Nicholson. She will face Tammy Baldwin in November in an effort to hold Trump’s tight victory in the state. In the First Congressional District, where Speaker Paul Ryan declined to run for another term, his endorsee Bryan Steil defeated five other Republicans for the nomination. Democrats nominated Sanders-endorsed Randy Bryce, who is likely a step too far left to swing the heavily conservative district. Tim Rogers won the Republican nomination in the Fourth District, but the Democratic incumbent last won the seat by 77 points.

Primary Analysis

Liberty candidates seemed to do best where it likely won’t matter in November. Overall, five Democratic states look to stay that way, though Minnesota, Connecticut, and Wisconsin are certainly in contention. Progressives fared better this week than they have this entire primary cycle, though none of the victories were particularly surprising. In interesting news not related to this week’s primaries, Gary Johnson will be entering the New Mexico Senate race, and Kris Kobach finally won last week’s Republican primary for Governor of Kansas.

In a final bright spot, Young Americans for Liberty notched three more victories, Erik Mortensen and Cal Bahr in Minnesota, and Shae Sortwell in Wisconsin. Mortensen knocked off an incumbent, and Sortwell won an open primary. Sortwell will have a Libertarian Party opponent in November, along with his Democratic counterpart.

You can read more from Ian Scar on Think Liberty here.


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