Abortion in focus in Wisconsin, Minnesota midterm primary voting
In Wisconsin, the two top contenders for the Republican nomination to run for governor in the November general elections, construction magnate Tim Michels and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, say they will enforce a 19th-century abortion ban that has prompted providers to stop offering the procedure since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the nationwide right in June. With a Republican-majority legislature, either candidate could push through abortion restrictions as governor.
A week after Kansas voters firmly rejected an attempt to restrict abortion, the issue will play a key role in Wisconsin and Minnesota midterm primaries on Tuesday as Republican candidates for governor vow to ban the procedure if elected. In Wisconsin, the two top contenders for the Republican nomination to run for governor in the November general elections, construction magnate Tim Michels and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, say they will enforce a 19th-century abortion ban that has prompted providers to stop offering the procedure since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the nationwide right in June.
With a Republican-majority legislature, either candidate could push through abortion restrictions as governor. Democratic incumbent Tony Evers and his administration have filed litigation challenging the 1849 law while promising not to prosecute doctors who violate it. The contest between Kleefisch and Michels is the latest proxy battle between Donald Trump and more moderate Republicans. The former president has thrown his support behind Michels, who has poured millions of dollars of his own money into the race, while Trump's former vice president, Mike Pence, and former Governor Scott Walker have endorsed Kleefisch.
A similar dynamic is at play in Minnesota, where Republicans on Tuesday will select a nominee to take on Democratic Governor Tim Walz on Nov. 8. The leading Republican is former state Senator Scott Jensen, a physician who has pledged to try to ban most abortions and has cast doubt on the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abortion remains legal in Minnesota, where Democrats control one of the two legislative chambers.
Last week's Kansas ballot, which saw about 60% of voters support abortion rights, has raised Democrats' hopes that the issue will mobilize their base and attract votes from independents and moderate Republicans. This follows the Supreme Court's overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. Unlike the Kansas initiative, which was open to voters of all parties, Tuesday's Republican primaries will reflect the preference of just Republican voters.
2024 PREVIEW November's election could serve as a preview of 2024, when Wisconsin will likely again be a major swing state in the presidential election. Trump, who still asserts falsely that Democratic President Joe Biden's statewide win in 2020 was fraudulent, has strongly hinted that he intends to run again.
Republicans on Friday named Milwaukee as the site of their 2024 national convention, underscoring the state's strategic importance. Kleefisch and Michels have both questioned the 2020 election results, following Trump's lead. At a Friday night rally with Trump in Waukesha, Michels declared that "election integrity" would be his top priority if elected.
Many Trump-backed candidates, mostly incumbents, have prevailed, though some have not. Also in Wisconsin, Democrats will choose a candidate to take on U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who is perhaps the most vulnerable Republican senator. Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who would be the state's first Black U.S. senator, is widely expected to win the nomination.
The battle for Johnson's seat could determine which party controls the Senate. The chamber is currently split 50-50 with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes. While it is unclear whether Democrats will be able to hold their razor-thin Senate majority, Republicans are favored to win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, which would enable them to block much of Biden's legislative agenda and initiate politically damaging investigations.
For much of the year, Biden's sagging popularity coupled with persistent inflation have weighed on Democrats' chances. But the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, completed on Tuesday, showed Biden's approval rating rose for a third straight week to 40% - still historically low but at the highest level since early June after a string of Democratic legislative victories. Tuesday will also see a special election in Minnesota for the U.S. House seat left vacant when Republican Jim Hagedorn died in February after a battle with cancer. Democrat Jeff Ettinger, the former CEO of Hormel Foods, is running against Republican Brad Finstad, a former agricultural official in the Trump administration.
Voters in Connecticut and Vermont will choose nominees for congressional and statewide races as well.
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