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We broke down how women made history in Tuesday night’s primaries

A record 19 women nominated for Senate seats, the first trans gubernatorial candidate, and another first Muslim congresswoman.

by Carter Sherman
Aug 15 2018, 2:20pm

Another week, another four primaries in one night.

And once again, female candidates smashed records: Thanks to wins in Minnesota and Wisconsin, a historic 19 women have now been nominated for seats in the U.S. Senate, according to Gender Watch 2018. But it’s impossible for all 19 to win, since five of the battles are all-women.

Voters also nominated the nation’s first-ever transgender gubernatorial candidate, of either major political party, as well as another Democrat almost certain to serve — alongside Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib — as one of the first Muslim congresswomen.

We broke the news down by state.


Jahana Hayes is on track to become the first African-American to represent Connecticut in Congress. The former National Teacher of the Year entered the race for the Democratic nomination for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District just “102 days ago, with no money and no network,” as she told supporters Tuesday night. But she emerged victorious anyway.

FYI: The current representative for the 5th District, Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty, announced that she wouldn’t seek re-election this year following a scandal involving her former chief of staff Tony Baker. After learning that Baker had been accused of sexual harassment and physical abuse, Esty wrote him a letter of recommendation, according to the Connecticut Post . (Baker’s friends have disputed the allegations.)


Rep. Keith Ellison easily won his primary for Minnesota attorney general, despite allegations of domestic abuse by his ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan. Just hours before, the Democratic National Committee announced that it’s investigating Monahan’s allegations, which she originally made over the weekend. But Ellison, who’s also the DNC’s deputy chair, still triumphed over his closest opponent by more than 170,000 votes. “We are going to keep fighting all the way through,” he told supporters at his victory party.

Current Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson finished last among the major candidates in her gubernatorial primary. Swanson took a huge hit last week when the Intercept reported that she’d pressured her office staff to conduct campaign work, a huge blunder in government. Swanson denies it.

It’s a woman v. woman fight for Al Franken’s old seat. Democratic Sen. Tina Smith took over for Franken when he stepped down over sexual misconduct allegations in January. After winning her primary Tuesday, she’ll square off against Republican nominee and state Sen. Karin Housley in the general election. Smith is expected to win the race, but it could be close — Hillary Clinton took the state by less than 2 percentage points in 2016.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar became another shoe-in for first Muslim congresswoman. Omar, who became the first Somali-American legislator in the country in 2016 when she joined the Minnesota state legislature, won her Democratic primary for Minnesota’s 5th District. Since the region is deep blue, she’s likely headed to Congress — where she’ll become the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in Congress and join Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib as the first Muslim women to serve.


Democrat Christine Hallquist is now the first transgender gubernatorial nominee for a major political party. The former Vermont Electric Coop CEO cruised to victory with 48 percent of the vote. But her highly liberal platform — which supports the now-standard progressive fare like a $15 minimum wage — might have a tough time winning over voters for November: The state’s current governor is a Republican, and Vermont hasn’t ousted an incumbent governor since 1962. “I tell people this isn’t the hardest thing I ever did,” Halquist said before the primary. “In fact, I think after transitioning everything else looks pretty easy.”

Vermont won’t send its first woman to Congress anytime soon. The state remains the only one in the Union to have never sent a woman to Congress. And the Republican nominees mounting winnable campaigns against Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Rep. Peter Welch are men.

FYI: Mississippi has also never elected a woman to Congress. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed the state’s Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to the Senate in March , where she took over retiring Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s old seat. Hyde-Smith is now running for re-election.


Local school board representative Cathy Myers lost out on the chance to fight for Paul Ryan’s old seat. Myers was squaring off against Randy “Ironstache” Bryce for the 1st District. But by challenging Ryan to come “work the iron” in a massively successful ad campaign, Bryce generated nationwide liberal drooling — and about $6 million in donations. (That’s the largest fundraising haul of any House challenger this cycle, excluding self-funded candidates.) The contest remained competitive right up until the end though; Myers managed to scrape together more than $1 million and to keep slinging attacks against Bryce.

Former state lawmaker Kelda Roys’ viral ad couldn’t save her from finishing last in the gubernatorial primary. Roys made national headlines when she breastfed in her campaign ad, outspent and outraised her opponents throughout July, and secured the endorsement of both New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and musician Bon Iver — who evidently emerged from a woodland cottage to back her.

FYI: Women released several massively popular campaign ads this year. But the title of 2018’s Most Viral Campaign Ad undoubtedly belongs to Air Force veteran and domestic abuse survivor M.J. Hegar and her spot “Doors,” which depicted all the doors that she had to walk through (or kick down, or crash into) to become the Democratic candidate for Texas’ 31st Congressional District. The Washingtonian explains how the ad got made .

This year’s most expensive Senate primary (so far) is over. After running uncontested in the primary, incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin will face Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir in November’s general election. Wisconsin’s GOP elite have long supported Vukmir, who’s aligned herself strongly with Republican Gov. Scott Walker, but donations poured in from a billionaire donor to support her opponent. In total, Republicans spent more than $12 million in outside money on the race.

FYI: President Donald Trump endorsed Vukmir early Wednesday morning.

Cover image: Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, center, celebrates with her children after her Congressional 5th District primary victory, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Minneapolis. (Mark Vancleave/Star Tribune via AP)