Trump’s picks, Democrat diversity among Tuesday’s primary winners

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — In a night of firsts, Democrats in Vermont’s primary chose the nation’s first transgender gubernatorial nominee. In Minnesota, they picked a woman who would be the first Somali-American member of Congress. Connecticut Democrats nominated a candidate who could become the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress.

Democrats embraced diversity in Tuesday primaries, while Republicans in Minnesota rejected a familiar face of the GOP old guard in favor of a rising newcomer aligned with President Donald Trump.

But Minnesota Democrats also backed a national party leader, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who is facing accusations of domestic violence. He has denied the allegations.

On the other side, Trump tightened his grip on the modern-day Republican Party as the turbulent 2018 primary season lurched toward its finale. A one-time Trump critic, former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, lost a comeback attempt he was expected to win.

Four states held primaries Tuesday: Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Kansas’ gubernatorial primary, which was held last week, was finalized when Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded defeat.

In Minnesota, Republican County Commissioner Jeff Johnson defeated Pawlenty, who once called Trump “unhinged and unfit” and was hoping to regain his old post.

The president’s pick for Kansas governor, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, scored a delayed victory against Colyer, who became the first incumbent governor to fall this season.

In Vermont, Democrat Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination in her quest to become the nation’s first transgender governor. The former chief executive of Vermont Electric Cooperative bested a field of four Democrats that included a 14-year-old.

While she made history Tuesday, Hallquist faces a difficult path to the governor’s mansion. Republican incumbent Phil Scott remains more popular with Democrats than members of his own party in the solidly liberal state.

In Minnesota, Pawlenty had been considered the heavy favorite in a two-person Republican contest for his old job. But he struggled to adapt to a GOP that had changed drastically since he left office in 2011 and flamed out early in a 2012 presidential bid.

Johnson, his underfunded opponent, circulated Pawlenty’s critique of Trump, telling voters he was a steadfast supporter of the president.

Johnson will face Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, who won a three-way race for his party’s nomination.

Three Minnesota women won Senate nominations, including incumbent Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.

Smith, who had been appointed to replace Democrat Al Franken, will face Republican state Sen. Karin Housley, ensuring a woman will hold the seat once held by Franken, who left Congress amid allegations of sexual misconduct toward women.

Also in Minnesota, Democrat Ilhan Omar, the nation’s first Somali-American legislator, won her party’s congressional primary in the race to replace Ellison.

In Connecticut, Democrats picked former teacher of the year Jahana Hayes to run for the seat vacated by Rep. Elizabeth Etsy, who is leaving Congress after bungling sexual abuse claims levied against a former staffer. Hayes could become the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress.

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