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Wake Up To Politics - August 14, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, August 14, 2018. 84 days until Election Day 2018. 812 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Election Central: Key primary races in four states

Primary voters in four states will head to the polls today. Here's a roundup of the races to watch:

Connecticut (Polls close at 8pm ET)

  • Governor: Gov. Dan Malloy (D-CT), one of the most unpopular governors in the country, is retiring, and Republicans are hoping to pick up his seat. Five Republicans are running in the primary: Danbury mayor Mark Boughton, who is backed by the state GOP, former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, and businessman David Stemerman, Bob Stefanowski, and Steve Obsitnik. The winner of the Republican primary will face one of the two Democratic hopefuls: businessman Ned Lamont, who has the state party's endorsement, or Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. Lamont is known for his 2006 Senate campaign, in which he beat then-incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary, only to lose to an Independent campaign by Lieberman in the general election.

Minnesota (Polls close at 9pm ET)

  • Senate: Both of Minnesota's senators are up for re-election, due to Democratic Sen. Al Franken's resignation last year. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), who was appointed to serve out the rest of Franken's term, is running for a term of her own, facing Richard Painter, the onetime Republican and former White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, in the Democratic primary. Her Republican opponent is expected to be state Sen. Karin Housley (R-MN).
  • Meanwhile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has no serious primary challengers; state Rep. Jim Newberger is poised to win the GOP primary.
  • Governor: On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), state Attorney General Lori Swanson (D-MN), and state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-MN) are vying for the open nomination. Murphy received the endorsement of the state's Democratic Party. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), a onetime presidential candidate, is seeking his old post once again and is expected to win the Republican nod over Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 GOP gubernatorial nominee.
  • House: The two most closely-watched House primaries in Minnesota are in the 1st and 8th Districts, both seats Republicans are eying as potential pick-ups where Democratic incumbents are opting to run statewide. In the 1st District Republican primary, past nominee Jim Hagedorn, who has received the state GOP nod, faces off against state Sen. Carla Nelson, who is seen as a stronger general election candidate. Former Obama Defense Department official Dan Feehan is the likely Democratic nominee.
  • Meanwhile, in the 8th District, five candidates are facing off for the Democratic nomination, with state Rep. Joe Radinovich boasting support from the party establishment. Republicans are expected to nominate St. Louis County Commissioner Peter Stauber, who was endorsed by Trump on Twitter this week.
  • State Attorney General: The Democratic primary for Minnesota's AG spot has gained attention in recent days after abuse allegations against Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) were posted on Facebook by the son of an ex-girlfriend. Ellison has denied the allegations, but his opponents (attorneys Matt Pelikan and Tom Foley, and state Rep. Debra Hilstrom) have called for him to respond to them in more detail.

Wisconsin (Polls close at 9pm ET)

  • Senate: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is up for re-election, and two Republicans are engaged in a contested primary campaign to face her. State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-WI) is backed by the GOP establishment in the Badger State, while businessman and veteran Kevin Nicholson has run as an outsider in the mold of President Trump. According to Politico, the $12 million in outside spending in the race has made it the most expensive Senate primary of 2018.
  • Governor: Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) has won three gubernatorial elections in the past eight years (after surviving a 2012 recall effort); now, he faces fierce Democratic opposition as he seeks a third term. A recent NBC/Marist poll showed state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers leading the primary; his opponents include union president Mahlon Mitchell, endorsed by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and former state Assembly member Kelda Roys, backed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and EMILY's List.
  • House: The main House race to watch is in the 1st District, the seat currently held by retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). Ryan's preferred successor is his former aide, Bryan Steil, who faces four opponents in the GOP primary, including Ryan's 2016 challenger Paul Nehlen, who is known for making a string of racist and anti-Semitic comments. On the Democratic side, ironworker Randy Bryce and Janesville school board member Cathy Meers are facing off for the nomination; Bryce has gained national attention and a fundraising advantage, but Myers has kept the race competitive, hoping to follow a series of women who have won Democratic primaries this year.

Vermont (Polls close at 7pm ET)

  • Senate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is seeking a third term; he does not face serious Democratic or Republican opposition.
  • Governor: Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) enjoys high approval ratings in a generally Democratic state, and is favored to win a second, two-year term. Democratic candidates include former energy executive Christine Hallquist, activists Brenda Siegel and James Ehlers, and teenager Ethan Sonnebern. If nominated, Hallquist would be the first major party transgender gubernatorial nominee.

FBI fires Peter Strzok over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who helped oversee the Hillary Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations, Strzok's lawyer said Monday. Strzok was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe last year, after the discovery of anti-Trump texts he exchanged with former FBI attorney Lisa Page.

Strzok has faced Republican calls for his firing for months; on Monday, President Donald Trump celebrated the move on Twitter by calling for the Russia investigation to be "dropped" and the Clinton email investigation to be "properly redone," due to Strzok's participation in both controversial probes.

In a message on a newly-created Twitter account, Strzok said that he was "deeply saddened by this decision," adding that it was "an honor to serve my country and work with the fine men and women of the FBI." According to Strzok's lawyer Aitan Goelman, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich decided to fire Strozk on Friday; the lawyer called it a "departure from typical Bureau practice," as the agency's Office of Personal Responsibility (OPR) had decided that "a 60-day suspension and demotion from supervisory duties was the appropriate punishment" for Strzok.

Strzok served at the FBI for 22 years, rising to become Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division. His texts with Page, with whom he carried on an affair, were highly critical of Trump; in one message, Strzok said "No he won't. We'll stop it," after Page asked if the then-candidate would win the White House. The Justice Department inspector general criticized Strzok for his texts in a report released in June, but said there was no evidence that the messages influenced his decisions in key investigations during the 2016 campaign.

Omarosa fallout

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman released a new recording to CBS News this morning; the audio appears to confirm Manigualt Newman's claim that Trump advisers during the 2016 campaign held discussions over an alleged tape of Trump using the N-word. Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson is heard on the recording saying "no, he said it" (seemingly in reference to the N-word); last night, Pierson denied that the call, which is detailed in Manigault Newman's new book "Unhinged," took place.

According to CNN, "paranoia" is setting in at the White House as aides prepare for Manigault Newman to release the rest of her tapes, and wonder who else might be secretly recording private conversations. (Per Politico, Manigault Newman has told friends and associates that she has tapes of first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, among other Trump aides.)

President Trump has tweeted repeatedly about Manigault Newman, calling her a "crazed, crying lowlife" and a "dog" in a tweet this morning. In addition, on Monday, he claimed that "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett had called him to confirm that there were no tapes of him saying the N-word, while also claiming that Manigault Newman had signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement. (According to the Washington Post, dozens of White House aides signed NDAs, although it is unclear whether they would be enforceable)

"Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House" is set to be released today, as Manigault Newman continues her media tour.

Today in Washington

President Donald Trump has a quiet day today: he is scheduled to receive his daily intelligence briefing at 11:15am, and then have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:15pm.

Vice President Mike Pence travels to Ohio today. At 12:30pm, he will participate in a Cincinnati event for state Attorney General Mike DeWine's gubernatorial campaign. At 1:45pm, he will headline a "Tax Cuts to Put America First" event hosted by America First Policies, a pro-Trump group, in Cincinnati. At 5:10pm, Pence will speak at an event in Perrysburg for Rep. Jim Renacci's Senate campaign.

Neither house of Congress is in session today.

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

*All times Eastern

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