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Wisconsin Democrats crowd in for chance to challenge governor

MADISON, Wis. — Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has been warning for months about a ‘‘blue wave’’ coming this fall, but so many Democrats are eager to ride it that it is a struggle for any dominant challenger to emerge.

Eight Democrats are taking on Walker as he seeks a third term, a sign of just how badly the party wants to dethrone one of the GOP’s most recognizable governors. Walker’s strong anti-union moves made him a demon to the left and catapulted him to the national stage for a brief 2016 presidential run.

State schools chief Tony Evers, who has skirmished with Walker on a number of issues over the years, enters Tuesday’s primary as the best-known Democrat. Though he leads in polls, many voters are undecided, and some challengers are counting on a surge from younger voters to help them topple the 66-year-old Evers.

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‘‘We’ve been ignored by out-of-touch politicians,’’ said Kelda Roys, a 39-year-old former state lawmaker who got noticed early in the campaign with a video that showed her breastfeeding her daughter. Roys argues she is the one to appeal to millennials, Gen Xers, and suburban married women.

The primary will serve as a test of Democratic enthusiasm in a state that has long been associated with liberal politics but has been trending red and narrowly voted for President Trump in 2016.

The large field of Democratic challengers to Walker is the latest example of the energy in the party as it tries to regain ground, especially in the Upper Midwest.

Even though Wisconsin has trended red in recent years, Democrats are optimistic they will re-elect Democratic US Senator Tammy Baldwin and defeat Walker. And they’re counting on more than the usual bump the party out of power gets in a midterm election.

Their blue wave talk began in January when they won a special legislative race in a conservative district, continued with a liberal candidate’s victory in a statewide Supreme Court race in April, and soared again with another special election victory in conservative territory in June.

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‘‘For the first time since the dawn of the Scott Walker era, Democrats have reason for optimism that the political environment will favor our nominee,’’ said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki. ‘‘The political environment nationally is making it very difficult to run as a Republican right now.’’

Walker has a great story to tell — Wisconsin’s unemployment is at a record low — but he must battle against the national tide that favors Democrats, said Republican strategist Mark Graul.

Also Tuesday, Republican voters will pick between two fervent Trump supporters to take on Baldwin. Former Marine Kevin Nicholson, running as an outsider, is running against state Senator Leah Vukmir, a 15-year veteran of the Legislature who had the state GOP endorsement.

Trump has not endorsed anyone in the Senate primary, but the candidates’ loyalty to him has been a major point of contention in the race’s waning days.

Associated Press