Chicago — In the economically troubled Midwest, very few Republican governors have chosen to run again. Now bids by their seconds-in-command to succeed them have been turned down by primary voters in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Both GOP Minnesota Lt. Gov. Lou Wangberg and GOP Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Lowell Jackson lost their bids to become gubernatorial nominees. However, some political analysts say the lack of name recognition may have been as big a factor in the rejection as their close association with administrations in trouble.
In both states, voters now face very clear choices for governor in November. In Wisconsin, where the turnout was stronger than expected, Democrats chose Anthony Earl, an articulate attorney and former Wisconsin secretary of natural resources, over better-known former acting Gov. Martin Schreiber. Republicans chose Terry Kohler, a Sheboygan businessman and former US Senate candidate, whose father and grandfather were popular state governors.
''It's going to be a very clear choice for voters in November,'' says state Republican chairman Michael Borden. ''Tony Earl is definitely a liberal, and Kohler, a Reagan supporter, is conservative to moderate.''
In Minnesota, where the turnout was considerably lighter, GOP voters chose as gubernatorial nominee Wheelock Whitney, a businessman who has stressed his managerial capabilities. Democrats chose former Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich over Attorney General Warren Spannaus by a narrow margin.
Much now may depend on how well each party unites around its candidate, says University of Minnesota political scientist William Flanigan.
''The Democrats have been split for a good many years and have lingering organizational problems,'' he says. ''The GOP right wing is very unhappy with Whitney, but, as an organization, the Republicans seem to be in better shape.''
A sharper test for Reaganomics is expected when voters choose between Sen. David Durenberger (R) of Minnesota, a loyal Reagan supporter, and Democrat Mark Dayton, department store heir and former economic development commissioner.
In Wisconsin, Sen. William Proxmire (D), who again is soliciting no campaign contributions, easily survived his first primary opposition in 25 years. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Clement Zablocki (D) easily survived a stiff challenge from liberal state Sen. Len Adelman. But many Wisconsin voters are proudest of the 75-to-25 margin of support they gave a referendum urging President Reagan to negotiate a nuclear arms freeze and weapons reduction with the Soviet Union.