Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 5, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — So much for the Blue Wave.
Despite enough legislative victories to stave off Republican supermajorities, Wisconsin state Democrats had a fairly lackluster Election Day.
It wasn’t Republican “gerrymandering” that did them in — it was Democrats’ failure to connect with the electorate despite far outspending their opponents.
Liberals Deb Andraca of Whitefish Bay and Sara Rodriquez of Brookfield knocked off two veteran Assembly Republicans — Jim Ott of Mequon and Rob Hutton of Brookfield — in traditional stalwart conservative districts. So much for unfair redistricting.
A review by the left-leaning Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found liberal outside groups outspent conservative issue advocacy organizations by nearly 2 to 1 — $5.3 million to just under $2.9 million.
Democrats, who have long assailed Republicans for benefitting from “dark money” and special interest money in politics, would seem to have lost any campaign finance ethics high ground they pretended to have. In the process, they wasted a boatload of cash.
Feeling cocky and misreading the strength of their COVID-19 AND REPUBLICANS WILL KILL US ALL message, they spent nearly $1 million trying to knock off Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester.) They failed. Miserably.
Vos easily defeated Democrat Joel Jacobson, a former Burlington city council member.
Reportedly vulnerable Republicans like the 24th Assembly District’s Rep. Dan Knodl of Germantown and 51st Assembly Rep. Todd Novak of Dodgeville survived their challenges.
In the Senate, Dems held onto the 32nd Senate District seat, but by another narrow margin. Gov. Tony Evers’ former Agriculture Secretary Brad Pfaff, who turned the traditionally nonpartisan agency into a hive of partisan politics, defeated businessman and former senator Dan Kapanke. The final tally was a mere 600 votes, another too-close-for-comfort victory for Democrats.
Dems lost Senate District 30, a seat they had safely counted on for 20 years during the tenure of Sen. Dave Hansen, a Big Labor stooge from Green Bay. The party dropped a pile of money to prop up Hansen’s nephew, Jonathan Hansen, but lost to Republican attorney Eric Wimberger.
Democrats also lost the 10th Senate District. State Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) sent Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset) packing, nearly three years after she was supposed to have represented the coming Blue Wave in a special election.
So much for the Blue Wave.
In the 28th Senate District, Republican Julian Bradley handily defeated Dem challenger Adam Murphy for the seat held by outgoing Sen. Dave Craig, who announced his retirement from the Legislature earlier this year. With his win, Bradley becomes the first black Republican to serve in the state Senate.
As the smoke cleared on an extended Election Day vote count, Republicans expanded their Senate majority to 21-12.
Assembly Republicans had a comfortable 59-36 majority Wednesday with a few races to settle.
While conservatives won’t have the supermajority they had hoped to stop liberal Gov. Tony Evers’ veto pen, the song remains the same in the Statehouse power dynamics.
“The voters have spoken and they have returned a good conservative majority to the legislature,” Vos said in the Republicans’ weekly radio address.