Reposted from BlueSasha by Sand Hill Crane
We're three months out to the November elections, and things haven't looked better for Democrats in the Wisconsin State Legislature since six state senators were recalled in 2011!
All candidates running for public office released their campaign finance reports this week - there were some disappointments, but also many signs that parts of Wisconsin are ready for new Democratic leadership.
Seats are ranked as the 10 most likely to flip as to date.
Key for maps
Dark Red: 15 points or more Romney
Red: 10-15 points Romney
Light Red: 5-10 points Romney
Purple: 0-5 points Obama or Romney
Light Blue: 5-10 points Obama
Blue: 10-15 points Obama
Dark Blue: 15 or more points Obama
1. THE 51ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural South Central Wisconsin
Rating: Likely Democratic
Analysis: The 51st District hugs the Madison area in the west through Green,
Lafayette, Iowa, and Sauk Counties. This is quintessential rural farm country - the
largest municipality is Monroe, WI with a population of ~11K.
Southwestern Wisconsin politically reminds me of the South, but in reverse. The area
is rapidly trending blue, with Tammy Baldwin and Barack Obama performing very
solidly in 2012; however, the area is historically very Republican, and the GOP tends
to still perform well on the local level. The 51st is a prime example of this. Obama
won 59% here, and avowed Madison liberal Tammy Baldwin won here with 55%.
Republican Howard Marklein reclaimed this seat from the Democrats in the 2010
Wave and voted lockstep with the Scott Walker agenda despite the political nature of
his seat. Despite this, he defeated Mineral Point School Board member Mo May-
Grimm 53%-47%, running thirteen points ahead of Mitt Romney. Marklein is retiring
to run for the 17th State Senate Seat being vacated by the notoriously moderate
Republican Dale Schultz.
Without a Republican incumbent, I firmly believe that Democrats will retake the 51st
in November. We have a very strong candidate in Dick Cates, a prominent farmer in
Spring Green with strong business, family and political roots in Southwestern
Wisconsin. Cates was actually being recruited to run for the State Senate due to his
perceived strength, though he obviously declined.
Todd Novak is the Mayor of Dodgeville, and happens to be gay and has a politically
moderate reputation. Given the nature of this district, Novak could keep this red, thus
why I rate this as only 'likely' Democratic. However, Cates is the dominant fundraiser,
entering August with an impressive $58,682 cash on hand. Barring any major
developments, Cates will be a State Assemblyman.
Click here to donate to Dick Cates via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
2. THE 1ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural Eastern Wisconsin, Door Peninsula
Rating: Toss-up (tilts Dem)
Analysis: The 1st District is just east of Titletown along the Door Peninsula, in Door
and Kewaunee counties. This is honestly some of the most beautiful stretch of land
in Wisconsin. This is a big site for natural tourism, and the largest population center
is the City of Sturgeon Bay, population ~9K.
The first district is incredibly swingy - Mitt Romney narrowly won this
district, as did Tammy Baldwin; both with less than 50%.
Republican Garey Bies was first elected in 2002, and has since won re-election
multiple times by very close margins. In 2008, he defeated Democrat Dick Skare
51%-49%, and four years later in 2012, he defeated Democratic challenger Patrick
Veeser by the same margin: 51%-49%. Luckily, Bies is retiring to run for Secretary
of State (for reasons past understanding), giving us a prime opportunity to win a
prime swing district.
This is debatably the swingiest district in the state. Luckily, we seem to have
avoided a primary. Joe Majeski is a recently retired school system principal with the
backing of Patrick Veeser. He resides in the town of Sevastopol in Door County,
and is very politically connected in the area.
There was a delightfully crowded five-way primary for the GOP nomination, and Joel
Kitchens - large animal veterinarian and Sturgeon Bay School Board President - emerged
the victor. However, the primary took its toll on his campaign warchest - $14,561 on
hand, lagging behind his Democratic opponent.
Majeski was busily campaigning and
entered August with $32,979 cash on hand without a primary, whilst the GOP fought
one another. The race will undoubtedly tighten in the fall, but if Mary Burke wins or
keeps the race ultra-close in November, Majeski probably has the upper hand, given
the district's history of close elections.
Click here to donate to Joe Majeski via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
3. THE 88TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Suburban Brown County (Green Bay)
Rating: Pure toss-up
Analysis: The 88th District is immediately west of the 1st District, taking up the
eastern section of Green Bay, WI, most of De Pere, WI and some conservative
suburbs and countryside. The nature of this district is distinctly suburban.
This district is also distinctly swingy, though it is a tad more Red on the federal level.
Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson both won the 88th with about 50%. That said,
Democrats do have slightly better luck downballot throughout the Fox Valley, so be
prepared for a hotly contested race.
Republican John Klenke beat Democratic Assemblyman Jim Soletski in the 2010
Wave Election by just 267 votes. Democrats did not target this race in 2012 but
despite that, teacher and Democratic nominee Ward Bacon still managed to hold
Klenke to a small 52%-48% win. Suprisingly, Klenke is hanging up after just two
terms, opening up a prime opportunity for the Democrats.
The race for this seat formed remarkably quickly, and the Democrats have rallied
around a strong candidate - Dan Robinson. Robinson is an elected official on the
Brown County Board from De Pere (the more conservative city in the 88th), and is a
College Administrator at St. Norberts.
Similarly, the GOP very quickly rallied around one candidate - John Macco. Macco
runs a major financial consultancy business in Brown County, and ran for State
Senate last year against incumbent Democrat Dave Hansen, and ran at least one
point behind Mitt Romney. Macco also lost very narrowly to Senator Hansen in the
There's a potential perfect storm brewing here if Macco cannot perform better in
November. Both Robinson and Macco enter the race with slightly over $20,000 cash
on hand each, but Macco has been on the ballot here before, so he may have an
advantage. I won't be surprised to see either candidate win, but if Mary Burke wins,
I expect Dan Robinson will narrowly win as well.
Click here to donate to Dan Robinson via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
4. THE 96TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural Southwestern Wisconsin
Incumbent: Lee Nerison (elected 2004)
Rating: Toss-up (Leans Flesch)
Analysis: The 96th District takes us back to southwestern Wisconsin, which like the
51st is quintessential farm country. The largest population center here is Prairie du
Chien, which has a population of ~6K, just to give you an impression of the sort of
district we are dealing with here.
The 96th is also much like the 51st district in its politically anachronistic nature.
President Obama solidly won the 26th with 56%, and Tammy Baldwin received 54%
of the vote. On paper, this district should go Blue no problem.
GOP Representative Lee Nerison was elected to the 96th district back in 2004 and
has fended off tough races before. War Veteran Tim Johnson ran against Nerison in
2012, and Nerison managed not just to beat Johnson, but to trounce him
60%-40%. In numerical terms, Nerison ran sixteen points ahead of Mitt Romney.
Nerison is an adept politician who seems to understand campaigning in his district,
and has effectively cultivated a reputation as a moderate. He is only one of three
Republicans left in the State Assembly that voted against Act 10, the
controversial budget repair bill that spurred the infamous 2011 Capital Protests.
This year, however, Nerison faces by far his strongest Democratic challenger to date.
Pete Flesch is the Crawford County Board Chair and a well-known farmer who has
lived in southwestern Wisconsin for his entire life. Flesch is waging a very active
campaign and edged out Representative Nerison in fundraising (Flesch has $26K on
hand while Nerison has $25K).
In spite of Nerison's historical record of strength and prevailing moderate reputation, I
feel comfortable calling this race a toss-up. Flesch is giving Nerison by far his toughest
race in an area trending more and more blue, keeping up with fundraising and
campaigning the whole time.
Click here to donate to Pete Flesch via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
5. THE 42ND ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural South Central Wisconsin, North of Madison
Incumbent: Keith Ripp (elected 2008)
Rating: Toss-up (Tilts GOP)
Analysis: The 42nd District lies about a half-hour north of Madison, WI, aka The
Shire. This is also very rural country, stretching from Northern Dane County,
through most of Columbia County, and stretching into conservative Dodge County.
The largest Population center here is quite small: Lodi, WI, with a roaring population
of 3K. Also proud home of Susie the Duck!
Obama won this district with 51% (see very tight PVI) and Tommy Thompson also
won it narrowly. Columbia County and the surrounded area, however, has been
trending blue in a very dramatic way. Columbia County, for example, was one of just
three counties to go from Red to Blue during the Recall Election (meaning Columbia
County went for Scott Walker in 2010, but went for Tom Barrett in 2012).
The incumbent here, however, is a tough cookie. Keith Ripp was narrowly elected in
2008 over Columbia County Board Member and RN Trish O'Neill. He defeated O'Neill
in 2010 by a larger 57%-43% in a rematch. Last year, he defeated Democrat Paula
Cooper in an untargeted race by 57%-47%.
Ripp is not a particularly compelling or charismatic figure, but he is ridiculously well-
connected for a state legislator. The Ripp name is HUGE in Columbia County and
northern Dane County, synonymous with Big Agriculture with multiple parks and
establishments named "Ripp" in the area. He managed to raise 136K in his 2008
election, which is considered extremely good for State Senate Races.
But that was 2008, and the political nature of Ripp's district is rapidly changing
underneath his feet. Democrats have been quick to support and campaign for
George Ferriter, Doylestown Village President and military engineer. Amazingly,
Ferriter has stayed competitive in fundraising (Ferriter enters August with $31K to
Ripp's $50K). Ferriter probably deserves an award for most active campaigner of all
these Democrats. I also had the privilege to meet Mr. Ferriter whose intelligence and
work ethic I found inspiring - this is to say I may be a little biased. Despite this, I
wouldn't be surprised if either Ferriter or Ripp won - I'd say Ripp has the upper hand
still due to incumbency and a famous last name, but only ever so slightly.
Click here to donate to George Ferriter via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
6. THE 50TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural Southwestern Wisconsin
Incumbent: Edward Brooks (elected 2008)
Rating: Leans Republican
Analysis: The 50th District is also in southwestern Wisconsin, and is of a similar
nature to the districts I already discussed. It's extremely rural, and the largest
population center is in the city of Richland Center, population ~5K.
President Obama also won this district by 54% and Tammy Baldwin won it by 52%,
an observation that continually puts the 50th on Democratic target lists in
November. That said, the district has been stubbornly GOP on the local level.
Assemblyman Edward Brooks is an octogenarian Republican first elected in 2008. He
fought off Town of Fountain Clerk Sarah Ann Shanahan in the 2010 Wave Election
and narrowly defeated Shanahan in a 2012 rematch 50%-47%. He has something
of a nice-old-man reputation over in Richland Center, but he recently had some
negative headlines in which he skipped votes on a property tax cut to attend one of
Brooks has an exceptionally intriguing Democratic opponent this year. Chris Miller is
a recently retired Lutheran preacher from Loganville, WI. He's effectively striking
bipartisan chords in the vein of Dale Schultz, and there appears to be greater Party
investment in taking back the 50th this cycle.
Miller also pulled in a very good fundraising cycle, out-raising Rep. Brooks by about
$4K. Brooks still has $56K on hand, opposed to Miller's $21K so he still has the edge,
but the momentum is clearly on Miller's side.
Click here to donate to Chris Miller via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
7. THE 93rd ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural Northwestern Wisconsin
Incumbent: Warren Petryk (elected 2010)
Rating: Leans Republican
Analysis: The 93rd District stretches from Eau Claire, through Pepin and Pierce
Counties all the way to the Winnesota border. The district is rural, though it also
bridges the Eau Claire and Twin Cities suburbs. Both Mitt Romney and Tommy
Thompson won this district very narrowly. Long story short, it consistently tilts GOP,
but only just barely.
Warren Petryk defeated Democratic State Representative Jeff Smith in the 2010
Wave by a stunningly close 74 votes. He narrowly held off Smith for a 2012 rematch
51% to 49%.
Jeff Smith is, yet again running for this district, making this third time in a row
Petryk and Smith will face off (this may make them the John Sununu and Jeanne
Shaheen of Wisconsin, for those who pay way too much attention to elections).
Though the district has a GOP tilt, Smith outran Senator Baldwin and President
Obama by about two points, showing that he has crossover appeal.
Expect a close race no matter what: Smith has a good chance, but Petryk is favored
to hold on: his seat is redder in redistricting, and he has a cash advantage. Petryk
has an eye-popping $104K on hand, whilst Smith hangs behind with $17K. This
situation can change, but Smith will need to fundraise fast.
Click here to donate to Jeff Smith via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
8. THE 72ND ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Central Wisconsin (Wisconsin Rapids)
Incumbent: Scott Krug (elected 2010)
Rating: Leans Republican
Analysis: The 72nd District is located smack-dab in the middle of Wisconsin to the
immediate west of Stevens Point, WI. The district is rural, although Wisconsin Rapids is a
legitimate population center of ~18K.
This is one of only two districts (the other one is the 1st district) where Tammy Baldwin
won, while Mitt Romney defeated Obama here. Suffice to say, this district is very swingy.
Republican Scott Krug very narrowly defeated long-term incumbent Democrat Marlin
Schneider (Snarlin' Marlin, as he's known up in Rapids) in the 2010 Wave elections. Two
years later in 2012, Krug won re-election by just 109 votes against Wisconsin Rapids
firefighter Justin Pluess in a race that nearly went to recount. To make matters worse for
Rep. Krug going into 2014, he made headlines for reneging on a campaign promise
in 2010 that he would not take any taxpayer per diem money. He later turned out to
be one of the top-spenders of per diems and justified it with the worst possible
response: "That was a different campaign." Democrats have obviously taken pains to
use this to hammer Krug.
Attorney Dana Duncan will be our candidate here barring an upset. He is the
President of the Port Edwards School Board, a moderately conservative community
adjacent to Wisconsin Rapids.
Krug is not a popular representative, and this will likely be a third close race for the
Assemblyman. However, his gaffe was months ago and voters can sadly have short
memories. Also, despite being a top recruit Duncan reported rather disappointing
fundraising totals, raising only about $7K and having less than $3K on hand. Most
State Assembly have improved for Democrats in the past few months. This is one
Click here to donate to Dana Duncan via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
9. THE 68TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural Northeastern Wisconsin and Suburban Eau Claire (Altoona)
Incumbent: Kathy Bernier (elected 2010)
Rating: Leans Republican
Analysis: The 68th District to the immediate east of Eau Claire, a small college town in
the northwestern section of the state. This area is suburban-to-rural, with Altoona
being the largest population center, ~7K.
This district - and the Eau Claire area in general - is very swingy both in federal and
local elections. Obama won the district with 51% and Tammy Baldwin also won the
68th with 50%. This district is very capable of electing Democrats on all levels of
Representative Kathy Bernier was narrowly elected in the 2010 Wave Election,
defeating incumbent Democratic Assemblywoman Kristen Dexter by a 50%-50%
margin. In 2012, Bernier faced a tough election against a candidate who wasn't
considered to be highly targeted - Democratic Thorp School Board Member Judy Smriga.
Bernier held Smriga back to a 52%-48% margin of victory.
Our candidate here is much younger than others on the list - local farmer and Iraq
War Vet Jeff Peck. Peck had - and still has to some extent - a low profile, which is
why I rated this as a Likely GOP seat for 2014 a few months ago. However, Peck
brought in a surprisingly large amount of money - - bringing this seat into higher
competition. However, Bernier has fought tough races before, and has her own
formidable campaign warchest (). However, Peck has exactly the right profile for
a rural, midwestern democrat in this day and age.
Click here to donate to Jeff Peck via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
10. THE 37TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural East Central Wisconsin (Watertown)
Incumbent: John Jagler (elected 2012)
Rating: Likely Republican
Analysis: The 37th District is located in East Central Wisconsin, nestled in Dodge,
Jefferson, Dane and Columbia Counties. The major communities in the 37th are the
Democratic cities of DeForest and Columbus, and the largest city - the Republican
Watertown, population ~25K.
This is a very small-c conservative part of the state, and it does usually vote for the
GOP. Mitt Romney won the 37th with 53%, as did Tommy Thompson. That said,
Jefferson County has had a much more active Democratic base since the Recall, as
has northern Dane County and Columbus.
John Jagler was a Radio Host before he was elected in the 2012 elections after the
departure of Jeff Fitzgerald (the younger). He is mostly a blank slate for now, and is
still green enough as a Representative where he is still vulnerable. He defeated
Columbus School Board Vice President Mary Arnold 54%-46% in 2012.
Mary Arnold is setting up for a rematch, and is very committed to taking this
reddish seat for Team Blue. Mary Arnold is a graduate and active member of Emerge
Wisconsin, and therefore has political chops and connections. It also bears mentioning
that she outperformed Senator Baldwin by about 1.5-2 points and beat out President
Obama in parts of the district, which would suggest that Arnold already has crossover
However, neither Jagler nor Arnold had very strong fundraising periods - Arnold
enters August with a little over $7K on hand, and Jagler with $24K on hand. Given
the Republican margins on this district, we will need to do everything perfectly in
this race. Unfortunately, I predict a Jagler victory if this election were held today.
As a sidenote, I ought to point out of all the candidates on this list, Mary Arnold is
by far the most prepared to be a state legislator - she also ran a remarkable
campaign in 2012. Arnold will make whatever contribution you give her stretch.
Click here to donate to Mary Arnold via ActBlue! https://secure.actblue.com/...
11. THE 49TH ASSEMBLY DISTRICT
Location: Rural Southwestern Wisconsin
Incumbent: Travis Tranel (elected 2010)
Rating: Safe Republican/Race to Watch
The 49th District is located in the Southwestern corner of the State. It is similar to
the other Southwestern district I already discussed in agriculture and politics. The
largest population center here is the City of Platteville, population 11K, with an
inflated population due to a local UW four-year campus. Obama was elected
here with a 56% margin, and Tammy Baldwin with a 51% margin.
Travis Tranel was first elected in the Republican Wave of 2010, after handily
defeating Democratic Assemblyman Phil Garthwaite. Tranel handily garnered an
independent reputation for himself, voting with Rep. Nerison and the Democrats
against the infamous Act 10 bill. This earned him a conservative primary challenge
in 2012, but it probably ultimately help him stave off Union President Carol Beals,
54%-46%. Given Obama's 56% margin here, this district will see competitive
elections for a long time with Tranel in office, but he unfortunately has staying
Democrats are running great races in the other three State Assembly seats in the
southwest - as it turns out, sadly the fourth time is not the charm. Our candidate here
is Chad Henneman. He unfortunately appears to have negligible visibility and
fundraising, and I had to do a fair amount of digging to discover his campaign
materials or more about him. Tranel will have tough races in his future. Unfortunately,
I suspect he will skate by this November.
Click here to donate to Chad Henneman via actblue! https://secure.actblue.com/...