Back by popular demand, here is my analysis on the top three most likely State Senate Seats to flip in November! Hope you'll all enjoy!
Democrats currently hold 15 seats in the 33-seat Senate Chamber. Due to redistricting, we will have to give up one seat made ultra-red by redistrict. This means we'll effectively need to flip three seats to regain the Senate Majority.
Dark Red = 15+ points 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+ Points Obama
1. The 19th Senate District
Location: The Fox Valley - Cities of Appleton and Menasha
PVI: R+2 (Obama Majority)
not familiar with Wisconsin geography, this is the stretch of land in the East from
Green Bay all the way down to Fond du Lac that is home to a plethora of Tech
Schools and manufacturing firms. Appleton is conservative by urban standards, but
does tilt Blue and is getting bluer.
The 19th is swingy to the point of being somewhat hilarious. Obama won the 19th
District by 12 votes - not 1,200 votes, not 120 votes, but 12 Votes. Meanwhile,
Tommy Thompson beat Tammy Baldwin 49%-47% here. The district is conservative
but it is not adverse to electing Democrats locally (Both Winnebago and Outagamie
counties, which more often than not go red during state elections, have
un-apologetically Democratic County Executives). The area is socially conservative
but open to "liberal" economic policies, so Blue Collar Dems definitely have a place
First of all, I must give a shout-out to Appleton for electing Gypsy Vered Meltzer, the
first openly Transgendered person to hold elected office in Wisconsin! But to the race
Our incumbent here is a GOP Senator by the name of Mike Ellis. Ellis was elected all
the back in 1982, and was in the State Legislature since 1971. The man is an
institution up in Neenah (his hometown), and has in the past garnered an
independent reputation for supporting healthcare and public education in the Fox
Valley. You may remember Mike Ellis from his gavel-busting tirade in which he
pushed that awful abortion bill through the state senate. A few weeks ago, he rather
abruptly retired after being caught on tape discussing illegally using Dark Money to
fund his campaign.
As of Tuesday, Republicans were quick to rally around Roger Roth, a former State
Representative out of suburban Appleton from 2007 to 2011. Roth has an
admittedly attractive profile. He's young (age 36), and is an Iraq War Veteran in the
Air National Guard. If his name sounds somewhat familiar, he ran for Congress in
2010 in Wisconsin's 8th District, but was defeated by current Congressman Reid
Ribble. All other major GOP figures in the 19th District have already declined and
Roth has the endorsement of Governor Walker and Scott Fitzgerald, so the primary
is just a coronation.
Luckily, we have a GREAT Candidate in Representative Penny Bernard Schaber
(D-Appleton). Schaber was a nurse before her election to the State Assembly. She
has experiencing running in difficult campaigns, as she represented a swingier
district prior to redistricting. She received early support from Wisconsin's Planned
Parenthood and women's groups when she was planning on running against Ellis, so
she's in a great place with money, at just below 100K as of the last campaign
Needless to say, conservative groups are going to dump loads of money in keeping
this seat red. That said, Penny Bernard Schaber is the exact sort of Democrat that
performs well in the swingy Fox Valley. If she can keep the same intensity and
enthusiasm she had pursuing Ellis, and redirect it toward Roth, Democrats will hold
the 19th for the first time in decades.
Click here to donate to Penny Bernard Schaber via ActBlue!
2. The 17th Senate District
Location: Southwestern Wisconsin
discussed in my previous diary, southwestern Wisconsin is stereotypical, midwestern
farm country. Honestly, readers from outside of the Badger State ought to visit - its
some of the most beautiful land in the nation. The Senate District is sparsely
populated, with no cities exceeding a population of ~20K.
Federally, the 17th District leans Democratic. President Obama received 57%, and
that Madison liberal Senator Baldwin received 54% down here. However, southwest
Wisconsin has something of a reverse-Deep South complex: the region is rapidly
trending blue, but is ancestrally Republican, and so the GOP performs much better
The current Senator here is Dale Schultz, one of the last few genuinely moderate
elected Republicans left in Wisconsin. Schultz made himself nationally famous for
being the sole GOP vote against the 2011 "Budget Repair Bill," and for voting against
many of the Walker Administration's most extreme proposals. This earned Schultz a
daunting primary challenge from State Representative Howard Marklein, a
conservative Republican elected in the 2010 wave. Schultz recently announced his
retirement, lambasting the GOP Caucus on his way out.
Howard Marklein wasted no time in fundraising to take on Senator Schultz. Now he
has at least 145K in his campaign warchest as of March, which unfortunately makes
him the frontrunner despite the 17th District's blue-ish nature. Although this is a
D+6 district, this might be Marklein's race to lose. He currently represents a district
just northwest of Madison that gave 59% of the vote to Obama in 2012: during
that same year, he defeated his democratic opponent with 52%. Despite that
Marklein's voting pattern is identical to conservative Assembly-people in Waukesha
County, he absolutely has the chops to compete in blue territory.
Many in the Wisconsin polito-sphere viewed this seat as a squandered opportunity until
Wednesday. The new instant-frontrunner, Pat Bomhack, was an aide for Congressman
Ron Kind, Senator Russ Feingold, and Governor Jim Doyle. He grew up in the Dodgeville
area, and moved back to the 17th District after college at Stanford. He ran for state
assembly last year as an underdog in the primary (ironically, to face off with Howard
Marklein) and very nearly won. He was gunning for the assembly a second time until
Democratic officials and SD-17 convinced him to upgrade to the Senate Race due to
concerns of confronting Howard Marklein's ~145K war chest. Bomhack faces former
Director of the UW-Madison Transportation Center Ernie Wittwer in the Democratic
This area is rapidly turning blue, but Marklein is going to be a formidable candidate.
Nevertheless, Marklein is a Walker Conservative, not a Moderate Dale Schultz. His
politics simply do not fit the area. For this reason only, this race currently Toss-
up. assuming Bomhack is our candidate, or if Wittwer's fundraising picks
up in a significant way.
Click here to donate to Pat Bomhack via ActBlue
Click here to
donate to Ernie Wittwer via ActBlue!
3. The 9th Senate District
Location: East Wisconsin along Lake Michigan - Sheboygan, WI
Rating: Leans Republican
Milwaukee and Green Bay Metro Areas. Two cities make up the bulk and political
make-up of the 9th District: Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Sheboygan is a blue collar
city of just under 50K and, like other fox valley cities, relies on industry. Sheboygan
also happens to be the surfing capital of the midwest. Manitowoc is a smaller city of
~34K of a similar nature. Besides the two population centers is the very, very
This part of the wider Fox River Valley is very culturally Conservative. Both Mitt Romney and
Tommy Thompson both won the 19th District by daunting margins and over the long run,
Sheboygan and Manitowoc Counties are unfortunately trending away from the Democrats.
Nevertheless, Democrats do perform remarkably better on the local level: the DAs of both
counties and other countywide officials are Democrats, and Democrats at the state
legislative levels tend to outperform statewide Dems.
Tom Petri's retirement caused a VERY significant political shake-up in Sheboyga-towoc.
Senator Joe Leibham is personably very popular in Sheboygan, but his retirement to run for
Congress creates a huge opportunity for Team Blue -- and it could not have occurred at a
better time. Two of the three GOP assemblymen, Steve Kestell and Mike Endsley, had
already retired - Kestell due to old age presumably, and Endsley to run to the private sector.
Paul Tittl of Manitowoc definitively will not run.
That leaves only one GOP candidate - Devin LaMahieu, chair of the Sheboygan County Board (and son of State Rep. Dan LeMahieu):
certainly a legit candidate, but not first tier for a State Senate Race, due to a lack of name
recognition. He previously primaried State Rep. Endsley from the right in 2012, and due to
radical redistricting in the area, lost with a respectable 40%.
We also landed a great candidate in Martha Laning of Sheboygan. Laning is a successful
entrepreneur, which is a quality that plays particularly well to swing voters in this part of
Badgerland. She is known in Sheboygan as a professional fundraiser, most notably
for the Plymouth Multigenerational Facility, raising nearly $5 Million dollars for the
project and many other projects. She is potentially the prime candidate to win the
9th district - successful businesswoman, no political experience, Central-Wisconsin
roots, and genuine belief in Democratic ideals.
This district may swing between Republicans Democrats in certain respects, but it
gave Governor Walker over 60% in the recall election. Granted the Recall was an
exceptional circumstance, but the Governor is popular here and will be on top of the
ballot in November. For this reason, the race leans GOP.
However, Laning had a strong fundraising period, and LeMahieu had a virtually
non-existant fundraising haul. Expect something of a Dem resurgence here in
Click here to donate to Martha Laning via ActBlue!