Who Will Win the Elections?
The turnout will be massive. And could result in upsets.
As Donald Trump might put it, the election is going to be “hu-uuge.”
How huge? State officials are predicting a 40 percent turnout, or 1.75 million of Wisconsin’s 4.44 million eligible voters going to the polls, the biggest turnout for a presidential primary since 1980, when it was 45 percent. In the city, Neil Albrecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, is predicting turnout will be even higher, between 50 and 60 percent of registered voters. That’s really hu-uuge.
Which makes the much smaller February primary results for a race like the Supreme Court, where incumbent justice Rebecca Bradley looked weak gaining just 45 percent of the vote, pretty irrelevant. There will be nearly 1.2 million new voters in this election, in addition to the 563,000 that voted in February, which makes the primary not much of a guide to who wins the general election.
This election will be all about that turnout and which side turns out more. Once upon a time in Wisconsin, the choice of independent voters could be a key. But in Wisconsin, one of the most politically polarized states in America, they’re a vanishing breed. Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin predicts “not many independents voting” in the election.
And his last poll, released on Wednesday, found 54 percent of likely voters say they’ll be voting in Republican primary and 46 percent in the Democratic primary. The poll’s 3.3 percent margin of error means the Republican advantage could fall below 51 percent, but a stronger GOP turnout makes sense given that across the nation there has been more excitement around Trump and the Republican circus, still with three rings left. The bigger GOP turnout will ripple down to other races as well.
And the key down-ticket races:
Bradley Beats: JoAnne Kloppenburg: Given all the negative press for Bradley, regarding her extremist writings years ago, her extra-marital affair, etc. you might think she’s toast, but many general election voters probably haven’t paid that much attention. And given Kloppenburg lost a squeaker to David Prosser in 2011, due to him winning his Fox Valley base, you might think she’d win this time, what with Bradley sure to lose her home base of Milwaukee County. But the 2011 race had a turnout of 33 percent, compared to the predicted 40 percent this time and most of the additional voters will probably lean conservative. UW-Milwaukee professor and former Democratic legislator Mordecai Lee predicts Bradley will win by five points. That sounds about right, perhaps a little tighter than that.
Abele Beats Larson: It would be a dramatic upset if state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) beats incumbent Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, and it might just happen. Abele, after all, got just 40 percent of the vote in the primary and has wounded himself badly with questionable decisions on high-profile issues, most recently by suggesting he’s consider tearing down the Mitchell Park Domes. Then there’s the likelihood of a surge of student voters for Sanders. “I don’t know how many Bernie voters are going to vote for Abele,” says longtime PR operative and Democrat Evan Zeppos. But some of those university students may simply vote for president and skip the other races.
One Democratic consultant offers this analysis: “Everything points to an Abele win. He has just overwhelmed Larson everywhere — on TV, radio, digital, mailers. Larson needs a heavy city vote and a light inner suburban ring vote. In a normal spring race, the inner ring votes +7 over the city. This is not a normal race. The heavy interest in the GOP primary will help drive the suburban ring which should benefit Abele. There is no clear advantage in the African American vote, so that likely helps Abele as well.” Abele wins a very close race.
Barrett Beats Donovan: This will be a runaway with Mayor Tom Barrett getting 65 percent of vote over Ald. Bob Donovan, as my colleague Jeramey Jannene predicts. “Donovan never got traction on anything,” Zeppos observes. Had the race been closer it would have driven city turnout that could have helped Larson.
Wiken Beats Witkowski: Challenger and conservative Chris Wiken unseats veteran Ald. Terry Witkowski in the 13th District (southeast side). Witkowski is popular, but his support of the streetcar could hurt him, and the turnout is likely to bring out infrequent voters thinking “throw the rascal out” thoughts.
Lewis Beats Puente: Incumbent 9th district (northwest side) Ald. Robert Puente serves a majority black district, and got only 43 percent of the primary vote. Chantia Lewis is a strong African American candidate who’s likely to upset him.
Other council incumbents are likely to prevail. In the two open aldermanic seats, the prevailing wisdom is that Milwaukee County Supervisor Khalif Rainey beats Milwaukee School Board President Michael Bonds in the 7th District formerly represented by Willie Wade and former Barrett aide Chevy Johnson beats Sherman Morton, an aide to retiring Ald. Joe Davis in the 2nd District seat he held.
One final thought: Donovan easily carried his aldermanic district with 63 percent of the primary vote, but has been distracted by his mayoral race, while his challenger Justin Bielinski has relentlessly gone door to door. It’s a heavily (about 63 percent) Latino district and you may get a higher than usual turnout (there’s that word again) of Latinos looking to vote against Trump and with no particular loyalty to Donovan. A win by Bielinski would be quite an upset. Hu-uuge, you might say.