Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Fall Election Could Be Fascinating

More contested seats, tough campaign tactics could make for tighter, intense races.

By - Jun 18th, 2018 11:59 am
Voting Line

Voting Line

Now it gets interesting.

After Democrats’ had three straight wins in two special legislative elections and the race for Supreme Court, Republicans broke the string by holding onto the 42nd Assembly District. Meanwhile, billboards blaming the governor for vehicle-damaging “Scottholes” have popped up along major highways in northern Wisconsin.

And, if there is a #metoo revolution in this election year, it may help 13 female Democrats who will challenge incumbent Republican Assemblymen on Nov. 6.

Let’s start in the Assembly.

Two years ago, 48 Assembly seats – 20 held by Republicans and 28 by Democrats – were already decided, because those incumbents had no major-party opponents. That meant there were no major-party fights for almost half of the 99 Assembly seats.

That’s changed this year. Only six Assembly Republicans have no Democratic opponents, but 24 Assembly Democrats have no Republican opponent.

Party leaders usually don’t slate candidates in districts dominated by voters of the opposing party – and there are many of them created in the 2011 redistricting by Republicans which is being challenged in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case.

But, in a WisconsinEye interview, Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz, one of those with no GOP opponent in November, said he dedicated himself to recruiting more candidates this year – and it paid off.

But the fascinating beyond-the-numbers dynamic is the number of Assemblymen who will be challenged by women Democrats on Nov. 6.

Five Assembly Republican men who ran unopposed two years ago will face female Democrats on Nov. 6: GOP Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, of New Berlin, versus Democrat Lillian Cheesman, of West Allis; GOP Rep. Dan Knodl, of Germantown, versus Democrat Emily Siegrist, of River Hills; GOP Rep. Robert Brooks, of Saukville, versus Democrat Chris Rahlf, of Cedarburg; GOP Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, of New Berlin, versus Democrat Erica Flynn, of Greenfield; and GOP Rep. Warren Petryk, of Eleva, versus  Charlene Warner, of Mondovi.

Eight other incumbent Assembly Republican men will also face female Democrats on Nov. 6.

Now that the Elections Commission has formally approved candidates for the Aug. 14 primary and Nov. 6 general election, other things to watch are:

*Which State Senate elections determine party control? Republicans began the 2017-18 session with a dominating 20-13 majority. Democrats whittled that down to 18-15 by winning two special elections.

Four Senate elections will determine party control in the 2019-20 session:The 1st District, where Democrat Caleb Frostman will try to keep the seat he won in a special election Tuesday; District 17, where GOP Sen. Howard Marklein is seeking a second term, and two open seats created because Democrat Kathleen Vinehout (District 31) is running for governor and Republican Terry Moulton (District 23) is retiring.

*What’s in your Tweets? Although she tried to hide her past Tweets, the emotional Internet outbursts and insults of Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd, who lost the special election in the 42nd Assembly District, came back to haunt her campaign. Big time.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Lodi alderwoman’s Tweets called 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a “douche nozzle;” Gov. Scott Walker her worst enemy, immoral and reprehensible, and GOP U.S. Sen. John McCain “a dishonest, bizarrely unhinged, little man.’”

The Lloyd campaign said her comments were only meant for friends and family, but the Internet now defines those as the whole world. Those Tweets prompted her opponents to run ads questioning her judgment and justified Walker claims that Democrats are “bitter, angry.”

The lesson for candidates: The Internet never really forgets, or loses, anything you post.

[inaritclead ad=”UM-In-Article-2″]*Run your name through CCAP? Republican Jon Plumer and his wife were surprised that a 1987 incident in their home became an issue in the final weeks of the special-election campaign against Lloyd.

Plumer was cited for disorderly conduct and paid a $177 forfeiture after having a ‘‘heated argument” with his daughter according to a police report. Plumer said his family moved past the incident many years ago and “innocent people” were hurt by the disclosure, which he said showed the dirty nature of politics.

Still, the president of Wisconsin’s National Organization for Women (NOW) demanded that Plumer apologize for the 21-year-old incident.

The lesson for all candidates: There is no statute of limitations on what can be used against you in campaigns.

What does CCAP, the state’s official county-by-county summary of court actions, say about you? You should find out before someone else does.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

3 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Fall Election Could Be Fascinating”

  1. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Elections are always interesting, this might be the most after 2016,, 1980, 1860.

  2. PMD says:

    What was the 1860 election like WCD? Always wanted to ask someone who was there.

  3. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Lincoln won, then there was a civil war, then after wards the Democrats started the KKK, and lynched lots of people mostl of a dark color. but all nationalties, religions, and the also disliked Catholics like me And Jjews.

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