On Dec. 19, three special elections were held across the state for open seats in the Wisconsin legislature. The primaries for the 58th and 66th Assembly Districts essentially decided the outcomes of the general races, but the 10th Senate District general is arguably in play.
Senate District 10
In the Republican primary for the 10th Senate District race to replace outgoing Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), current Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) defeated his colleague, freshman Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls), 56 to 44 percent. St. Croix Medical Examiner Patty Schactner won the Democratic primary with 70 percent of the votes.
Before she moved on to be DATCP secretary, Republican Sheila Harsdorf represented the 10th Senate District, winning the seat by a razor thin margin in 2000. Since then, the district has not seen a competitive race, including in the recall election where other senators around the state lost, but Harsdorf won handily. In the 2016 elections, not only did Harsdorf top 60 percent of the vote, but no Democrat in any of the three Assembly Districts within the Senate District cracked 40 percent.
Jarchow, who won the primary with 56 percent and his 2016 general election with over 60 percent, would seem to have an easy path to victory. He faces Patty Schactner who won her primary handily, but is far behind Jarchow in name identification and money. That said, Wisconsin Republicans are not taking this seat for granted. Democrats in general have had some electoral success in other states and seem poised to gain ground nationally in the 2018 elections. This seems to have motivated Wisconsin Republicans and a number of special interest groups to engage aggressively in the 10th. At least three separate groups are running ads in the district on Jarchow’s behalf and more are expected to join. The money disparity in the end could reach a 10-1 advantage on behalf of Jarchow, who in a static electoral environment would likely cruise to victory.
In addition to concern about overall electoral environment, the election is on Jan. 16 where turnout could be an issue. Even with hundreds of thousands spent by candidates, turnout in the primary election was extremely low. Extremely low turnout in the general could raise the prospect of an unlikely outcome, which is why the Senate Republicans are taking the race so seriously.
Assembly District 58
In the primary for the 58th Assembly District, Washington County Board Member Rick Gundrum won the four-way race with 39 percent of the votes. Gundrum is expected to defeat Democrat Dennis Degenhardt in the general.
Assembly District 66
With no Republican candidates on the ballot for the 66th Assembly District race, Democrat Greta Neubauer is set to replace Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) after defeating Racine Alderman John Tate II in the primary.
The special election generals will take place Jan. 16. For results of the primaries and generals, visit our Elections Issue Update.