Hamilton Political Tidbits – May 1, 2024

Political Tidbits - May 1, 2024

May 1, 2024

Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.

Articles in this edition of Political Tidbits:

Other updates in this edition:

  • 2024 Election Updates
  • Bits & Pieces
  • Education Policy Updates
  • News Clips

If you have any questions, please contact a member of the Hamilton Consulting team.

Session in Review: Wisconsin Legislature 2023-24

The Wisconsin Legislature stands adjourned for the 2023-24 session and is not expected to reconvene until January 2025. This session, Gov. Evers signed 272 bills into law and vetoed 73 others. With adjournment, all bills introduced this session have been disposed of (enacted, vetoed, or dead).

This article reviews notable bills that were signed, vetoed, or failed to pass by the end of the session. It also provides links to more of our comprehensive coverage of Wisconsin politics, where Hamilton Political Tidbits covered every floor day of the legislature and every bill signed and vetoed by the governor during the 2023-24 session.

Continue reading this article

2024 Election Updates

The 2024 election season is ramping up, and Wisconsin is positioned to be a national political battleground yet again. On the November 5 ballot, Wisconsinites will see competitive statewide races for President and U.S. Senate, plus the state’s eight congressional districts, all 99 Assembly districts, and the 16 even-numbered districts of the Senate. The state primary election is August 13.


See the latest Marquette Poll of Wisconsin voters, published April 17, here. The poll found that the statewide races are close, with Donald Trump leading Joe Biden 51-49 and Tammy Baldwin leading Eric Hovde 52-47 percent among registered voters. A recent CBS News poll of registered voters found Trump leading Biden 50-49 and Baldwin leading Hovde 48-41. An Emerson College poll of swing state voters published yesterday found Trump ahead of Biden by two points in Wisconsin, 47-45, with eight percent undecided.

U.S. Senate

Democrat incumbent Tammy Baldwin is seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate. While Wisconsin is considered a swing state, where statewide races frequently come down to the wire, Baldwin is considered a formidable candidate who has outperformed fellow Democrats in rural areas in past races. She has already raised and spent millions on early advertising and finished the first quarter of the year with more than $10 million cash on hand.


Republican challenger Eric Hovde is a businessman from Madison with experience in real estate and financial services. He officially entered the race in February with the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and has since received Donald Trump’s endorsement. So far, Hovde has self-funded his campaign to the tune of $8 million.


Fellow Republican businessman Scott Mayer opted not to enter the race out of a desire to avoid a primary election; former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has also been discussed as a possible candidate.

Wisconsin Legislature

For state elections, the window to circulate nomination papers opened on April 15. Nomination papers, candidacy statements, and campaign registration statements are due June 3. Incumbents must notify election officials of their intent not to seek reelection by May 24.


The state legislature will look a lot different next session, largely due to redistricting changes agreed to by Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Republican legislative leaders, precipitated by a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision late last year. See the official maps here and use this tool to compare old and new district lines and to search by address.


We will have more updates in the coming weeks and months as incumbents and new candidates finalize their plans. Already, at least 21 legislators have announced they will not seek reelection to their current office, and 23 more have announced they will run in a different numbered district than the one they currently represent. A few notable stories are below.

WEC Rejects Vos Recall: The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) unanimously rejected a petition to recall Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) after commission staff found that the petitioners did not collect enough signatures to trigger a recall election, whether looking at Vos’ district pre- or post-redistricting.


Recall organizers have argued that Vos didn’t do enough to challenge the 2020 presidential election results in Wisconsin and didn’t work to impeach the state elections administrator. Petitioners have since claimed that their recall effort was “sabotaged” and “infiltrated by outsiders from New York and California.”


Before WEC officially rejected their petition, recall organizers launched a second effort to recall Vos. Signatures for that petition would be due May 28 and a recall election would likely occur in September. Additionally, or alternatively, Vos could face a primary challenge in August, as he did in 2022.


Vos has called the recall organizers “whack jobs and morons” and suggested that “professional grifters” from out of state are involved with the effort. In the first recall effort, Vos challenged the validity of many petition circulators and the signatures they collected, claiming the effort was “plagued with fraud and criminality” including forged signatures, duplicate and underaged signers, illegible and incomplete personal information, and that some circulators had felony convictions.


The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a motion from WEC asking for clarification on whether the old or new district maps should be used for any recall or special election held before November. The court reiterated that its decision last year enjoined WEC “from using [the prior] legislative maps in all future elections” and stated that administering Wisconsin elections is WEC’s responsibility, not the supreme court’s.


Still No Date for Milwaukee Senate Special: Gov. Evers has yet to order a special election for the Milwaukee-area Senate district formerly held by Democrat Lena Taylor. The governor appointed Taylor to a Milwaukee County judgeship more than three months ago; based on the timing of that vacancy, state law requires Gov. Evers to call a special election to fill the seat. Along with WEC’s request to the supreme court regarding the Vos recall, discussed above, Gov. Evers wanted the court to clarify which district boundaries should be used for the special election.


Cowles Won’t Seek Reelection; Wimberger to Change Districts: The Wisconsin Senate’s longest-serving member has announced he will not seek reelection this year. Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) has served in the Senate since 1987 and was first elected to the Assembly in 1982. Due to redistricting, Cowles’ home was moved from Senate District (SD) 2 into SD 30, now a slightly Democratic-leaning district mostly consisting of the City of Green Bay. The new SD 2 still comprises most of Cowles’ old district, while SD 30 is currently represented by another Green Bay Republican, Sen. Eric Wimberger. Initially, both Cowles and Wimberger stated that they would move to and run for office in the newly constituted SD 2; now, with Cowles’ retirement announcement, Wimberger appears to have the Republican nomination to himself.


Brandtjen Won’t Face Criminal Charges: Waukesha County DA Susan Opper said that she will not criminally charge Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls) for allegedly participating in a scheme to skirt campaign donation limits to aid Adam Steen’s campaign against Speaker Vos in 2022. Opper wrote that she did not believe the evidence against Brandtjen would be admissible in court. The Wisconsin Ethics Commission referred the case to Opper for criminal prosecution and could still refer the case to another prosecutor or the state Department of Justice. Opper also noted that the commission could file a civil case against Brandtjen. Brandtjen just announced that she will seek reelection to the Assembly in the redrawn 24th Assembly District (currently, she represents the 22nd). She will face Sen. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) in a primary election; Knodl chose to run for Assembly again after he and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) were drawn into the same Senate district.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on JCF Oversight of Stewardship Program

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering a legal challenge from Gov. Evers to the Wisconsin Legislature’s committee oversight power over the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Oral arguments before the court were held April 17. The lawsuit from Gov. Evers alleges that a provision giving the Joint Committee on Finance the power to review and veto funding awards under the Stewardship Program is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. 

Continue reading this article

Bits & Pieces


SCOWIS Justice Walsh Bradley Won't Seek Reelection in 2025

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has announced that she will not seek a fourth term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a reversal after telling reporters last spring that she planned to seek reelection in the 2025 spring election. Walsh Bradley is a judicial liberal and the court’s longest-serving active member, having been on the bench since 1995. See this statement from Gov. Evers on Walsh Bradley’s announcement.


As for possible candidates, former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel got out of the gates early, announcing last November that he would run in 2025 as a judicial conservative. Appellate Judge Maria Lazar is considering running as a conservative, too. On the progressive side, appellate Judges Chris Taylor and Pedro Colón have both decided against entering the race. Dane County Judge Susan Crawford is still considering a run.

The 2025 campaign for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court promises to be highly competitive and very expensive. Judicial liberals currently enjoy a 4-3 majority on the court due to the election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz last year in a race that broke national campaign spending records. After 2025, conservatives will not have the opportunity to recapture a majority until 2028 or later. The terms of conservative Justices Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler will be up in 2026 and 2027, respectively.

Gov. Evers Appoints New DOR Secretary

On Tax Day, Gov. Evers announced the appointment of David Casey as secretary of the Department of Revenue. Casey assumed the position on April 29. Most recently, Casey worked as a tax compliance and fraud professional for SAS Institute, an analytics software company. Casey served as deputy revenue secretary from 2019 to 2022 under former Secretary Peter Barca. Barca resigned from the department in late March, shortly before announcing a bid for Congress.


Meanwhile, the Departments of Corrections and Natural Resources both remain leaderless; DNR has been without an appointed secretary since October 2023, while former DOC Secretary Kevin Carr retired in March. Barca and Carr were among Gov. Evers’ original cabinet appointees from when he first took office in 2019.

PA Licensure Compact Reaches Critical Mass

April 4, the Physician Assistant Licensure Compact was enacted in Virginia, making it the seventh state to ratify and thereby “activate” the compact. Since then, Maine and Oklahoma have also joined the compact (totaling nine states), and legislation is pending in at least nine other states. Wisconsin became the third state to join the compact with the enactment of 2023 Act 81 late last year.

Senate Utility Committee Holds Community Solar Hearing

April 25, the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology held a public informational hearing on community solar. The committee heard from the following individuals:

  • Brandon Smithwood, Vice President of Policy, Dimension Renewable Energy
  • JD Smith & John Schulze, Arch Electric & Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin
  • Zack Hill, Senior Manager of Public Affairs, Alliant Energy
  • Sarah Moon, Co-Founder & Principal, Fieldworks Power

Education Policy Updates

DPI Changing School Start Rule

Via rulemaking, the Department of Public Instruction is seeking to modify the "extraordinary reasons" a school district could start classes before September 1. The state’s tourism industry strongly opposes these changes because it would allow more schools to start earlier for a variety of reasons, undermining the purpose of a statewide September 1 start date. This would effectively shorten the state’s summer tourism season and deprive small businesses of many potential customers and employees. In recent sessions, legislation seeking to change the school start date law has repeatedly failed to pass.


UW System Seeks State Funding, Tuition Increase

Gov. Evers announced that his 2025-27 executive budget will propose “the largest increase in state support for the UW System in more than two decades.” Meanwhile, the UW System is seeking to raise in-state undergraduate tuition by 3.8 percent for the next academic year, the second consecutive year it has sought an increase following a nine-year tuition freeze instituted by the legislature.


Voters Split on School Referenda

Wisconsin voters approved 60 percent of local school district referenda during the state’s nonpartisan spring elections held on April 2.

News Clips


Campaigns will spend ‘hundreds of millions’ in Wisconsin, party chairs say

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 26, 2024

Republican National Committee urges moving protest area farther from MKE RNC venue

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 26, 2024

Can 14 strangers from Wisconsin help America find common ground on abortion?

Wisconsin Examiner, April 25, 2024

Poll: Senate race in Wisconsin is neck and neck

Spectrum News 1, April 24, 2024

Wisconsin election observers may have to keep their distance

The Capital Times, April 24, 2024

What type of Democrat can win in rural Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Watch, April 22, 2024

Gallagher delays exit from Congress to support foreign aid package

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 19, 2024

Marquette Poll: Voter opinions on immigration and deportation have changed

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 19, 2024

Former Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Peter Barca announces new bid for Congress

Associated Press, April 18, 2024

Trump, Baldwin hold narrow Wisconsin leads in latest Marquette poll

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 17, 2024

Tammy Baldwin fights to maintain appeal in rural Wisconsin amid Democratic slide

NBC News, April 17, 2024

Utilities & Energy

States rethink data centers as ‘electricity hogs’ strain the grid

Stateline, April 30, 2024

Are customers willing to pay a higher electric bill for fewer outages?

TMJ 4, April 30, 2024

WEC Energy Group paying $459 million for Texas solar project

Milwaukee Business News, April 29, 2024

Wisconsin has received a $62.4 million solar energy grant for low-income households

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 24, 2024

We Energies, WPS apply for rate hikes for 2025 and 2026

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 16, 2024

Wisconsin's largest utility company requests more rate increases for next 2 years

Wisconsin State Journal, April 16, 2024

Customer groups oppose We Energies' 2025 rate increase of 6.8% to 10%

Milwaukee Business Journal, April 12, 2024


Portage Co. residents file lawsuit against DNR water pollution settlement with CAFO

Wisconsin Examiner, April 25, 2024

Wisconsin abandoned rules on nitrates pollution. Now, solutions seem far off

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 25, 2024

Evers’ Earth Day pledge: Wisconsin will plant 100M trees by end of 2030

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 22, 2024

Prehistoric lake sturgeon is not endangered, US says despite calls from conservationists

Associated Press, April 22, 2024

EPA lists 2 PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 19, 2024

Evers not ruling out legal challenge to force release of $125M to address PFAS

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 16, 2024


Wisconsin Supreme Court scheduled to hear oral arguments in absentee voting case

Wisconsin Law Journal, April 30, 2024

AG Kaul opens public comment period for request for an Attorney General Opinion on Constitutional Amendment regarding election officials

Wisconsin Department of Justice, April 29, 2024

Ballot drop boxes aren't actually banned, AG Kaul argues

The Capital Times, April 25, 2024

Waukesha DA won’t pursue charges against Brandtjen

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 19, 2024

Wisconsin Legislature sues Gov. Tony Evers over partial vetoes to literacy program bill

Wisconsin State Journal, April 18, 2024

People with disabilities sue in Wisconsin over lack of electronic absentee ballots

Associated Press, April 16, 2024

Wisconsin Supreme Court could further reshape balance of power in Capitol

Wisconsin Watch, April 15, 2024

Lawsuit asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down governor’s 400-year veto

Associated Press, April 15, 2024

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley won't run again

The Capital Times, April 11, 2024

Employer & Consumer

More Wisconsin workers died on the job in 2022 than any year since 2006

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 30, 2024

Central Wisconsin farmers: Immigration crackdown, trade war affect our business

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 29, 2024

In a seminal development for Wisconsin’s economy, manufacturing has begun returning

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 25, 2024

Nestlé Purina plans $195 million expansion at Jefferson factory

Milwaukee Business News, April 25, 2024

Rents in Wisconsin—specifically Milwaukee—among the fastest rising in the nation

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 24, 2024

Kikkoman Foods acquires 100-acre site in Jefferson for a $560 million factory

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 23, 2024

CNH Industrial laying off more than 200 workers in Racine, moving jobs to Mexico

Milwaukee Business News, April 17, 2024

Transportation & Infrastructure

Traffic deaths in Milwaukee continue to rise as they decline elsewhere in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 26, 2024

LiveWire, spun off from Harley, to consolidate operations from California to Milwaukee

Milwaukee Business News, April 25, 2024

White House announces new infrastructure 'workforce hubs' in four states

United Press International, April 25, 2024

Feds, state AGs partner to protect air travelers’ rights

North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, April 22, 2024

Wisconsin worst in nation in fatal crashes involving wrong-way drivers

Wisconsin State Journal, April 17, 2024


EMS, law enforcement discuss first month after HSHS St. Joseph's closure

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, April 26, 2024

Republican-led budget panel objects to plans for opioid settlement funds

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 23, 2024

Most Wisconsin dentists don’t take Medicaid. That leaves limited options for patients

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 23, 2024

White House pushes for new staffing rules at nursing homes

Wisconsin State Journal, April 22, 2024

Western WI leaders focus on future health care expansions despite delay in state support

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 18, 2024

Hospital funding is ‘Byzantine Jenga,’ Froedtert ThedaCare CEO says

The Capital Times, April 13, 2024


Pro-Palestinian encampment protests reach Universities of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 29, 2024

Milwaukee Public Schools budget proposal would cut 288 positions despite referendum

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 26, 2024

AI goes unregulated at UWM over a year after ChatGPT’s release

Milwaukee Magazine, April 25, 2024

Amid falling public confidence, forum speakers try to defend the value of a college degree

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 25, 2024

UW to vacate Richland campus 1 year after college classes ended

Wisconsin Public Radio, April 25, 2024

UW extends free teaching degrees for grads who stay in state

The Capital Times, April 22, 2024

Wisconsin reading scores led to a new law. Now the real test begins.

The Capital Times, April 17, 2024

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