Preview: Special Elections Primary in SD 1 May 15

Before another special election “blue-wave” test, Republicans have their own test in what has developed into a contentious primary in Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District.

The northeast Wisconsin district holds all of Door and Kewaunee counties and parts of Brown, Outagamie, Calumet and Manitowoc counties. The district has been held by a Lasee (Al or Frank) for over 40 years, but that comes to an end as Frank Lasee took a job in the Walker administration, and no other Lasee put their name on the ballot.

The special election primary features sitting Assemblyman Andre Jacque (R-DePere) and political newcomer Alex Renard.  Jacque has held an Assembly District within Senate District 1 since 2010.  So it came as a surprise to many when a number of sitting Assembly members endorsed Jacque’s primary opponent Alex Renard.  Renard, 24, who moved into the district to run, was endorsed by Reps. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), John Macco (R-Ledgeview), John Nygren (R-Marinette), David Steffen (R-Green Bay), and Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna).

The endorsement en masse of Renard is viewed as payback to Jacque not being a team player in the Assembly. In addition to legislative support, Renard is going to have a massive spending advantage.

Renard has had a consistent presence on television throughout the primary boosting his name identification, and there are expected outside expenditures coming in on Renard’s behalf. It is understood he is also poised to spend significant personal/family dollars on the race.

Even with the endorsements and a substantial fundraising edge, the race is considered a toss-up at this point. Jacque has high name identification in his Assembly district and purportedly has a strong grassroots network.  In a low-turnout special election, that should help.

No one will know for sure on this one until the votes are counted, but it does have the feel of a similar set-up to 2003 where sitting Assemblywoman Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) faced political newcomer Alex Paul in a Democratic primary.  Paul outspent Lassa 7-1, and had the endorsement of then Gov. Jim Doyle, but Lassa beat back the endorsements and the money and won the Stevens Point area district with 58 percent of the vote.