Races to Watch on April 5; Stafsholt Runs for Open Murtha Seat

Wisconsin’s role in helping decide both party’s Presidential primary winners continues to be in flux. Barring a brokered convention or the emergence of a third party candidate, last night’s results seem to have locked in a Trump vs. Clinton general election. How that affects the voter turnout here remains to be seen, and that turnout could have a major effect on some important races where incumbents are seeing significant challenges.

The race for Milwaukee County Executive between current County Exec Chris Abele and state Senator Chris Larson is much closer than what was expected. In the February primary, Sen. Larson beat Abele by 708 votes. While Abele is expected to significantly outspend Larson in this contest, the race is now expected to go down to the wire. Some believe that if the Clinton/Sanders race is still competitive that this helps Larson, but if Sanders bows out before April, that would be more advantageous for Abele. All of that is speculative though as neither were on the ballot when Larson surpassed Abele’s vote total in February. Should Larson win, his Senate seat would be open in the fall elections.

Another race that was closer than expected in February was the Milwaukee Mayoral primary between Mayor Tom Barrett and Alderman Bob Donavan. Mayor Barrett is still expected to win, but he may have to exert more effort in the race than he is used to.

Statewide, the race for the Supreme Court seat between Rebecca Bradley and Joanne Kloppenburg is also expected to be close. Bradley was appointed to the Court by Governor Walker last fall after the death of Justice Crooks and is viewed as an incumbent. Justice Bradley is currently fighting off reports that uncovered controversial editorial columns from her college days at Marquette University, providing her competitor with many lines of attack. The February vote totals between Bradley and Kloppenburg were close leaving a significant question as to how Presidential primary turnout will affect this race. Given last night’s results it is too soon to do anything but guess.

Republican Candidate Announced for Murtha Seat

Rob Stafsholt has announced he will be running as a Republican to replace Rep. John Murtha (R-Baldwin), who will be retiring this fall. Stafsholt has worked as a mortgage loan originator, has managed his family’s food manufacturing company, Scoop’s Delight Salad Dressing, and currently helps run his family farm. Additionally, Stafsholt is the Manager of Landmark Mortgage Company in New Richmond.

Stafsholt says his campaign will focus on key issues of lowering property taxes, advocating for property rights, economic development, ensuring quality education and the fight against drugs.

Rep. Murtha served as the Majority Caucus Chair and served on the Committee on Assembly Organization, Committee on Housing and Real Estate, Committee on Rules and the Joint Legislative Council. In the 2014 election, Murtha won the 29th Assembly seat by over 10 percentage points against Democratic challenger Jill Swanson.

No other Republicans or Democrats have formally declared their candidacy for the seat. A primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 12.

More legislative retirements can be found here.