By Andy Engel
Scott Walker led the primary from box to wire, eventually ousting his Republican primary competitor Mark Neumann with 60 percent of the vote. He now faces Democrat Tom Barrett. According to the polls, Walker has led Tom Barrett in head-to-head data since the race began. Various polls have Walker’s lead anywhere from three to nine points.
As of the last campaign finance report, Barrett has $2.6 million to spend while Walker was sitting on $1.2. The latest financial reports are not out yet, but it’s a gap wide enough to assume Barrett will outspend Walker in hard money over the next three weeks.
While hard money is important, a significant amount of current money being spent is via independent expenditures. It is hard to accurately assess their total spending to this point, but both are spending millions on television ads throughout the state.
Sitting Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is facing challenger Scott Hassett. This race has stayed well below the radar and most insiders predict an easy victory for the incumbent.
Republicans need a net gain of two seats to take back the majority they lost in 2006. There are four freshman Democrats that are bearing the brunt of that effort. The chessboard has shifted many times over the last few months, but control of the Senate still will likely come down to whether or not the Democrats can protect three of the four freshmen members.
Current Position: Senate Democrats 18; Senate Republicans 15
Senate District 1: Republican Al Lasee, Retiring
Senate District 7: Democrat Jeff Plale, Defeated in Primary
Senate District 15: Democrat Judy Robson, Retiring
Senate District 33: Republican Ted Kanavas, Retiring
Seats in Play:
5th Senate District:
Incumbent Jim Sullivan (D) vs. Representative Leah Vukmir (R)
The 5th District, made up of West Allis, Wauwatosa, parts of Milwaukee and a large swath of Waukesha County, on the numbers leans Republican. Sen. Jim Sullivan knocked off former incumbent Tom Reynolds in 2006 with 52 percent of the vote. Leah Vukmir is the sitting representative for the Waukesha portion of the district, representing it since 2002. Polling at this point shows this race as a toss-up, and their cash on hand is relatively equal.
21st Senate District:
Incumbent John Lehman (D) vs. Van Wanggaard (R)
The 21st Senate district lies within Racine County. The district has a tumultuous history for state Senate incumbents. Senator John Lehman won the seat when it was open in 2006 with 53 percent of the vote. Van Wanggaard ran for the Assembly that same year, losing to Cory Mason with 48 percent of the vote. Republicans are predicting this seat as their most likely take-back in 2010, and available polling at this point seems to match their enthusiasm. The latest finance reports had Lehman with a nearly $100K cash on hand advantage.
23rd Senate District:
Incumbent Pat Kreitlow (D) vs. former Rep. Terry Moulton (R)
The 23rd Senate District is comprised of the Chippewa Valley, the northern half of the City of Eau Claire and Clark County. It was represented by Dave Zien for many years before Kreitlow unseated Zien in 2006 with 51 percent of the vote. The 23rd Senate District on the numbers leans slightly Republican. Moulton lost his Assembly seat in 2008 to current Assemblywoman Kristen Dexter. The seat Moulton represented for four years is the most Democratic leaning part of the district. Current polling shows this race leaning slightly in Kreitlow’s favor. The latest finance reports had Kreitlow with an $80K cash advantage.
31st Senate District:
Incumbent Kathleen Vinehout (D) vs. Ed Thompson (R)
The 31st Senate District is a largely rural district in western Wisconsin that includes parts or all of Trempealeau, Buffalo, Jackson, Pepin and Pierce Counties. It also has the southern portion of the City of Eau Claire, which includes much of the campus population for the UW-Eau Claire.
In 2006, Vinehout knocked off then incumbent Sen. Ron Brown. Brown was a one-term Senator who had previously defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Rod Moen. Ed Thompson is well known in the District and previously ran for Governor in 2002 as a Libertarian. He recently was the Mayor of Tomah.
On the numbers, the 31st is the most Democratic of these four seats and recent polling shows Vinehout in the strongest position of the four freshmen Democrats. It was recently announced by Ed Thompson that he has what seems to be the early stages of pancreatic cancer and that after September 28th he expects to make no public appearances on the campaign trail.
Other races to watch:
1st District: Former Rep. Frank Lasee vs. Democrat Monk Elmer
29th District: Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker vs. Republican Pam Galloway
Both of these races have garnered attention on both sides of the aisle, and in the next week or so could legitimately replace one of the freshmen protects on the target list.
New or likely new senators:
7th District: Democrat Chris Larson defeated incumbent Jeff Plale in the primary and now faces Republican Jess Ripp in a district that on average votes 60 percent Democrat.
15th District: Democrat (and former state Senator) Tim Cullen faces Republican Rick Richard in a district that on average votes 60 percent Democrat.
33rd District: Republican (and sitting Assemblyman) Rich Zipperer (no Democratic opponent).
There are many different dynamics in play that will have an impact on who controls the State Assembly at the end of the day. Republicans need to pick up four seats to hit the magic number of 50 for control.
The overall electoral environment means a lot more Democratic seats are in play than normally would be. The following provides a lay of the land as we currently see it. Our determination of whether or not the seat leans one way or the other, or is a toss-up, takes into account what both sides are saying about their chances, combined with available polling we’ve seen on the races. At this point in time they are not predictions of the outcome.
Current Position: 51 Democrats, 46 Republicans, 2 Independents
Open Seats: 20 – 8 Democrat, 11 Republican, 1 Independent
Safe Democratic Seats: 32
Strongly Leaning Democratic Seats: 5
Terry Van Akkeren, Andy Jorgenson, Cory Mason, Gordon Hintz, Benedict open
Leaning Democratic Seats: 3
Jeff Smith, Mark Radcliffe, Marlin Schneider
Toss-up Democratic Seats: 11
Hubler open, Hilgenberg open, Nelson open, Ted Zigmunt, Ann Hraychuck, Fred Clark, Kim Hixson, Penny Bernard Schaber, Kristen Dexter, Jim Soletski, Phil Garthwaite
Safe Republican Seats: 36
Strongly Leaning Republican Seats: 4
Mark Honadel, Rhodes open, Montgomery open, Jerry Petrowski
Leaning Republican Seats: 6
Keith Ripp, Mary Williams, Lee Nerrison, Gary Bies, Jeff Wood open (Independent to Republican seat), Open Friske seat
Toss-up Republican Seats: 1
Open Davis seat
Leaning Independent Seat: 1
New Assembly Members (won primaries – no major party opponents)
- Democrat Jocasta Zamarripa replaces Pedro Colon
- Democrat Elizabeth Coggs replaces Polly Williams
- Republican Dale Kooyenga replaces Leah Vukmir
- Republican Chris Kapenga replaces Scott Newcomer
- Republican Michelle Litjens replaces Roger Roth
Likely new Assembly members (won primaries in very partisan districts – with opponents)
- Republican Tyler August replaces Tom Lothian (pending potential appeal of recount results)
- Republican Jeremy Thiesfeldt replaces John Townsend
- Republican Paul Farrow replaces Rich Zipperer
- Republican Mike Kuglitsch replaces Mark Gundrum
- Democrat Brett Hulsey replaces Spencer Black
- Democrat Janet Bewley replaces Gary Sherman
Strongly leaning incumbent party holds in open seats
- Democrat Roger Anclam versus Republican Amy Loudenbeck to replace Democrat Chuck Benedict
- Republican Chad Weininger versus Democrat Sam Dunlop to replace Republican Phil Montgomery
- Republican Dean Knudson versus Matt Borup to replace Republican Kitty Rhodes
The six open seats in play:
- 5th District: Democrat Mert Summers versus Republican Jim Steineke to replace Democrat Tom Nelson – Parts of Green Bay and areas to the west and south, Kaukana, Oneida County (toss-up)
- 35th District: Republican Tom Tiffany versus Democrat Jay Schmelling to replace Republican Don Friske – Northcentral Wisconsin, including Tomahawk, Merrill, Antigo (lean Republican)
- 51st District: Democrat John Simonsen versus Republican Howard Marklein to replace Democrat Steve Hilgenberg – Southwest WI, includes Sauk, Iowa, and Lafayette Counties (toss-up)
- 67th District: Republican Tom Larson versus Democrat C.W. King to replace Independent Jeff Wood – Chippewa Falls and surrounding area to the north (lean Republican)
- 75th District: Democrat Steve Perala versus Republican Roger Rivard to replace Democrat Mary Hubler – Northwest Wisconsin, including Rice Lake and Spooner (toss-up)
- 80th District: Democrat Janis Ringhand versus Dan Henke to replace Republican Brett Davis – Southwest of Madison including Evansville, Monroe and New Glarus (lean Democrat)
The eight top protects for Assembly Democrats:
- 1st District: Ted Zigmunt versus Andre Jacque – Southeast of Green Bay, including Two Rivers
- 28th District: Ann Hraychuck versus Erik Severson – Northwest Wisconsin, including Polk and Burnett Counties
- 42nd District: Fred Clark versus Jack Cummings – Includes Dells, Baraboo, Portage
- 43rd District: Kim Hixson versus Evan Wynn – Southwest Wisconsin, including Edgerton, Milton and Whitewater
- 49th District: Phil Garthwaite versus Travis Tranel – Southwest Wisconsin, including Platteville, Grant County
- 57th District: Penny Bernard Schaber versus Chris Hanson – City of Appleton
- 68th District: Kristen Dexter versus Kathy Bernier – Northern Eau Claire, Fall Creek
- 88th District: Jim Soletski versus John Klenke – Green Bay