ICYMI: Wisconsin Democrats recruit candidates in every Senate seat for the first time in 20 years

Jun 14, 2024

ICYMI: Wisconsin Democrats recruit candidates in every Senate seat for the first time in 20 years

MADISON, Wis. — Last Friday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that for the first time in 20 years, Wisconsin Democrats are running for every Senate seat and 97 Assembly seats in the Legislature. Thanks to new, fair maps, Wisconsin Democrats have the opportunity to run this fall in competitive districts that were previously out of reach because of Republicans’ gerrymandered maps.

Over 120 Democrats are running for the State Legislature this year, eager to give Wisconsinites a fair choice this November at the ballot box. Read more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel below:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin Democrats recruit candidates in every Senate seat for the first time in 20 years
By: Rachel Hale

Presented with an array of newly competitive legislative districts, Wisconsin Democrats have recruited candidates to run in every state Senate seat on the ballot and all but two of the 99 Assembly races.

The Democratic recruitment effort is the party’s largest in more than 20 years in the Senate and since 2011 in the Assembly, the year the Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican former Gov. Scott Walker passed partisan gerrymanders.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission approved the signatures for all of the candidates following Monday’s filing deadline, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which touted the candidate lineup as the party stages its statewide convention Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee.

Because the 33-member state Senate has staggered terms, the full electoral effect of the redrawn districts will play out over a series of elections. Sixteen seats are in play this cycle and another 17 will be up for grabs in 2026.

“Wisconsinites understand that the new maps mean that there’s an opportunity to win a Democratic majority this year, and our candidates want to be part of flipping control of the state Assembly, of electing Tammy Baldwin, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and all of the Democrats on the ballots,” said Wisconsin Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer, D-Racine. “Our democracy is being restored.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers dramatically weakened Republicans’ control of the state Legislature when he signed new legislative maps in February following the Wisconsin Supreme Court verdict that struck down GOP-drawn maps as unconstitutional.

Republicans currently hold 64 out of 99 seats in the Assembly and a supermajority of 22 out of 33 seats in the Senate, but Wisconsin’s new maps could help Democrats win more seats.

Nearly half of state lawmakers — at least 61 members of the Assembly and Senate (41 Republicans and 20 Democrats) — have announced they won’t run in their old districts this November, according to a WisPolitics race overview with mapping from the Marquette University Law School.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos isn’t concerned.

“I’ve heard this literally for 20 years when we had maps drawn by the courts and we had maps drawn by the feds, we had maps drawn by us and then now they’ve had the courts gerrymander them,” Vos said. “Under all of those scenarios, we have won vast majority of competitive seats.”

After the new maps came out, Neubauer said, Democrats received calls from more than 100 people interested in running. They traveled to districts around the state to find people “ready to put in the work” to “flip those seats.”

“Voters’ preferences were not being reflected in who won the majority in the state legislature,” Neubauer said. “That was bad for the people of Wisconsin and bad for our democracy, and it is amazing to see the enthusiasm of over 120 candidates who are willing to step up and run for office, even in a difficult political moment, because they see an opportunity to change the direction of our state.”

One of those new candidates is Kelly Peterson, a former journalist and teacher at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. She’ll run against Sen. Eric Wimberger, R -Green Bay, in the historically Republican 2nd Senate District, which covers parts of Brown, Outagamie, Shawano and Waupaca counties.

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, represented the district since 1987, but after Wimberger decided to move to the 2nd District, Cowles said he wouldn’t seek reelection. Despite the district’s Republican base, Peterson said she’s confident she’ll flip her seat given fair maps.

“We aren’t just running to put our name on the ballot in some of the tougher districts,” Peterson said. “We’re running real professional and aggressive campaigns, fighting for every vote, and we’re ready to hold Republicans accountable for their inaction and terrible policy preferences over the last decade.”

Throughout her door-to-door canvassing, Peterson said she was excited to see moderate Republicans and Independents sign her nomination paperwork. She first became active in politics after the fall of Roe v. Wade and said protecting abortion rights, along with uplifting middle-class families and creating affordable child care options, are key issues for her.

“I’ve been getting a great response as a Democrat finally running in this district,” Peterson said.

Vos said he anticipates that several of the slated candidates won’t make the ballot due to signatures collected in the wrong district or after the deadline.

“We’ve been running about 80 to 85 candidates on the ballot, I think for the past three or four election cycles, so it’s nice that our Democratic colleagues have decided to copy the strategy that we use,” Vos said. “We just try to offer the maximum number of candidates in the best or the maximum number of districts and give the voters a choice.”