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State Capitol

Two Wisconsin Senate seats are on a national Democratic group’s list of state legislative seats it aims to flip in the November election.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee on Friday identified 17 legislative seats it will target in eight states to flip the chambers to Democratic control. A statement from the committee says it will spend $6 million on the national effort.

The target list includes District 17 in southwest Wisconsin, now held by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and District 19, held by Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton.

The list is one indication of the seats that could be most hotly contested this November in the battle for the Senate. Democrats have flipped two seats in the chamber from GOP control in recent special elections triggered by senators’ retirements. Those saw Sen. Caleb Frostman, D-Sturgeon Bay, elected in Senate District 1 in northeast Wisconsin and Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, in District 10 in the St. Croix River Valley.

The special election results narrowed Republicans’ Senate majority to 18-15. Democrats must defend Frostman’s seat and gain two more seats to win control of the chamber.

Another seat Democrats are expected to contest is District 23 in the Chippewa Valley, which is being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls.

The Democrat opposing Marklein in District 17 in November is Kriss Marion, a Blanchardville farmer and Lafayette County supervisor.

Roth’s Democratic opponent will be determined in the Aug. 14 primary. The candidates are Lee Snodgrass, chairwoman of the Outagamie County Democrats, and Outagamie County Supervisor Dan Grady, both of Appleton.

Both districts 17 and 19 cover areas that historically elect Republicans to the Legislature. But Democrats may be eyeing them, in part, because they have been competitive in recent presidential elections — Donald Trump carried both in 2016, but Barack Obama won them in 2012.

The DLCC did not respond to a request for comment about how much money it planned to spend in Wisconsin or why it views these seats as competitive.

The Senate elections are expected to be more competitive than Assembly elections because Republicans have a 64-35 edge in the latter chamber that is widely viewed as insurmountable for Democrats.

Still, Democrats are contesting more seats in the Assembly than Republicans. There are 31 Assembly districts in which Democrats either are running unopposed or face no Republican opponent, compared to eight such districts for Republicans.

State Journal reporter Matthew DeFour contributed to this report.


Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.