The Wisconsin State Senate is one of only 17 competitive state legislative chambers in the country, according to Governing, a nonpartisan Washington-based magazine and web publication that covers all 50 state governments.
That’s the fewest competitive chambers since the magazine began rating races in 2002, a phenomenon attributed to partisan redistricting following the 2010 Census. Also, four states don’t have legislative elections this cycle, four other states don’t have Senate elections and one state has a nonpartisan legislature.
Of the 17 competitive chambers, 11 are held by Democrats and six — including Wisconsin’s Senate — are held by Republicans. Six are rated “toss-ups”; five of which are held by Democrats and one of which is held by Republicans. The other 11 lean toward one party or the other.
Wisconsin’s Senate “leans Republican,” the magazine reports, because three Republican senators are leaving. A competitive governor’s race could also drive up Democratic turnout.
The magazine doesn’t name the three senators, though presumably they are Sens. Dale Schultz, Mike Ellis and Joe Leibham. A fourth Republican, Sen. Neal Kedzie, has already left office for a lobbying job, but his district is expected to remain in the GOP column. Three Democrats are also retiring and Republicans are expected to pick up one of those seats, which means Democrats would have to win three other Senate seats to win a majority in the 33-seat chamber.
Nationally, Democrats are optimistic they can do it. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee this week identified the Wisconsin Senate as one of eight legislative chambers it has the best chance of “flipping.”
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, criticized Republicans for giving tax credits to corporations while cutting K-12 education funding, a move that mostly affected teacher compensation and helped close the state’s multibillion-dollar budget deficit. Meanwhile, Larson said, the state has ranked last in job creation among its Midwest neighbors.
“Citizens are tired of the ‘divide and conquer’ politics of their party and they’re looking to restore balance,” Larson said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Republicans “are well-positioned to not only hold our majority but expand it.”
“We have recruited top-notch candidates who are committed to taking our message of job creation, fiscal responsibility and limited government door to door in their districts,” Fitzgerald said. “I have no doubt that this message delivered by our superior candidates will lead us to victory in November.”
The DLCC also listed the Wisconsin Assembly among nine “chambers to watch” because Democrats hope to pick up seats. However, because of redistricting, it’s unlikely Democrats can win a majority. Governing Magazine rates the Wisconsin Assembly, where Republicans hold a 60-39 majority, “safe Republican.”
All week, people around the country have been sounding off on Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.
But the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation decided to go big with its response. The group — which describes itself as a “national association of 20,000 freethinkers (atheists, agnostics and other skeptics) working to keep religion and government separate” — took out a full-page ad in The New York Times protesting the ruling.
“Allowing employers to decide what kind of birth control an employee can use is not, as the Supreme Court ruled, an ‘exercise of religion.’ It is an exercise of tyranny,” the ad reads.
FFRF had previously submitted a friend of the court brief in the case, urging the Supreme Court to declare the Religious Freedom Restoration Act unconstitutional.