Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
topical alert top story
ELECTION 2020 | LEGISLATURE

With GOP supermajority on the line, Dems spend big on incumbents in vulnerable districts

  • 0

The state Democratic Party has made major investments in incumbent Democrats hoping to hold off Republicans from securing a veto-proof majority in the Wisconsin Legislature this fall.

State campaign finance reports filed with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission show the Democratic Party of Wisconsin raised more than $7.5 million during the past three months, compared with about $728,000 raised by the state Republican Party over the same time span.

The state Democratic Party, along with Democratic committees in the Senate and Assembly, contributed more than $220,000 to Democratic candidates in five of the six seats deemed vulnerable by state Republicans.

Four of those candidates are incumbent Democrats in what party officials on both sides of the aisle consider highly contested seats this fall. The fifth is Brad Pfaff, who served as Gov. Tony Evers’ secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection until being abruptly ousted in November by Senate Republicans.

“Looking at the maps and figuring out the best way to hold on to what we have right now and even pick up a couple of seats — that’s what’s paramount to the Democratic Party,” state party spokesman Phil Shulman said. “And making sure that Gov. Evers still has the power of the veto.”

Finance reports filed Wednesday cover campaign donations and spending for the first six months of 2020.

Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, in a statement accused Democrats of relying on millions of out-of-state dollars — including $2.5 million from Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“Wisconsin Democrats are moving further away from the Midwestern values that Wisconsinites hold dear and are cozying up to out-of-state liberals and their cash,” Hitt said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Hitt responded to the Democrats’ second-quarter fundraising haul with a plea for donations.

“Our ground game and data are far superior to the Democrats, but this is further proof that Wisconsin will determine who sits in the White House in 2021,” Hitt said in a statement. “This is the epicenter of the 2020 race, and conservative donors across the country need to put resources towards the Republican Party of Wisconsin.”

Shulman, who dismissed Hitt’s comments, said the fundraising results show a growing momentum behind the Democratic Party. Shulman said the party has raised more than $10 million in the second quarter of 2020 between state and federal accounts.

“We raised a lot and Republicans raised very little,” Shulman said. “I think the enthusiasm gap is remarkable, and people are continuing to be excited about electing Democrats. This clearly is showing signs that Republicans are in a pretty bad spot.”

Vulnerable districts

Republicans would have to flip three seats in both the Assembly and Senate to achieve two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

Officials with the Republican Party of Wisconsin have said they’ve put up strong candidates in those highly contested districts, while the state Democratic party earlier this year launched a “Save the Veto” campaign with the goal of holding all their seats and preventing Republicans from reaching a supermajority.

Veto-proof majorities would give Republicans in the state Legislature a significant edge over Evers during next year’s redrawing of legislative district maps. Gerrymandered districts created by Republicans 10 years ago have contributed to the party’s decade-long majority in both chambers.

In the Assembly, Republicans look to take back the 14th District, which Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, won by less than a percentage point in 2018. Republicans also said the Assembly’s 74th and 94th districts provide other possible gains.

In the Senate, the seats of departing Democrats Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and former Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, also provide opportunities to flip Republican this fall.

In 2016, Hansen beat GOP challenger Eric Wimberger by less than 3 percentage points, and Shilling edged Republican Dan Kapanke by only 61 votes.

The 10th Senate District, which Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, won by more than 2,000 votes in a 2018 special election, provides another possible gain for Republicans.

Both Wimberger and Kapanke are running again, in the Senate’s 30th and 32nd districts, respectively, while Schachtner will face either current state Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, or Somerset small business owner Cherie Link — depending on who wins the August primary.

Assembly seats

The state Democratic Party contributed $35,000 each — some of the party’s biggest contributions to individual campaigns — to Vining and fellow incumbent Reps. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, and Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska. In addition, the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee contributed another $50,000 to Doyle’s re-election effort.

Vining raised more than $101,000 this year, with almost $58,000 coming from individual donors and the remainder from committees.

Of Vining’s three potential GOP opponents, Wauwatosa church outreach director Bonnie Lee raised the most with about $65,000 — which includes $20,000 from Lee’s own pocket.

GOP candidates Steven Shevey, of Brookfield, spent $3,400 of his own money, while Elmbrook School Board member Linda Boucher raised about $9,200 — the large majority of which came out of her own pocket.

All told, Meyers raised more than $117,000 as of June 30. Nearly half of those funds came from individual donors while more than $61,000 came from committees.

By comparison, Meyer’s District 14 challenger James Bolen, a resort manager and Bayfield County Economic Development Corp. board member, raised about $4,400 in individual and committee contributions.

Of the more than $132,000 raised by Doyle this filing period, a combined $85,000 came from the state Democratic Party and the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee.

Doyle’s GOP challenger and La Crosse County Board Sup. Kevin Hoyer raised more than $11,000, with almost $3,200 of that coming from the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee.

Senate seats

Schachtner raised nearly $80,000 for her re-election campaign in the Senate’s 10th District. The state Democratic Party donated $15,000 to her effort.

State Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, is running to unseat Schachtner and raised more than $36,000.

In the Senate’s 30th District Democratic primary, Green Bay’s Sandra Ewald raised just shy of $900, compared with Hansen’s nephew and De Pere City Council member Jonathon Hansen, who raised more than $36,000 from individual donors and committees.

Wimberger, a lawyer from Green Bay, raised about $6,200.

In the Senate’s 32nd District, Kapanke raised more than $187,000, with all but about $23,000 coming from individual donors. Kapenke’s campaign received nearly $10,000 in cash and in-kind support from the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate.

Close behind was former Pfaff, who raised more than $155,000 since announcing his candidacy in late April. The State Senate Democratic Committee donated $50,000 to Pfaff’s campaign.

Fellow Democratic candidate and nurse Jayne Swiggum, of Gays Mills, spent a little more than $260 of her own money on her campaign.

Follow the Wisconsin State Journal's 2020 presidential election coverage

The candidates for the Nov. 3 election have accepted their party nominations. Who will win the key battleground state of Wisconsin?

topical alert featured
  • 0

Still, last-minute court rulings could mean results being delayed in Wisconsin by days. 

topical top story alert
  • 0

Big margins in northern Wisconsin were critical to President Donald Trump's 2016 win in Wisconsin.

  • 0

The few Wisconsin delegates who traveled to this week’s Republican National Convention in North Carolina said the event — which was downsized …

topical top story
  • 0

Only four of Wisconsin's 52 GOP delegates plan to attend the scaled-down Charlotte convention, while others will watch from home.

topical alert
  • 0

At one point, Baldwin was considered near the top of Biden's list of potential picks to run alongside him for the presidency this fall.

topical alert
  • 0

Kicking off the DNC on Wednesday from the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Evers expressed regret that the convention, which shifted last week to a mostly online event due to COVID-19, could not be held in-person.

topical top story
  • 0

"As we all recognize, it’s not exactly what we thought it was going to be, but what we’ve been forced to deal with," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said of the first-of-its-kind convention.

topical alert featured
  • 0

In addition to once boasting more than 50,000 visitors and hundreds of millions of tourism dollars, Milwaukee's political bash also aimed to cleanse Democrats' palate of Trump's margin-thin victory over Hillary Clinton here in 2016.

breaking topical top story
  • 0

Biden leads Trump 49% to 43% among Wisconsin respondents. Biden's lead in Wisconsin widens to 52% to 44% among voters who say they are "certain" to vote in November.

topical alert top story
  • 0

Biden led by a 6-point margin among likely voters over Trump in a June Marquette poll.

breaking topical top story
  • 0

Republican President Donald Trump also has caused controversy for saying he might deliver acceptance speech at White House.

topical alert top story
  • 0

Community organizers in Milwaukee have shifted their voter outreach programs to focus on mail-in absentee ballot education.

topical alert
  • 0

The poll also found former Vice President Joe Biden widening his lead over President Donald Trump in the state and a declining concern among Wisconsinites over the COVID-19 pandemic.

topical alert top story
  • 0

Perceptions of whether or not the president delivered on the promises he made during his 2016 campaign differ drastically along party lines.

topical alert top story
  • 0

The latest poll's results come as Wisconsin faces unprecedented unemployment numbers, which have risen sharply following state efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by shutting down some businesses or limiting services at others.

topical alert
  • 0

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won the state four years ago, was still in the race when the polls closed last Tuesday, but he suspended his campaign the following day — nearly a week before results would be reported. On Monday, he endorsed Joe Biden.

topical alert featured
  • 0

Organizers are searching for ways to empower voters in communities of color and low-income areas that saw a decrease in turnout during the 2016 general election. 

topical alert top story
  • 0

As the remaining Democratic presidential candidates look to begin large-scale campaign efforts in Wisconsin, they enter a battleground state that already has received considerable attention from President Donald Trump.

topical alert top story
  • 0

In this week’s Front Page podcast, Wisconsin State Journal state and politics reporter Mitchell Schmidt discusses the field of candidates, the upsets, the victories, and what Wisconsin voters will have to look forward to, as we near the Democratic National Convention.

breaking topical
  • 0

All other major candidates in the race received between 9 and 17% support.

topical alert top story
  • 0

In the general election, President Donald Trump faces a tight race against the Democratic field in Wisconsin.

topical alert
  • 0

Results of a new Wisconsin state-wide poll, released Sunday, show Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in a commanding lead ahead of Democratic presidential nominees. But, given the surprise outcome of the 2016 presidential election, the question remains: How accurate are political polls in an election year?

topical alert
  • 0

UW-Madison's Elections Research Center plans to launch a new poll to complement the Marquette Law School Poll.

0 Comments

Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Badger Sports

Breaking News

Crime

Politics