National political watchers are focusing on two Wisconsin special elections Tuesday, looking for evidence of a fall “Blue Wave” of Democratic electoral success. The elections are to fill vacancies in the 1st State Senate District in Northeast Wisconsin and the 42nd Assembly District in South Central Wisconsin. Both seats became open when Governor Scott Walker appointed Republican incumbents to positions in Madison.
Democrats are hoping to build on victories in a 10th Senate District Special election in January and a liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court victory in April that broke a string of conservative wins in high court races. Democrats have racked up a string of wins around the country in recent wins and hope that two more victories in Wisconsin Tuesday will continue to build momentum going into the November races.
The state senate race is of particular interest because beyond being a Blue Wave indicator, it will also very likely determine which party controls the state senate. Republicans currently hold an 18-14 advantage in the 33 seat house. Republican’s hold on two other seats in November is considered precarious. If Democrats do capture those seats, it would mean Republicans would have to hold the 1st in the fall to maintain control of the senate. Both Blue Wave Hopes and control of the senate likely explain big outside spending in the race.
As the Green Bay Press Gazette reported:
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, also has set aside $175,000 to support (Democrat Caleb) Frostman and Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd, who is running against Republican Jon Plumer in a special election for the 42nd Assembly District. The group is spending the money on digital and TV ads as well as get-out-the-vote efforts.
In addition, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund is buying $53,000 worth of ads on Frostman’s behalf, and the group For Our Future is spending more than $27,000 on promotional efforts, according to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks election-related spending.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has purchased more than $150,000 in television ads supporting Jacque, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports.
In a radio interview last week with talk show host Josh Dukelow of WHBY, Appleton, Jacque suggested that Democrats are focusing on the short term and that he may be looking beyond next week’s outcome.
The reality is; we’re going to be running again for the fall…That’s the four-year term, that’s what really matters. What people might be focusing on right now, and why you see the outside money from (former U.S. Attorney General) Eric Holder and others, is because it’s a national talking point. In a lower turnout election there is a greater opportunity to you know, maybe gain some momentum…
What is unknown, however, is what impact Tuesday’s result will have on the November races in Wisconsin. Jacque and Frostman both filed nominating papers for the November race and are almost certain to face each other again (another Republican also filed nominating papers). Jacque is correct that the November race is the bigger prize, but Democrats are hoping wins tomorrow would impact the fall races, keeping the Blue Wave momentum alive.
It’s also unclear whether the winners of Tuesday’s races will enjoy the benefits that incumbents typically enjoy in seeking re-election. They will see no legislative action between now and November.
The 1st Senate District is seen an historically red district and Democrats believe a win there would be a tremendous boost to their fall prospects. Republicans who supported Jacque’s primary opponent, Alex Renard, argued that Jacque couldn’t defeat Frostman. Despite running in a district that has been a traditional Republican stronghold, Jacque would dispel a lot of conventional wisdom with a Tuesday win. A defeat would feed into the Left’s Blue Wave narrative, but Jacque is aware that he likely will get a do-over in about 4 and a half months should he lose the special election.