Here Are the Primaries and Races to Watch in the 2020 Elections for the Wisconsin Legislature



By Pat Kreitlow

June 2, 2020

Eight incumbents face challengers from within their own parties.

Eight incumbent Wisconsin lawmakers, including seven members of the Assembly, face primary challengers in the fall election, and several open seats around the state have attracted numerous contestants. 

SEE THEM ALL: Click HERE to see the full 55-page list of legislative and congressional races at the Wisconsin Elections Commission website (pdf)

The lone incumbent Senator facing a challenger in the Aug. 11 primary is Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, who will square off against Milwaukee resident Michelle Bryant to represent the 6th Senate District, according to the election filings with the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

Monday was the filing deadline for candidates seeking election this fall.

Among the seven incumbent Assembly representatives facing primaries are Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, who is being challenged by Robert Slamka; and Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mount Horeb, who will face Kimberly Smith of Oregon.   

Also facing a primary challenge is Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee. He will run against Andi Rich, also of Marinette, to represent the 89th Assembly District. Filings by two Democratic candidates are pending approval. 

Numerous longtime politicians have decided against seeking re-election to another term, among them Madison Democratic Senator Fred Risser, who has held elected office for six decades. 

The seven Democrats seeking Risser’s 26th Senate District include former state Rep. Kelda Roys, former Madison City Council member Brian Benford, William Henry Davis III, Nada Elmikashfi, John Imes, Amani Latimer Burris, and Aisha Suraya Moe. 

Another position being vacated, that of Madison Assembly Democrat Chris Taylor, also attracted a seven-person primary. Democrats seeking Taylor’s 76th Assembly District seat include Marsha Rummel, Nicki Vander Muelen, Heather Driscoll, Ali Maresh, Francesca Hong, Tyrone Cratic Williams, and Dewey Bredeson.

Rummel and Bredeson still need approval from the Elections Commission before they appear on the ballot. 

The winner of the primary race for Taylor’s position will face Republican Patrick Hull in the general election.

The position of Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, attracted seven candidates as well, although two are pending Elections Commission approval. Craig announced last month he is leaving the Legislature after nine years, vacating his 28th Senate District.

Those seeking to fill Craig’s position include Republicans Steven Bobowski, Julian Bradley, Marina Croft, Jim Engstrand, Dan Griffin, Daniel Newberry, and David Craig. As of Tuesday Newberry’s and Craig’s filings were pending. 

The winner of that race will face Democrat Adam Murphy in the November election. 

Milwaukee’s 17th Assembly District was vacated when Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, was elected as Milwaukee County Executive. Among candidates seeking to fill that position are Chris Walton, chairman of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party, and Supreme Moore Onokunde, the son of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore.  

Among three primary races in west-central Wisconsin is the 10th Senate District contest, where Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, apparently will face Cherie Link, a Republican from Somerset. Link’s election status was pending with the state Elections Commission Tuesday because she had not yet filed her statement of economic interest. She has until Thursday to do so.

Stafsholt is giving up the 29th Assembly District position he has had since 2017 to seek the Senate position. 

The winner of the Republican primary for the 10th District will face Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, who was elected in a January 2018 special election to succeed longtime Republican Sheila Harsdorf after she was appointed as secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection by former Gov. Scott Walker.

In eastern Wisconsin, 90th Assembly District incumbent Staush Gruszynski, D-Green Bay, faces primary challenger Kristina Shelton. Gruszynski sexually harassed a Legislative staff member at a Madison bar last year and was asked by party leaders to resign.  

Notable Assembly races in west-central Wisconsin include the 68th District, where one-term incumbent Jesse James, R-Altoona, will face a challenge by Eau Claire Democrat Emily Berge, who was elected to the Eau Claire City Council in 2018.

In southwest Wisconsin, 51st Assembly District incumbent Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, will run against Democrat Kriss Marion of Blanchardville. Marion lost a race for Senate against Republican Howard Marklein in 2018. 

Noteworthy Congressional Races

Wisconsin’s Congressional races will feature primaries as well. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind will face a primary challenge in the Aug. 11 primary, one of three primaries among Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation in the runup to the November presidential election.

Kind, a La Crosse Democrat who represents the 3rd Congressional District, will be challenged by Mark Neumann, a retired La Crosse doctor. 

The winner of that primary will face the victor of a Republican primary for Kind’s position. Jessi Ebben, a public relations professional from Eau Claire, will face Derrick Van Orden, a retired Navy SEAL from Hager City. 

In another Congressional race, Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, could face Cliff De Temple, of Jackson, in seeking the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District. The Elections Commission is verifying whether De Temple had enough signatures to get on the ballot. U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, the longtime holder of that seat, is retiring.  

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, who represents the 1st Congressional District, faces a primary challenge from John Baker of Mukwonago. Democrats Josh Pade, of Kenosha, and Roger Pollack, of Racine, also will face each other in a primary for the position before the winners of those contests square off in November in the district formerly held by one-time Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.



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