Here Are 10 Wisconsin Legislative Races to Keep an Eye on Election Night

Here Are 10 Wisconsin Legislative Races to Keep an Eye on Election Night


By Jessica VanEgeren

October 16, 2020

These key Senate and Assembly elections could give Republicans a supermajority to override Evers’ vetoes.

Ask most politically active folks and they’ll tell you the November election is the most important election of their lifetimes.

While the big race of the night is the presidential showdown between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, there are races in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature that politicians are keyed in on as they are more likely to flip in the always flippable swing state of Wisconsin.

While control of the Legislature is not likely to change—odds are Republicans will maintain their control of the Senate and Assembly—there is a slim chance the Republicans will pick up the six seats necessary to obtain a veto-proof supermajority.

Currently, Republicans control the Senate by an 18 to 13 split. In the Assembly, the divide is 63 to 34. Both chambers have two vacancies. 

The annual salary for Wisconsin lawmakers is $53,000 annually, plus per diems. 

Recently, Senate President Roger Roth of Appleton and Senate Minority Leader Janet Brewley of Mason shared their views on the top races to watch. Below are the Senate district races they agreed are up for grabs:

  • Senate District 8: Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) vs. Neal Plotkin (D), in a Milwaukee-area district.
  • Senate District 10: Sen. Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset) vs. Rob Stafsholt (R), in a northwest Wisconsin district.
  • Senate District 24: Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) vs. Paul Piotrowski (D), in a central Wisconsin district.
  • Senate District 30: Jonathon Hansen (D) vs. Eric Wimberger (R), in the Green Bay-area district represented by retiring Democrat Dave Hansen.
  • Senate District 32: Brad Pfaff (D) vs. Dan Kapanke (R), in the La Crosse-area district formerly represented by Jennifer Shilling until she resigned to take a position with Dairyland Power Cooperative.

It is worth noting that three of the five seats to watch intersect with so-called pivot counties. Nationally, there are 206 pivot counties. This means these counties voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and former President Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008. Senate Districts 10, 24, and 32 are among the 710 state legislative districts nationwide that intersect with one or more pivot counties, which is why there is a higher chance the seats could change Nov. 3. 

The popularity of the presidential candidates also plays a role. Few voters split the ballot by voting for candidates in both parties. For that reason, a strong showing of support for Biden will benefit other Democratic candidates on the ballot. 

Bewley made mention of this as a reason Plotkin could unseat Darling, who has been in the Legislature for close to 30 years. Bewley said the demographics of the district and recent polls that show Trump down by 11 points lead her to believe Democrats have “a true, true possibility of getting that seat.”

“The district is almost a poster for the Republican suburban woman who is just turned off and wants to be able to claim a vote that she can be proud of,” Bewley said. 

The emphasis on suburban women voters is also a reason four of the five Assembly districts to watch are located in Milwaukee-area suburbs. The only one that isn’t in that region is the race for Assembly District 51 between Republican incumbent Todd Novak of Dodgeville and Lafayette County Supervisor Kriss Marion. 

The mostly rural district lies southwest of Madison and includes the smaller cities of Dodgeville, Mineral Point, and Monroe.

Marion has raised double the amount of Novak, and outside spending for both candidates hovers between $121,500 and $124,000, respectively. Novak, first elected to the Assembly in 2015, held on to the seat two years ago by less than 300 votes. 

Here are the Wisconsin Assembly races to watch: 

  • Assembly District 13: Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) vs Healthcare executive Sara Rodriguez (D).
  • Assembly District 14: Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) vs political newcomer and Wauwatosa community organizer Bonnie Lee (R).
  • Assembly District 21: Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek) vs South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks (D).
  • Assembly District 23: Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) vs substitute teacher and gun safety activist Deb Andraca (D).
  • Assembly District 51: Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) vs Lafayette County Supervisor Kriss Marion (D).


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