Wisconsin residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to save the state treasurer’s office — a move some are calling another sign of a building Democratic wave in 2018.
To make it on the ballot, the proposal had to pass two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature, which it did with bipartisan support.
In 2017, the state Assembly passed the resolution with a vote of 68-31; the state Senate’s vote was 18-15. In 2015, the Assembly vote was 63-33 and the Senate 20-13.
Democrats including former minority leader Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and current minority leader, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, voted in favor of the proposal.
Prominent Wisconsin Democrats, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, have also pushed for eliminating the office for decades.
Barrett advocated for eliminating the treasurer and secretary of state offices during his 2010 campaign for governor.
But Tuesday night saw roughly 62 percent of Wisconsin voters cast ballots contrary to the Legislature’s action.
Mordecai Lee, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said the results show liberal voters chose to look at the referendum as a way to push back on the Republican leaders who have recently supported it, including Gov. Scott Walker.
"There was this sort of electrifying mobilization below the surface amongst the left that said, 'Let's view this issue not from the good government prospective, let's view it as a partisan issue. Gov. Walker is in favor of it, the Republican Legislature is in favor of it. That means the position of the left should be against it,'" Lee said.
Opponents had also argued maintaining the office preserves an important check on executive power, because the treasurer sits on the three-person state of Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.
Under the proposal, the treasurer’s spot would have been transferred to the lieutenant governor, a seat currently held by Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Lee said the strong vote against the referendum could be another sign that Republicans are in trouble leading up to November’s general election, because it shows effective organization and energy on the left.
"That's a real indication that there's a now left-leaning machine in Wisconsin that is sort of the counterpart to the existing Republican counterpart that has existed for the last few elections," he said.
The vote means the next treasurer will be elected to a four-year term in November. The filing deadline for candidates to join that race is June 1.