, ,

Vos ‘Proud’ To Back Trump, Says He’ll Help Assembly Republicans

Democrats Hoping Trump Factor Will Help Them Trim Assembly GOP's Majority

Scott Bauer/AP Photo

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he’s proud to support Donald Trump’s campaign for president, saying Trump’s candidacy was helping Republican campaigns in local Wisconsin races, not hurting them.

The Speaker’s comments Thursday come just two months after Vos said he was embarrassed by the GOP nominee.

Vos, who was an early supporter of Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary, told a WisPolitics forum in Madison that the election environment has changed quickly.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“We actually thought a year ago that if Donald Trump would have been the nominee, he would have had a drag on our ticket,” Vos said. “I think many of us worried about that on the Republican side. And frankly, it’s exactly the opposite, which I would have never predicted.”

Vos, who oversees the Assembly campaigns of Republicans throughout Wisconsin, said Trump is benefiting candidates in competitive races.

“We see that he is bringing out an awful lot of folks who in the past either hadn’t been involved in politics or perhaps didn’t think that they had a home in the Republican Party,” Vos said.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca, who joined Vos at the forum, disputed the idea that Trump would help Republicans.

“In the seats that are most competitive, Hillary’s winning,” Barca said.

Barca said more importantly, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold was polling well in his rematch with Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

“First of all, he energizes our base,” Barca said of Feingold. “And he also helps to get independents to come over to the Democratic fold.”

Barca said Republicans gave Democrats an opening in this election when they passed laws restricting John Doe investigations, ending the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board and rewriting the state’s campaign finance laws to allow for larger donations.

“People actually care about clean, open and transparent government,” Barca said. He also said GOP bills scaling back the state’s prevailing wage law and making Wisconsin a right-to-work state aren’t popular in many legislative districts.

Vos said his candidates were running on the Republican record of cutting property taxes and touting a growing economy.

“Democrats—their job is to look outside and figure out how they can complain about the sun shining,” Vos said. “It’s not going to work.”

Top Targets:

Assembly Republicans currently hold 63 seats compared to 36 for Democrats, an historically lopsided margin which will put the GOP on defense in many districts this November.

Barca mentioned five seats being targeted by Democrats:

  • The 85th Assembly District, which was left open when Republican Dave Heaton announced he would not seek reelection. The race pits former Democratic State Representative Mandy Wright of Wausau against former conservative talk show host Pat Snyder of Schofield. Wright defeated Snyder in 2012 before losing to Heaton in 2014.
  • The 67th Assembly District, which was left open when Republican Tom Larson announced his retirement. Democrat Dennis Hunt of Chippewa Falls faces Republican Rob Summerfield of Bloomer.
  • The 30th Assembly District, another vacant seat left open when Republican Dean Knudson decided not to seek reelection. Barca touted Hudson Democrat Scott Nelson’s chances in his race with River Falls Republican Shannon Zimmerman. Republicans have won the district handily the past few elections.
  • The 51st Assembly District, represented by Republican incumbent Todd Novak of Dodgeville. Challenger Jeff Wright of Plain, Wisconsin, is running for Democrats.
  • The 68th Assembly District, currently held by Republican Kathy Bernier of Chippewa Falls. She’s being challenged by Democrat Howard White of Altoona.

Barca singled out Bernier at the WisPolitics forum, referencing comments Bernier made in February when she walked out of a meeting of local school district representatives, saying it was “worse than going to a dentist.” Barca said the comment had damaged Bernier’s reputation with voters.

“That offended educators and dentists,” Barca said.

Vos noted that Bernier’s Democratic challenger, Howard White, had run for the Legislature unsuccessfully in 2004. The Speaker did not list any seats where Republicans were poised to defeat incumbent Democrats, saying only that Republicans were poised to retain their majority.

“Honestly, coming back with a majority is a win,” Vos said. “Because if Republicans control the place whether it’s 51 seats or 61 seats or whatever the number is, that’s a huge win for people who believe in limited government.”

Barca said the number of seats Democrats win in November will depend in large part on what kind of election it turns out to be on a national scale.

“I think it depends on the wave,” Barca said. “I feel very confident we’ll come back with more seats than we have now.”