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GOP Candidates Vie For Vacant Legislative Seats In Tuesday’s Special Elections

Wisconsin's 1st Senate District, 42nd Assembly District Primaries To Decide June Ballot

Voters use voting booths on Election Day
David Dermer/AP Photo

Tuesday’s primary for northeastern Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District special election will feature two Republicans vying to fill the post.

Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District — which covers Door County, along with parts of Brown, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Calumet counties — has been vacant since late-December when former state Sen. Frank Lasee resigned to join the Walker administration. Wisconsin’s 42nd Assembly District has also been vacant since December after Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, also left to take a job in the Walker administration.

Gov. Scott Walker ordered special elections to fill the vacancies March 29, after months of resisting and after Dane County Judge Josann Reynolds ultimately ordered he call the special elections.

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Tuesday’s 1st Senate District primary pits two Republicans — Rep. André Jacque, R-DePere, and factory executive Alex Renard — against each other. The Republican winner will face Democrat Caleb Frostman in the special election June 12.

The four Republican candidates vying for Wisconsin’s 42nd Assembly seat include Jon Plumer, of Lodi; Darren Schroeder, of Columbus; Spencer Zimmerman, of Janesville; and Colleen Locke-Murphy, of Poynette. The winner will face Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd, of Lodi, in June.

Jacque has been in the Assembly since 2011. He calls himself a conservative who is not afraid to buck his party, pointing to his vote against a recent GOP proposal to exempt rent-to-own stores from Wisconsin’s Consumer Act.

“Relaxing regulations on rent-to-own and the payday loan industry, that’s something I’m in touch with my constituents on,” Jacque said. “Even if it’s not necessarily something my party leadership was pleased that I took that vote (on).”

Jacque said he thinks his attention to constituents will pay off during what may be a campaign juggernaut: “I’m going to be doing the dunk tanks and the parades and the chili cook offs.”

Jacque, Renard, and Frostman are all relatively young, but Jacque said he is the only one with strong political experience.

“The advantage I have, when you have two opponents, one in the primary and one in the general, that are relatively new to the district … it is kind of a weird feeling to be the oldest candidate in the race at 37,” Jacque said.

Renard, 24, is the operations manager of his family’s Green Bay factory Renco Machine Inc., a custom machine shop that employees 80 people.

He said he has three goals if elected: to support job training at technical colleges and universities; improve rural access to broadband; and to institute term limits.

“I think 10 to 12 years in any single position in government is more than enough. In the private sector if you cannot make progress in 10 to 12 years you’re in the wrong business,” Renard said, noting that addressing term limits would be the first bill he’d introduce if elected.

Renard did not expect to run in the special election, and was instead planning to run in November’s general election. But if he wins the primary Tuesday, he said he will be prepared for both the special election in June and the November elections. “We are going to rock and roll,” he said.

Regardless of the candidate who wins the primary and ultimately the special election in June, they will have to run again in November to hold the seat for a full term.

Charley Jacobs, an associate professor of political science at De Pere’s St. Norbert College, expects Tuesday’s turnout to be “incredibly low,” pointing to graduation and the lead up to summer vacation as road blocks for voter turnout.

Jacobs added that special elections, especially primaries, bring out “highly partisan” voters. But even with low turnout Jacobs said the 1st Senate District primary will be closely watched.

Democrat Patty Schachtner won Wisconsin’s 10th state Senate special election in January. Three months later, Rebecca Dallet won a seat on the state Supreme Court. Dallet was seen as more liberal leaning than her conserative-leaning opponent, Michael Screnock.

“This is likely going to be an unusual election cycle,” Jacobs said. “It’s a mid-term following a number of special elections that have seen Democrats make gains.”