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Playing Long Game, Wisconsin Democrats Set Sights On Reclaiming State Government By 2020

Party Leaders Plan Incremental Gains Over Next 3 Elections

Wisconsin State Capitol
jonathan hartsaw (CC-BY-NC)

Wisconsin Democrats are promising to take back control of the state Legislature — just not this election year, or even the election after that.

At the state Democratic Party convention this past weekend, party chairwoman Martha Laning took the opportunity in her speech to party activists to boast, but tempered it with a dose of practicality.

“We have plans for more changes to ensure that we defeat (Gov.) Scott Walker and take back our state Legislature by 2020,” Laning said.

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That would be three election cycles from now, which University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist David Canon said implies that Democrats could win a few seats this year and a few seats in each election after that.

“I think that sets a more realistic target than trying to claim they could pick up a majority in this election,” Canon said.

In addition to the governorship, Wisconsin Republicans hold a 19-14 edge in the state Senate and a sizable 63-36 majority in the state Assembly.

Canon said 2020 is significant because if Democrats win everything then, they’d get to draw the legislative map for the next decade. Republicans drew the last map, which is partly why they’ve proven so tough to beat in this decade.