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Wisconsin Democrats Report Record-Breaking Fundraising Haul

State GOP Chair Calls On Conservative Donors To Step Up

Gov. Tony Evers speaks at the State of the State
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers during the State of the State speech at the state Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. Andy Manis/AP Photo

Wisconsin Democrats raised more than $10 million between late March and the end of June, according to campaign finance reports filed Wednesday evening. The party is touting the haul as the most money it has ever raised in a three-month period.

By comparison, the party reported raising about $400,000 in the same period in 2016.

Democrats have set their sights on preventing Wisconsin Republicans from taking a veto-proof majority in the state Legislature this November.

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The cash infusion for the party came from Wisconsin and out-of-state donors alike, with donations as small as $1.50 from places like North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas. Deep-pocketed donors included Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who contributed about $2.5 million. Other sizable donations came from California philanthropist Karla Jurvetson, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Bradley Uihlein, Madison surgeon Elise Lawson, and Madison tech entrepreneur Sage Weil.

Wisconsin Democrats are keenly focused on preventing Republicans from winning the two-thirds majority necessary in the state Assembly and Senate to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. The GOP only needs to pick up three more seats in each chamber to do so. All of the Assembly’s 99 seats and about half of the Senate’s 33 seats are on the ballot in November.

Speaking on a Tuesday call with reporters, Evers said he helped with the fundraising, making “a lot of phone calls at night.” He said protecting his veto is key to making sure “government works well.”

“Raising money isn’t exactly easy, and I did spend a lot of time doing it,” he said. “It is important work to do in order for us to have a government that seeks bipartisan solutions to thorny problems.”

Evers said the GOP-controlled Legislature has been uncooperative on “a whole number of issues.”

“I think if we want to have fair maps in this state, if we want to accomplish a lot of the things that the people of Wisconsin have asked us to do, we need to make sure that our government works well,” he said. “And I believe that one of those ways is to make sure I still have a veto after next November, but also have some success at the polls, too.”

The role of the governor’s veto as Wisconsin draws its next set of legislative district maps is crucial for Democrats. Right now, Evers could veto any map drawn by Republicans, likely sending the map-making process to the courts.

If Republicans could override Evers’ veto, they would be able to recreate a similar scenario to 2011, when former Gov. Scott Walker signed GOP-drawn maps into law. Those maps have faced legal challenges related to partisan bias and whether they disenfranchise liberal voters.

In April, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin launched a fundraising and volunteer recruitment initiative focused on preserving Evers’ veto.

“Republicans have so thoroughly rigged themselves into power that Wisconsin is nearly a minority-rule state,” Ben Wikler, chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said in a press release at the time. “Save the Veto will stop Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald’s supermajority, ensure Democrats continue to wield the executive power that voters elected them to hold in 2018, and prevent the GOP from re-rigging the maps in the 2021 redistricting process.”

Republican Party of Wisconsin chair Andrew Hitt said the Democrats’ fundraising numbers are “further proof that Wisconsin will determine who sits in the White House in 2021.”

“The Republican Party of Wisconsin has never worked more closely with the (Republican National Committee) and a Presidential campaign than it has this cycle, but make no mistake, this is the epicenter of the 2020 race, and conservative donors across the country need to put resources towards the Republican Party of Wisconsin,” Hitt said.

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