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Wisconsin Primary Races Shape State Senate, Set Stage For November

In Madison, Kelda Roys Will Replace Fred Risser, The Nation's Longest Serving Legislator

a woman in a mask places her ballot into the scanning machine
Vicki Jones submits a ballot Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Whitewater. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin voters likely chose their next state senators in three primary elections Tuesday, including one that hasn’t been open for 58 years. They also made picks for the congressional candidates they want to appear on the November ballot.

Madison voters will send former state Rep. Kelda Roys to the Wisconsin Senate, choosing her over six other primary candidates Tuesday to fill the seat held for generations by state Sen. Fred Risser, the nation’s longest serving legislator.

Roys had received 40 percent of the vote. Her closest challenger, Nada Elmikashfi, received about about 27 percent of the vote.

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Roys ran for governor in 2018, placing third in a crowded Democratic primary that was won by Gov. Tony Evers. She ran for Congress in 2012, losing a Democratic primary to U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan.

But Roys prevailed in her primary for state Senate, and with no Republicans running, she’s all but certain to represent the district next year.

Tuesday’s primaries likely also decided the eventual winners of two other state Senate districts.

In the nearby 16th Senate District, a Democratic seat where state Sen. Mark Miller of Monona is retiring, state Rep. Melissa Sargent of Madison won her Democratic primary over Andrew McKinney of Cottage Grove. Sargent will face Republican Scott Barker of Sun Prairie in November.

And in the 28th Senate District in conservative southeast Wisconsin, where Big Bend Republican Dave Craig is stepping down, Julian Bradley of Franklin won a five-way GOP primary. Bradley will face Democrat Adam Murphy of Franklin in November.

In congressional races, voters chose Roger Polack of Racine over Josh Pade of Bristol in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District. Polack will face Janesville Republican U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil in November.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Derrick Van Orden of Hager won his Republican primary over Jessi Ebben of Eau Claire. He’ll face Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse, who won his own primary handily over La Crosse resident Mark Neumann.

As expected, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, won his GOP primary in the 5th Congressional District over Cliff DeTemple, R-Jackson, to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. Fitzgerald will be the heavy favorite against Brookfield Democrat Tom Palzewicz in November.

Former state Sen. Jessica J. King, D-Oskhosh, won her three-way Democratic primary in the 6th Congressional District. She’ll face Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman in November.

Primary voters elsewhere also set the stage for November elections that will decide the makeup of the Legislature as Republicans vie for a supermajority with the power to override vetoes by Gov. Tony Evers.

In the 10th Senate District, state Rep. Rob Stafsholt of New Richmond defeated Cherlie Link of Somerset in the Republican primary. Stafsholt will face state Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, who will be defending her seat for the first time since winning it in a January 2018 special election.

In the 30th Senate District, where state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay is retiring, his nephew, Jonathon Hansen of De Pere, defeated Democrat Sandra Ewald of Green Bay in Tuesday’s primary. Hansen will face Republican Eric Wimberger of Green Bay in November.

And in the 32nd Senate District, where former Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling retired, Brad Pfaff, the former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, won his three-way Democratic primary. He’ll face former state Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, who lost twice to Shilling.