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Wisconsin’s Scott Fitzgerald Stands By Trump

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald: 'There's Still A Lot Of Support Out There For Donald Trump'

Shawn Johnson / WPR

The Republican leader of the Wisconsin State Senate said he still supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and doesn’t think Trump’s candidacy will hurt other GOP candidates down the ballot.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was one of the first Wisconsin Republicans to embrace Trump, saying early on that Republicans were “on the Trump train” now. Fitzgerald has also been one of the Trump campaign’s go-to surrogates in the state.

He said a recording showing Trump bragging about groping women was “ridiculous, disgusting and embarrassing,” but said voters in key state Senate races are more focused on Hillary Clinton’s record.

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“I mean, I never anticipated that this election would be as dirty and nasty as it’s become,” Fitzgerald told a WisPolitics forum in Madison. “But the fact of the matter is there’s still a lot of support out there for Donald Trump.”

Fitzgerald said part of the reason Trump had not yet hurt state Senate campaigns is that the races Republicans are targeting or defending are in parts of Wisconsin where Trump is performing well.

“We’ll see kind of what the fallout is, but so far my candidates haven’t necessarily had to engage in a discussion about the presidential each and every day,” Fitzgerald said.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said there was still no telling how Trump and the recently revealed recording would affect races down the ballot. But she said recent national polling looked promising for Democrats.

“Certainly there is no telling the amount of damage that ‘Hurricane Donald’ is going to be doing to Wisconsin and this country Nov. 8,” Shilling said.

Republicans currently hold a 19-14 majority in the state Senate, meaning Democrats would have to flip three seats to win back the majority. Shilling predicted Democrats would flip one to two seats.

“And if it’s a huge tidal wave, hold on because we’ve got two other candidates who are prepared to win,” Shilling said.

Shilling said Democrats had a chance to win four state Senate districts.

The 18th District, an open seat represented by Republican Rick Gudex. Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris of Oshkosh is running for Democrats while Dan Feyen of Fond du Lac is running for Republicans.

Shilling said Harris understands issues facing state government, especially the state budget.

“His eyes have a twinkle when you start to talk about tax policy,” she said. The 18th is widely viewed as Democrats’ best chance at a pickup this November.

The 14th District, which is represented by Republican Luther Olsen of Ripon. Brian Smith, the mayor of Waupaca, is running for Democrats.

“People like him,” Schilling said of Smith. “They haven’t known him to have a ‘D’ or ‘R’ behind his name.”

Fitzgerald downplayed the race. “It’s a Republican seat,” he said, “And Luther certainly has name ID through the roof.”

Democrats have tried to use complaints about the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King to attack Olsen. King is in the 14th State Senate District.

The 12th District, a northern Wisconsin seat held by Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst. He’s being challenged by Democrat Bryran Van Stippen of Deerbrook.

The 10th District, a western Wisconsin district held by Republican Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls. Diane Odeen, of River Falls, is running for Democrats.

Fitzgerald said Republicans had a shot at winning the 24th State Senate District held by Democrat Julie Lassa. Patrick Testin is the GOP candidate, and both are from Stevens Point.

“If the kids at UW-Stevens Point stay home and don’t embrace Hillary Clinton … I think Pat’s in a good position to maybe surprise some people,” Fitzgerald said.

Shilling said Lassa’s work ethic and voting record would help Democrats retain that seat. “Julie fits her district,” Shilling said.

Both Shilling and Fitzgerald said they were anxiously awaiting the next round of polling to show how national events may have affected local races. A new Marquette University Law School poll comes out Wednesday.