Democrats say retirements by key Republican lawmakers have opened the door for them to regain control of the state Senate, but the districts they're targeting won't make that easy.
Democrats likely need to flip three districts to win control of the state Senate, and Minority Leader Chris Larson says they can get them with the seats being vacated by Republican Sens. Dale Schultz, Mike Ellis and Joe Leibham.
“I think the stars are aligning just right for Democrats to be able to win the three seats that we need,” said Larson.
President Barack Obama won the Schultz and Ellis districts in the 2012 election, but so did Gov. Scott Walker in the 2012 recall. The Leibham seat leans more Republican. Walker carried 64 percent of the vote there in the recall, and in the presidential race, Mitt Romney carried 53 percent.
Larson says good candidates in those races will help Democrats. He calls Martha Laning an “awesome” candidate in the race to replace Leibham, and also says the Democratic message will be a winner.
“We're going to be talking about making sure that there's balance in the state again,” said Larson. “Scott Walker unilaterally has had control over this state from the time that he's been elected, other than the period of time where we were in the majority but we didn't go into session.”
The reason Democrats need to win three seats is that Republicans are poised to win the district being vacated by Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine. That district got considerably more Republican in the new legislative map.
Editor's Note: A campaign spokesman for Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, declined an interview, saying it was still early in the process.