Newsmakers, September 11, 2014

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers

Wisconsin Election Season Preview

Featured in this Show

  • Wisconsin Election Season Preview Part 1

    The race for governor in Wisconsin will be far and away the most watched political race in the state this fall. But a pair of political analysts from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse say just as, if not more important than who wins the governor’s race, is which party wins control of the state Assembly and Senate.

    Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a challenge from Democrat Mary Burke, but for whoever wins, their effectiveness will be determined by the make-up of the Wisconsin legislature. Right now, Republicans control both houses, 60-39 in the state Assembly and 18-15 in the state Senate.

    UW-La Crosse political science professor emeritus Joe Heim says few people believe Democrats stand a chance to regain control in the Assembly, where the margin is so wide now, and Democrats would have to pick up 11 seats to control the agenda. The Senate is more likely to change hands if Democrats can add two seats. But Democrats are seen as having two disadvantages on November 4, this Mid-term election is seen as a year when Republicans will do well at the ballot, and redistricting has made it more likely that incumbents will win reelection.

    “If the Democrats lose all three of those, (governor, Assembly and Senate) were going to have a continuation of the Walker administration shifting the direction of the state of Wisconsin the likes of which we haven’t seen in 100 years,” Heim said. “His first four years were clearly a policy shift of a major dimension, and that will continue.”

    UW-La Crosse assistant political science professor Tim Dale says the way the races are shaping up, it will be an uphill battle for Democrats, who can hope for at best split legislative control.

    “Part of what makes this so interesting is that the state legislative races may have an impact on how effective (Mary) Burke would be as governor if she would win.” Dale said. “Policy initiation happens in the legislature. There are some decisions governors can make that have an impact regardless of what’s happening in the legislature. Burke will be tied to the composition of the legislature is, and right now it looks like one of the chambers is going to be Republican.”

    Two races in southwestern Wisconsin could hold a key to Democrats taking control of the state Senate or Republicans widening the margin in the state Assembly according to Heim.

    -The 17th state Senate race between former state Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Spring Green attorney Pat Bomhack is an open seat for years by Sen. Dale Schultz. (R-Richland Center) Heim says that district has become more Democratic in recent years.

    -The 94th state Assembly race between incumbent Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and his challenger, teacher Tracie Happel (R-Onalaska) has been targeted by Republican leaders in the Assembly as one of the top five targeted races. That district has leaned Republican in the last 20 years according to Heim.

  • Wisconsin Election Season Preview Part 2

    A UW-La Crosse political scientist says Wisconsin Third District Congressman Ron Kind is a favorite to win reelection to a tenth term. Kind, a La Crosse Democrat, faces a challenge from military veteran and farmer Tony Kurtz. (R-Prairie du Chien)

    Political science professor emeritus Joe Heim says while the 2014 elections are projected to favor Republican candidates, redistricting has made the Third District much safer for Democrats, and nationally, Republicans aren’t expected to target the race, and spend a lot of money in an attempt to defeat Kind, who’s held the office since 1997.

    “Ron Kind is more of a moderate Democrat who occasionally votes with Republicans. Tony Kurtz is not a Tea Party Republican, he’s more of a typical conservative Republican, running on defense. He’s a very attractive candidate, new to politics and learning the ropes,” Heim said. “This district leans Democratic and Congressman Kind is perceived by almost anybody as the favorite.”

    While Kurtz has tried to make the case that Kind is a career politician who is raising too much money from special interests outside of the district, Heim says that argument could be one of the reasons Kurtz won’t win. Heim says the Third District has been gerrymandered in a way that it’s become a much safer seat for Democrats, and nationally, it’s very difficult for challengers to raise enough money to compete with incumbents.

    “Of the 435 (congressional) districts in the United States, close to 400 are no longer competitive,” Heim said. “You have relatively fewer chances of picking up a competitive race and that’s why the (national) money is focused on those races that look like they are competitive.

    Four years ago, Kind had his closest challenge from former state Sen. Dan Kapanke. Kind won by nearly 10,000 votes with just over 50 percent of the vote in what was considered a Republican year. Kapanke had 46.5 percent and Independent candidate Michael Krsiean had three percent.

    Kind is facing not only Kurtz, but a write-in challenge from Independent candidate Ken Van Doren of Mauston, who lost in the Republican primary in September to Kurtz.

Episode Credits

  • Maureen McCollum Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Joe Heim Guest