A massive rebuke to the state Democratic Party, its statist policies, and the unrelentingly vicious, negative campaign in which they engaged was delivered last night by the voters of Wisconsin. They re-elected Governor Scott Walker — by the largest margin yet — for the third time in four years.
Yet the win was much more substantial than that. Every Republican incumbent running in the state was re-elected. All but one statewide office (the largely ceremonial secretary of State) up for election was won by Republicans. The GOP picked up two Senate seats in the state legislature (giving the Republicans a 19:14 majority) and three seats in the state Assembly, where they had already enjoyed a more comfortable margin. And the new members make the majority considerably more conservative than it had been previously.
Here are the results with additional commentary:
Governor:/Lt. Governor: Walker/Kleefisch: 52.3%, Burke/Lehman: 46.6%. Two minor parties — a Libertarian and something called the People’s Party — took 1.2% of the vote between them.
Attorney General: Brad Schimel: 51.6%, Susan Happ: 45.5%. A Libertarian candidate took 3.1% of the vote, giving the Republicans a few anxious moments.
Secretary of State: Julian Bradley: 46.6%, Douglas LaFollette: 50.0%. This was the greatest Republican disappointment of the night. A Libertarian and a Constitution Party candidate took 3.6% of the vote, giving the election to LaFollette.
State Treasurer: Matt Adamczyk: 48.8%, David Sartori: 44.8%. (Three minor party candidates gained 6.4% of the vote between them. Wisconsin does not require a candidate to secure an absolute majority, as do some states, so Adamczyk is the winner. Interestingly, he has pledged to spend his term working to abolish the office, a move which has considerable support from the rest of the administration).
Wisconsin had no Senate seat at stake this year.
The state’s delegation for the House of Representatives remains five Republicans and three Democrats. The only seat open in this election, the Sixth (long held by moderate Republican Tom Petri, who retired this year), was won when Glenn Grothman — who had previously been one of the most conservative members of the state Senate — defeated a Democrat and a Libertarian (56.8% to 40.9% and 2.3%, respectively). Grothman’s seat in the state Senate was not one of the 11 up for election this year, but now that he has won election to the House of Representatives, there will be a by-election in the spring.
Despite Grothman’s departure, the state Senate became considerably more conservative as two long-serving moderate Republicans — Mike Ellis and Dale Schultz — retired and were replaced by two conservative former members of the state assembly — Howard Marklein and Roger Roth. Roth left the Assembly to return to the private sector four years ago, but decided to run for the state Senate when Ellis announced his retirement. In addition, veteran state Senator Van Wanggaard, who had been one of the casualties of the 2012 recall election, won his old seat back. Conservative Assemblyman Steve Nass also won the vacant seat in the 11th Senate District.
In the state Assembly: No seat already held by Republicans was lost, every Republican incumbent running won, and the party picked up three additional seats, creating a very solid majority of 60 Republicans to 38 Democrats and 1 independent.
Burke conceded to Walker fairly early in the night. She complimented his dedicated efforts to win, but strongly emphasized her differences with him and vowed to continue fighting for the policy positions which were soundly rebuked by the election. The night was widely considered a referendum on Walker and his policies; as such it was an overwhelming victory for conservative principles over the Democrats’ statist policies.
Susan Happ, Democratic candidate for attorney general, offered the second concession of the night, which went to Brad Schimel. She then left the building, refusing to address either her supporters or the press. Happ had campaigned with vociferous declarations that she intended to be an “activist” attorney general, defending and supporting only those state laws and constitutional provisions with which she was in agreement.
Happ failed to win her own county.
Perhaps Walker’s 2016 decision will depend heavily upon Paul Ryan’s intentions; Ryan handily won re-election in Wisconsin’s First with over 60% of the vote. Ryan has never run for statewide office though, has never held an executive (as opposed to legislative) office, and his only attempt at national office was his VP loss in 2012. Yet he has great visibility and name recognition.
Walker’s gracious acceptance speech sounded “presidential” to many, and the statement made in his favor by the statewide Republican wave certainly helps any possible ambitions.