The Fall Elections Just Got A Lot More Interesting

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Steve Freese, President and CEO

For better or worse, depending on how much you like or dislike politics, Wisconsin is once again poised to be as close to the political center of the universe this coming election season as you can possibly get. The Republican National Convention will be coming to Milwaukee in mid-July. The Democratic National Convention will be just south of the border a little over a month later in Chicago. Throw in a race for president, U.S. Senate, eight congressional districts, and a more competitive landscape for state legislative seats, and that all equals one thing.

Wisconsin’s strong purple hue will result in the country’s collective political focus being put squarely on us, along with an incredibly massive infusion of cash. The entire state will be in a collective purple haze when it’s all said and done in November.

At a recent WECA education and lobby event in January, seasoned political analysts predicted, without hesitation, that Wisconsin will see a minimum of $250 million in campaign funds spent in this state and said it could go as high as $500 million. That’s just one state. Our state. You could argue that’s good news for our economy, but…Wow!

Some of the most significant political news to come out of the State Capitol recently was the Legislature passing new legislative maps (Governor Evers’ maps) and the governor subsequently signing them into law. They are effective for this fall’s races. Many state Assembly and Senate districts look vastly different. Thirty incumbent representatives in the Assembly and thirteen incumbent senators are now paired. Interestingly, three senators are paired in one Green Bay district alone. This will be quite the shake-up as legislators decide whether to retire, move, or face off in primaries.

It gets even more interesting for some state Senate seats. Senators serve four-year terms. Half the body (odd-numbered seats) was elected in 2022. They are not up again until 2026. There are now senators who do not live in the Senate districts they were elected to, yet they can serve the remainder of their term without having to move into their district until they run again in two years.

Whether you like the new maps or hate them, one thing is certain—many seats got a lot more competitive, and political insiders will argue that Republican majorities will take a significant hit. Some are prognosticating the Assembly GOP could lose the majority in 2024.

How did we get here? Last spring, Wisconsin’s race for Supreme Court flipped the majority from conservative to liberal with the election of Janet Protasiewicz, and with that came a flurry of lawsuits challenging the now-defunct state legislative maps. Once the court’s new liberal majority ruled the maps unconstitutional, Republican lawmakers gambled that the governor’s proposed maps were the least harmful option and passed them. State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) said, “Republicans were not stuck between a rock and hard place. It was a matter of choosing to be stabbed, shot, poisoned, or led to the guillotine. We chose to be stabbed so we can live to fight another day.” Governor Evers countered the old maps were unfairly gerrymandered and, when he signed new maps into law, stated, “When I promised I wanted fair maps—not maps that are better for one party or another, including my own—I damn well meant it.”

As I always try to stress in this column, when it comes to elections, it is vitally important for you, as citizens and cooperative consumer members, to know the issues, know the candidates, and then get out and vote. That message is no different now. You will be inundated with campaign advertisements this fall, and after a while, it will be just noise. However, don’t let that deter you from participating.

The day after Election Day, we’ll probably all need a cocktail and a couple of aspirins. I’m sure by then, we will have all earned it. But don’t fret if you’re one of those who will miss the politicking. We have another Supreme Court race coming up in April of 2025. The last race saw $50 million spent. The 2025 race might put that one to shame.

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