Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Rep. Ron Kind to Retire

Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 12, 2021 — Veteran Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) said Tuesday that 26 years in the House of Representatives will be enough. He told the covering reporters that he is “out of gas,” and will not seek re-election in 2022. Kind was first elected to his southwestern Badger State congressional district in 1996.

In his remarks, the congressman said he is ” . . . part of a dying breed in public service today in Washington and certainly in Madison — someone who tried to be reasonable, pragmatic, thoughtful, worked hard to try to find common ground with my colleagues, work in a bipartisan way to find bipartisan solutions for the challenges that we face.”

Wisconsin’s 3rd District is one of seven seats in the country that voted for ex-President Trump in both 2020 and 2016 (Trump ’20: 51-47 percent; Trump ’16: 49-45 percent) and elects a Democrat to the House. Kind’s 2020 election percentage margin, 51-49, was the closest of his long career. Over his 11 re-election campaigns not including 2020, the long-time incumbent averaged 64.8 percent of the general election vote.

Rep. Kind’s 2020 November opponent, retired Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden (R), had already announced his return for a re-match and had raised just over $750,000 since the beginning of this year, holding more than $600,000 in his campaign account according to the June 30 financial disclosure report. Despite his retirement announcement, Kind had been active in raising money, bringing in over $630,000 since the beginning of the year and was in strong financial shape with just under $1.4 million in the bank at the June 30 reporting deadline.

Therefore, and considering his active work in the district this year, the retirement announcement comes as a surprise. Examining the district’s recent changing voting history, since the electorate posted 55 percent for President Obama in 2012 to Rep. Kind having a close re-election eight years later, WI-3 likely becomes the Republicans’ top national conversion target, at least for the short term.

The 3rd District sits in the far western corner of the state, beginning at the southwestern tip of the Wisconsin southern border, just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. It then travels northward up the Iowa and Minnesota borders to encompass its two population anchor cities of La Crosse and Eau Claire, that house just over 52,000 and 67,000 individuals, respectively. The district then moves east to capture some of the central Wisconsin rural areas.

Continue reading

WI-Senate: Lt. Gov. Announces

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes

July 22, 2021 — As expected, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) declared his candidacy Tuesday for a Wisconsin Senate seat. Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has yet to say if he will seek a third term (when he first ran in 2010, he committed to serving only two terms) but there is no question whatever the senator decides that the Wisconsin race will be highly competitive and become a national campaign.

Before the eventual Democratic nominee even gets the opportunity to face Sen. Johnson, he or she must traverse a difficult primary battle that won’t conclude until August of next year. Already vying for the party nomination in addition now to Lt. Gov. Barnes are state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, and Milwaukee Bucks basketball club senior executive and former Obama White House aide Alex Lasry. Still others may enter.

Wisconsin has been the site of very close election in the latter part of the decade. Two presidential campaigns and a gubernatorial race fell within one percentage point (2016 Presidential: Trump: 47.2 – 46.5 percent; 2020 Presidential: Biden 49.4 – 48.8 percent; 2018 Governor: Tony Evers-D: 49.5 – 48.4 percent; 2016 US Senate: Johnson: 50-47 percent), and another photo finish is expected for 2022.

Polling will again be another question mark since the survey research community’s joint record in Wisconsin has been poor since 2016.

In the Trump-Clinton race, pollsters ran 32 polls and Donald Trump led in none, yet he won the state. In the 2016 Senate race, Sen. Johnson was ahead only once in 29 public polls, yet claimed a three-point re-election victory when the actual votes were tabulated. Again, in the 2020 presidential race, while correctly predicting that Biden would carry Wisconsin, their average margin was way off the mark, finding the Democrat leading by a mean average of 6.7 percentage points in eight polls conducted after Oct. 20. The actual Biden victory margin was just beyond 22,000 votes.

Continue reading

2022: The Unannounced

By Jim Ellis

July 19, 2021 — The Fox News website ran a story late last week saying that there remain five in-cycle US senators who have not yet revealed their political plans for 2022. Below is a review of those senators’ political situations and clues that could provide a glimpse whether they are headed toward re-election or retirement.

The best hints will be forthcoming in a matter of days as the second quarter campaign financial disclosure reports will be released shortly on the Federal Election Commission website. Last Thursday was the deadline for filing the reports for the period covering April 1 through June 30.

The five senators, listed alphabetically by state are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).


Sen. Murkowski:

State: Alaska
Appointed: 2002
Re-elected: 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 65
Victory Margin 2016: 44.4 – 29.2%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Karl Speights (R) – Retired Air Force officer
• Kelly Tshibaka (R) – Former AK Administration Commissioner

It is assumed that Sen. Murkowski will run for re-election, though her return path to Washington may be a difficult one to traverse. Last night, her campaign spokesperson stated that the Senator’s second quarter disclosure report would show $1.15 million raised for the quarter with $2.3 million cash-on-hand. These are financial numbers that suggest she will seek re-election.

Alaska has changed its nominating system and will be the first state to adopt a “top four” primary procedure. Similar to California, Louisiana, and Washington that use the jungle primary format to send the top two candidates to the general election, Alaska will instead advance the top four from the slate primary. The change virtually ensures that Sen. Murkowski will not again lose the Republican primary as she did in the 2010 election. In that year, she was forced to run a highly efficient general election write-in operation to win her second full term.

Early polling numbers find Sen. Murkowski with very poor favorability numbers among Republicans and running a distant third behind Kelly Tshibaka (R), who is already the state Republican Party’s officially endorsed candidate. Dr. Al Gross (D), the 2020 Senate nominee, has not yet committed to running again, but he, too, runs ahead of the Senator in the previously released surveys.

While the top four system guarantees Sen. Murkowski will secure a ballot position for the general election, winning her re-election is in doubt.


Sen. Grassley:

State: Iowa
First Elected: 1980
Re-elected: 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 89
Victory Margin 2016: 60.1 – 35.7%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Jim Carlin (R) – State Senator; former State Representative
• Glenn Hurst (D) – Minden City Councilman; Physician
• Dave Muhlbauer (D) – Ex-Crawford County Commissioner; Farmer

Last week Sen. Grassley stated that he would make his political plan public before Nov. 1. Despite his advanced age, it is presumed in all sectors now that Sen. Grassley will seek re-election. He has filed a 2022 campaign committee with the FEC, has a semi-updated website, and it will be interesting to see how active his fundraising became in the second quarter. His March 31 report revealed a cash-on-hand figure of $2.04 million to begin the re-election cycle.

Continue reading

Latest Senate News – Part II

By Jim Ellis

May 28, 2021 — Today, we complete our two-part series pertaining to the latest Senate happenings, covering the latter half of the alphabet from New Hampshire through Wisconsin.

• New Hampshire: If Gov. Chris Sununu (R) decides to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), then the Granite State will likely become the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity. In the only two publicly released polls this year testing such a pairing, Gov. Sununu leads in both.

Though New Hampshire has trended more Democratic at the top of the ticket in the past few elections and President Biden scored a better than expected 53-45 percent win here in November, Gov. Sununu has claimed three consecutive elections, including a 65 percent victory last year. The governor indicated he will make a decision about a Senate challenge during the summer. Should Sununu not make the race, Sen. Hassan becomes a clear favorite to win a second term.

• North Carolina: In another key Republican open seat, the North Carolina race appears to feature tough primaries in both parties. For the Republicans, whose eventual nominee will attempt to hold retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) seat, former Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), and ex-Rep. Mark Walker reside in the top tier, with the former state chief executive enjoying big leads in early polling.

For the Democrats, the primary appears to be winnowing down to a contest between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who lost her seat in November by just 401 votes statewide, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte).

This will be another toss-up, top-tier Senate race regardless of who emerges from each of the competitive nomination contests.

• Ohio: The Buckeye State’s open US Senate race is beginning to crystallize. The Democratic side is headed for consensus around US Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Warren/ Youngstown) candidacy.

The Republicans look to have at least four strong candidates, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, ex-state Treasurer and 2012 US Senate nominee Josh Mandel, author J.D. Vance, and possibly state senator and Cleveland Indians baseball club co-owner Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).

Businessmen Michael Gibbons and Bernie Moreno are also announced candidates, but they appear as second-tier contenders at this time. US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) remains a potential candidate. It appears that former US representative and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci is moving toward a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Mike DeWine in lieu of again running for the Senate.

Continue reading

Rep. Murphy to Challenge Sen. Rubio

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 14, 2021 — According to the Axios news site, insiders close to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) say that she has made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R) next year and will formally announce her campaign next month. The move had been expected for some time.

Rep. Murphy, a native of the country of Vietnam, was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating veteran Republican incumbent John Mica after the state Supreme Court had re-drawn the Florida congressional districts and made the 7th CD more Democratic. She unseated Rep. Mica 51-49 percent, and then scored re-election victories of 58 and 55 percent in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

A strong fundraiser, Rep. Murphy obtained over $3 million for both of her incumbent re-election campaigns. She ended the 1st quarter 2021 with a cash-on-hand figure of $1.43 million. Sen. Rubio posted $3.9 million in his campaign account during the same reporting period.

Assuming Murphy does enter the race next month, Democrats will have a credible challenger to Sen. Rubio, but one who still must be considered a decided underdog. In 2010, Sen. Rubio, then a state representative, defeated then-governor Charlie Crist, who was running as an Independent, and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek by a 49-30-20 percent margin. He was re-elected in 2016 with a 52-44 percent vote spread over then-congressman Patrick Murphy (D).

Florida races, as we know, are always competitive and usually very close, though the state has been trending more Republican over the past several elections. A Rubio-Stephanie Murphy race promises to become a national campaign.

With the Democrats apparently attracting a strong candidate in Florida, it is a good time to review the other key races.

In Pennsylvania, both parties are headed for very crowded primaries as each works to nominate a candidate to hopefully succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Afghan War veteran Sean Parnell entered the Republican primary earlier this week, but his only venture into elective politics was recording a two-point loss to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) last November in an Allegheny County suburban district.

Rep. Lamb, himself, may join the Democratic Senate campaign, meaning both parties are going to host political dogfights for the party nomination. In any event, however, the Pennsylvania race will be a top-tier national campaign.

Continue reading