Once again, election year is upon us. And here in Wisconsin, the governorship, one U.S. Senate seat, the entire U.S. House delegation, half of the state Senate and the entire state Assembly are all up for grabs.
But before the November general election ballot, Republicans and Democrats must contend with members of their own party in the Aug. 14 partisan primary election.
The primary elections have only recently taken on an official shape, as candidates from both parties worked throughout May to collect the required number of signatures and submit their nomination papers to ensure their place on the ballot this August.
Below is a brief recap and preview of the 2018 election season in Wisconsin.
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Ten Democrats have filed to challenge Gov. Scott Walker this year. They include state public education superintendent Tony Evers, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, former Wisconsin Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe, former Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Matt Flynn, Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, firefighter and union head Mahlon Mitchell, businessman Josh Pade, former state Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, state Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire and Madison mayor Paul Soglin.
Among the Democratic candidates, Evers has enjoyed the most widespread support. In a March Marquette Law poll, Evers had the highest favorability rating, falling at 20 percent. Other candidates with high favorability ratings included Flynn, Soglin and Vinehout.
Additionally, if the election for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate was held at the time of that poll, the survey responses showed Evers would receive the most support, with 18 percent of the vote — 9 percent higher than his closest rival Soglin.
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But more recently, at the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s state convention this month, Roys won a WisPolitics straw poll with 184 votes in her favor — almost 100 votes more than her closest rival Mitchell. And Soglin, who enjoyed relatively high levels of support in the March Marquette Law poll, received just one vote in June’s straw poll.
Despite any popularity that polls and pre-election votes may show, most voters have said they don’t know who they would support or even who any of the candidates for governor are. In the same Marquette Law poll that showed Evers with an edge over the other candidates, 44 percent of respondents said they do not know who they would vote for.
As for Walker — he’s enjoyed a drama-free primary with no serious challengers to consider. First elected in 2010, Walker has since survived a recall election in 2012 and a reelection battle in 2014.
Heading into the 2018 election, Wisconsinites remain divided over their support for Walker, as the Marquette Law poll showed him with an even split of 47 percent in approval and 47 percent in disapproval of his performance as governor. Political analysts at RealClearPolitics have placed the election in Walker’s favor, rating the race as “leans Republican.”
If he wins re-election in 2018 and completes his third term through to 2023, he will have served for a total of 12 years as governor — making him one of the longest-serving in Wisconsin history.
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This year, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., is fighting to keep her seat in the U.S. Senate. She faces two main primary challengers: state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and businessman Kevin Nicholson.
Vukmir, who also serves as the assistant majority leader in the state Senate, recently secured an endorsement from the Republican Party of Wisconsin at their convention in May. From that endorsement, she has gained access to donor and voter lists, as well as staff and field offices.
Nicholson, who previously served as the president of the College Democrats of America, styles himself as a “converted conservative.” Nicholson has said his service in the U.S. Marines, along with his experience as a parent, led him to switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the early 2000s.
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Nicholson has led Vukmir both in recent polls and in funding, but similar to the Democratic gubernatorial primary, most voters don’t know who Vukmir and Nicholson are or are unsure of who they will support in the August primary. Since her endorsement from the state Republican Party, however, Vukmir has gained on Nicholson in recent polls.
Similar to Walker in his own primary, Baldwin, a Madison Democrat, has no serious primary contenders this year. First elected in 2012, Baldwin is seeking a second term in the U.S. Senate.
Her favorability ratings have been split down the middle, with 37 percent viewing her favorably and 39 percent unfavorably in a Marquette Law poll earlier this year. Experts have predicted Baldwin will come out on top, with RealClearPolitics rating the race as a “likely Democratic” victory.
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U.S. House of Representatives
Also representing Wisconsin at the federal level, the entire U.S. House delegation is up for election. In Madison, that includes Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison. First elected in 2012 and easily re-elected every cycle since Pocan is expected to win comfortably in 2018. He faces no serious challengers.
And for the first time since 1999, Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation will not include House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Both Democrats and Republicans are fighting for a chance to replace Ryan this November, and his district is widely seen as vulnerable in light of the “blue wave” that many believe is sweeping the nation in favor of Democratic candidates.
At the state level, the entire state Assembly is up for election. Close to Madison, that includes the 76th Assembly district, which has been represented by Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, since 1999. Earlier this year, however, Berceau announced her retirement from the Assembly at the end of this cycle.
There are currently four Democratic candidates looking to replace Berceau in her campus-area Assembly district this year — attorney Shabnam Lotfi, Wisconsin Environmental Initiative director John Imes, Wisconsin Brewers Guild director Mark Garthwaite and Dane County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, District 23.
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Other Madison-area state Representatives up for election this year include Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, of the 77th district, Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, of the 78th district and Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, of the 48th district.
Madison’s state Senator, Fred Risser — who has represented Madison in the state Legislature since 1957 — is not up for reelection this year.
All of these candidates will face off in a primary election on Aug. 14. The winners from both parties will then battle it out in the general election, held on Nov. 6.