New faces to join Legislature’s ranks

Of the 11 candidates who won open legislative seats in contested races this week, three are Democrats — one of whom used to be a state representative.

That’s Jeff Smith, who will take the place of Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, come January. Smith used to represent the 93rd district in the state Assembly from 2007 to 2011.

There’s also Dem Jodi Emerson, who won a four-way primary in August, and bested Republican Echo Reardon Tuesday to take over the 91st AD, a seat that is currently held by outgoing Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire.

The final newly elected incoming lawmaker who is a Dem is Robyn Vining, who — barring a possible recount — is taking over a GOP-leaning seat being vacated by Brookfield Republican Dale Kooyenga. Kooyenga will be a new member of the state Senate, taking the seat given up by Leah Vukmir, who lost in the U.S. Senate race to Tammy Baldwin.

Kooyenga is one of two GOP state reps advancing to the state Senate. The other is Kathy Bernier, who is taking over for the retiring Terry Moulton in the Chippewa Valley.

WisPolitics.com compiled brief biographical information about each of the following election winners.

The tally doesn’t include six candidates who went uncontested after their primary wins in August. See their profiles here: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/legislative-candidate-profiles/

Name: Dale Kooyenga
District number and area of state: 5th SD, Milwaukee-area
Party: Republican
Age: 39; born Feb. 12, 1979
Occupation: State representative of the 14th AD; certified public accountant
Political experience: Member of the state Assembly since 2011
Election results: Kooyenga beat Dem Julie Henszey, a corporate trainer and outdoor adventure guide, 51.2 percent to 48.8 percent, per unofficial returns.

Name: Kathy Bernier
District number and area of state: 23rd SD, Chippewa Valley
Party: Republican
Age: 62; born April 29, 1956
Occupation: State representative of the 68th AD
Political experience: Member of the state Assembly since 2011; served as Chippewa County Clerk from 1999–2011 and Village of Lake Hallie trustee from 2007–2011 and 2015–2016
Election results: Bernier topped Dem Chris Kapsner, an ER doctor, 59.2 percent to 40.8 percent, according to unofficial returns.

Name: Jeff Smith
District number and area of state: 31st SD, western Wisconsin
Party: Democratic
Age: 63; born March 15, 1955
Occupation: Most recently worked as the Citizen Action of Wisconsin regional organizer for western Wisconsin
Political experience: Former state representative for the 93rd AD from 2007-2011; previously served as the Town Chair of Brunswick from 2001-2007 and worked as the state Dem Party’s regional political director for northern Wisconsin
Election results: Smith bested Mel Pittman, a Plum City farmer, 51.7 percent to 46.1 percent. Green candidate Aaron Camacho received 2.3 percent of the vote, per unofficial returns.

Name: Shae Sortwell
District number and area of state: 2nd AD; northeastern Wisconsin
Party: Republican
Age: 32
Occupation: Employee at a Two Rivers chemical company
Political experience: Former legislative aide to GOP Rep. Chad Weininger; independent candidate for the 90th AD in 2014; Gibson Town Board member
Election results: Sortwell handily beat Mark Grams, of Two Rivers, 54.9 percent to 37 percent, according to unofficial results. Libertarian Kevin Bauer got 2.7 percent and Independent Jeff Dahlke received 5.5 percent.

Name: Robyn Vining
District number and area of state: 14th AD, Milwaukee-area
Party: Democratic
Age: 42; born Nov. 11, 1976
Occupation: Small business owner, founder of Folio MKE, a group that aims to create a network of female entrepreneurs
Political experience: First-time candidate
Election results:Vining has declared victory in the race after an initial count showed her trailing GOP state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk by 21 votes. But after returns were updated in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties, the two that make up the district, Vining came out ahead, leading Adamczyk by 132 votes, or 48.6 to 48.2 percent. Adamczyk has said he’ll wait until the official canvass results are posted to decide whether to request a recount. Meanwhile, Libertarian Rick Braun received 2 percent of the vote, per unofficial returns, and Independent Steven Shevey got 1.2 percent.

Name: Gae Magnafici
District number and area of state: 28th AD, western Wisconsin
Party: Republican
Age: 66; born July 14, 1952
Occupation: Retired nurse and business owner
Political experience: Worked on a series of Assembly campaigns, including for former state Rep. Adam Jarchow
Election results: Magnafici — who faced Dem Kim Butler, a former TV producer in the Twin Cities who now lives in Balsam Lake — received 59 percent of the vote, per initial returns. Butler, meanwhile, pulled in 41 percent.

Name: Barbara Dittrich
District number and area of state: 38th AD, southeastern Wisconsin
Party: Republican
Age:54; born May 21, 1964
Occupation: Special Needs Parents Network founder and executive director; former investment broker
Political experience: Previous ambassador for the Oconomowoc Area Chamber of Commerce; involved in legislative advocacy work through the Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation’s Advocacy Committee
Election results: Dittrich won 57.6 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns, handily beating Dem Melissa Winker, a teacher and real estate agent. Winker received 42.4 percent.

Name: Tony Kurtz
District number and area of state: 50th AD, southwestern Wisconsin
Party: Republican
Age: 51; born Dec. 23, 1966
Occupation: Organic farmer in Wonewoc
Political experience: Former 3rd CD candidate; previously worked for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson; and currently serves on the state’s Organic Advisory Board; formerly a member of the state Farm Service Agency
Election results: Kurtz logged 54.6 percent of the vote, while Dem opponent Art Shrader, a Reedsburg banker, received 42.6 percent, per unofficial returns. Independent James Krus received 2.8 percent.

Name: Jesse James
District number and area of state: 68th AD, west-central Wisconsin
Party: Republican
Age: 46
Occupation: Altoona police chief
Political experience: First-time candidate
Election results: James received 57.6 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns, to Dem opponent and Eau Claire attorney Wendy Sue Johnson’s 42.4 percent.

Name: Jodi Emerson
District number and area of state: 91st AD; Eau Claire-area
Party: Democratic
Age: 45
Occupation: Most recently served as the director of public policy and community relations at the anti-human trafficking advocacy group Fierce Freedom
Political experience: Lobbying the Capitol over a variety of bills through her work at Fierce Freedom
Election results: Emerson won 66.6 percent of the vote to GOP opponent Echo Reardon’s 33.4 percent, according to unofficial results.

Name: Loren Oldenburg
District number and area of state: 96th AD, southwestern Wisconsin
Party: Republican
Age: 53; born on Sept. 8, 1965
Occupation: Viroqua farmer, Chaseburg Cenex Cooperative president.
Political experience: Former chair of the Town of Harmony
Election results: Unofficial returns show Oldenburg bested fellow Viroqua farmer Paul Buhr 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent.

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