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We’ve come a long way together, and it is my sincere hope that the progress we’ve made during our time in office will continue and that we can keep Wisconsin working for generations to come.
– Gov. Scott Walker, conceding the guv’s race to Dem Tony Evers.

I believe that both those leaders understand how important the issues that we’ve talked about on the campaign are. I would really like to talk to them about how we can set the stage going forward so that we can find common ground on core issues.
– Evers in a statement following Walker’s concession.

Decency won. We are bringing education back to the state of Wisconsin. We are bringing science back to the state of Wisconsin. And we are going to bring equality back to the state of Wisconsin.
– Lt. Gov.-elect Mandela Barnes during his victory speech early Wednesday morning.

If he wants to argue about Act 10, and all of the things that make people who eat granola and live in downtown Madison happy, that is his right. But that’s not where common ground is going to be found.
– Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Evers. The Rochester Republican said he’d consider rolling back some executive branch authority, which was expanded under Walker. Evers shot back in a tweet, saying while there is common ground to be found, “I will not tolerate desperate antics to cling to power and violate the checks and balances of Wisconsin’s government.”

Tony Evers is going to have the most powerful veto pen in the nation. The idea that he’s not going to be able to keep the Legislature in check, I think would be naive to think that. It’s equal, balanced government, and we’ll respect Tony Evers like we have any other governor, and we’ll work with him.
– Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who said GOP lawmakers want to increase legislative authority on things such voter ID rules and the makeup of certain boards, but pushed back at the suggestion he and Republicans are trying to undermine Evers.

I think the tone and the tenor matters, and the fact that you have a six-hour honeymoon is not fair at all to this incoming administration.
– Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, who knocked Vos for his “temper tantrum,” adding the speaker “is panicked over the loss of a Republican governor and the vision of a new day under a Democratic administration.”

For us, it wasn’t a political fight. It was a fight about doing what’s right.
– Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin declaring victory over her GOP opponent, Leah Vukmir.

Even though we don’t see eye-to eye on the issues — to say the least — she ran a hard-fought race. I certainly enjoyed debating her the past few months.
– Vukmir during her concession speech.

As Wisconsin’s next attorney general, I will be a watchdog for Wisconsinites.
– Democrat Josh Kaul declaring victory in the attorney general’s race.

[I]f the margin does not substantially change, I have vowed that my team will assist him in making the transition as smooth as possible.
– Republican incumbent AG Brad Schimel. Unofficial returns show Kaul with a 22,900 vote lead.

We don’t need an election to know that we are a divided nation, and now we have a divided Washington. As a country and a government, we must find a way to come together to find common ground and build on the successes of this Congress.
— Departing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, on Dems taking the House.

I have a lot of worries about the lame-duck. … It’s their last crack at having the House, the Senate and the White House.
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont.

The public was engaged, showing up in great numbers to testify in favor of these referendums. There’s lots of momentum going.
– Gary Storck, an activist and former lobbyist who’s been involved with the cannabis legalization effort in the state, on voters in 16 counties and two cities voting in favor of cannabis legalization referendums.

–A collection of insider opinion–
(Nov. 3-9, 2018)


Tony Evers: You can call him bland all you want, his backers say. So long as you call him “governor,” too. The Dem state schools superintendent, knocked by his opponents as uninspiring, accomplishes what those before him couldn’t — beating Scott Walker. Ever since the guv pushed Act 10 through the Legislature, retiring him from the executive branch has been the No. 1 goal for Dems. But Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett failed in a 2012 rematch that saw Walker become the nation’s first guv to survive a recall attempt, and fellow Dem guv candidate Mary Burke didn’t succeed in her 2014 campaign, either. So as the crowded Dem field took shape for this latest shot, Evers faced doubters who thought he wasn’t dynamic enough or wouldn’t raise enough or wouldn’t inspire the base enough. Turns out none of that was a barrier to success. To be sure, some Republicans still see Evers as a candidate who got lucky in riding an anti-Trump environment and stumbled his way through key moments of the race such as talking openly about the possibility of raising taxes and then insisting in the closing days that he wouldn’t. Others, however, counter Evers was the right candidate for the environment and survived the campaign without getting cornered on too many issues, giving him flexibility to deal. While Walker and friends try to portray Evers as some runaway bureaucrat who refused to take away licenses from teachers who viewed porn at school or acted inappropriately with students, those shots didn’t stick, insiders say. Dems say voters didn’t find it credible that a former teacher, principal and the state superintendent would just let immoral teachers stay in the classroom willy nilly. And Evers comes across as grandfatherly and nice, preventing Republicans from successfully portraying him as some kind of crazed Madison liberal. In a year when voters weren’t looking for politicians, it’s hard to look at Evers and think he’s one even though he had been elected statewide three times ahead of his guv run and had two other bids under his belt. Evers and friends kept pushing a message that Walker was a politician who put his own political interests ahead of the state’s. And it worked. Now, Evers faces a new challenge — divided government. Republicans have been through this dance before, controlling both houses of the Legislature for the first four years of Dem Gov. Jim Doyle’s time in office. They’ve also learned just how powerful the guv’s veto pen could be. Still, insiders are already expecting Republicans to reject Evers’ first budget and work off the current spending plan. Doing that, Capitol veterans say, would make it harder for Evers to re-write the document, especially if Republicans can stay away from putting in too much policy that offers Evers the opportunity to stitch together passages to create new policy. One of the first post-election tests for Evers will be the transition team he assembles as he tries to pull together a cabinet. Many expect campaign manager Maggie Gau to play a prominent role after her work in the Capitol. And they also expect a big role for Evers’ DPI policy director Jeff Pertl, who had been a senior adviser at the agency for almost a decade before taking a leave to join the Dem’s campaign. Some are also watching to see who Evers relies on for his transition team. On the one hand, the Dems in Wisconsin who have experience with that kind of thing served under Gov. Jim Doyle. On the other, some say, Evers doesn’t want to send a message that he’s going to be Doyle 2.0. Some say Evers will seek to assemble a team that’s respected and inspires confidence that he’ll put smart people around him to help his transition from a political candidate to the guv. Meanwhile, the guv-elect’s spokeswoman says Evers will continue to serve as state superintendent until being sworn in.

Tammy Baldwin: Wisconsin showed its purple tendencies in the guv’s race. It showed it’s blue potential in the Senate campaign. Baldwin, once one of the top GOP targets, rolls to a 10-point win over GOP challenger Leah Vukmir, riding not only the turnout in Dem strongholds such as Dane and Milwaukee counties, but winning in the Fox Valley and the western edge of the state, taking 17 counties that Donald Trump won just two years ago. What’s more, some say Tony Evers may owe a piece of his guv win to Baldwin running up the score. As much as some conservatives like to dismiss Baldwin as a do-nothing senator, they begrudgingly offer their respect for her campaign. The Madison Dem tapped a national fundraising network to build a huge financial advantage over Vukmir, pulling in more than $31 million since the days after her 2012 win. Those resources provided Baldwin the megaphone, insiders say, to define Vukmir as beholden to insurance companies over patients, undercutting what could have been the Republican’s best strength in the current environment — her background as a nurse. Voters, however, didn’t get to see much of that side from Vukmir, as she pulled in $5.2 million and didn’t see a flood of independent groups hitting the airwaves on her behalf. Instead, she was defined ahead of the primary by Kevin Nicholson’s friends and in the general election by Baldwin’s frequently complimented ads. It was one thing for the state GOP to pull Vukmir through the primary with its infrastructure, some say, but it was too much to ask to try pulling off something similar in the general after her full embrace of President Trump and the infamous ad with the handgun on the table. Insiders also second-guess other decisions Vukmir’s team made, saying she took a primary message geared toward the GOP base and tried to run it through a general election environment. Having secured a second six-year term, insiders look to what Baldwin will do next, with many believing she’ll follow what got her here: great constituent relations, regular trips to all corners of Wisconsin, a focus on health care, and projecting the profile of someone who focuses more on getting things done rather than getting national headlines.

Bryan Steil and Glenn Grothman: Some Dems thought the 1st and the 6th CDs were in play. The races ended up as easy wins for the two Republicans. For all the attention the two races received — particularly Paul Ryan’s 1st CD in southeastern Wisconsin — both races had little drama on Election Day. Steil, the lawyer for a manufacturing firm and Ryan protege, fends off Dem Randy Bryce by 13 points to keep the seat in GOP hands. Meanwhile, Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, wins re-election in the 6th CD by a dozen points. Going into Election Day, both Republicans were favored to win their races, but some had expected them to at least be competitive. Instead, insiders say, the GOP leans of the districts and other factors helped make them easy wins. Just look at the 1st. Yes, GOP groups spent more there than they normally would in a general election. But that’s because Bryce was a fundraising machine not often found in first-time House candidates running in GOP-leaning seats. Add in Bryce’s baggage from his past arrests and you end up with flawed candidate in a difficult seat. Meanwhile, Dem Dan Kohl regularly outraised Grothman. But it ended up not mattering in what’s just too Republican of a seat for Dems to pick off barring a true blue tsunami.

Josh Kaul: Insiders have long believed Republican AG Brad Schimel’s best hopes for re-election in what looked like a bad year for Republicans was to carve out a unique brand that set him apart from the generic GOP ballot. Instead, Kaul runs just a touch behind Dem guv nominee Tony Evers in winning back the AG’s office for Dems for the first time since his mother, Peg Lautenschlager, held the office from 2003-07. Whereas Evers won by about 31,000 votes, Kaul’s margin of victory was a little less than 18,000, according to new returns posted today. Schimel has not yet conceded and is waiting for the official canvass, but even at a margin as narrow as this it is difficult at best to overturn the result through a recount, observers say. The AG’s race being closer than the governor’s race shows Schimel did have some crossover appeal. It just wasn’t nearly enough. Some believed Schimel wasn’t helped by a Constitution Party candidate who took more than 47,000 votes, but others point out it’s never safe to assign all of a third-party candidates’ votes to one side if it had been a two-person race since many of those voters are true believers who may have only turned out to support the cause. There were also any number of cuts that hurt Schimel’s cause, from the lawsuit he filed to overturn the Affordable Care Act to the release of season two for “Making a Murderer,” the documentary on the Steven Avery case that focuses on the post-conviction fight that includes DOJ. In a race that close, anything can make a difference, some say. Kaul, meanwhile, waited until late in the race before going up on the air, a gamble that some still question, even though he ended up pulling out a win. Now, insiders will be watching to see what kind of AG Kaul will be. Will the former federal prosecutor follow the path of former AG Jim Doyle, who was viewed as more of a law-and-order Dem in the office and rode it to two terms in the East Wing? Or will Kaul be more of a progressive crusader on health care, the environment and more? Maybe a mix of both? All AGs walk into the office thinking they can use it as a platform to run for something bigger down the line, and many believe Schimel would’ve been a candidate for guv in 2022 had he won another term. Now, it will be up to Kaul to see if he can carve out his own unique brand beyond the generic partisan ballot test just in case 2022 turns into a bad environment for Dems.

Dane County: In looking at Wisconsin politics, many national pundits talk about “crucial” Waukesha County. But state’s second most populous county is doing what it can to vie for that title. Dane County continues to be a growing powerhouse for Dems fueled, some believe, by an intense dislike of Gov. Scott Walker and President Trump. Whatever the cause, the county hits 95 percent of the presidential votes cast in 2016 and produce a 150,808-vote margin for Dem Tony Evers, who took 74.7 percent of the vote. That’s up from Dem guv nominee Mary Burke’s 69.7 percent four years ago. Evers’ advantage in Dane County alone wiped out Gov. Scott Walker’s advantage of 120,498 votes in the three WOW counties, the heart of GOP country. Add in Evers’ margin of 133,319 in Milwaukee County and the Dem nominee had just enough cushion to offset a loss in the 15-county Green Bay media market by 75,350 votes, along with deficits in other counties around the state. As insiders look at the numbers, they see trends that should worry both parties. For Dems, it’s another poor performance with rural voters as Evers wins 19 counties — up from Burke’s 16 four years ago — but can’t break through in places such as the Fox Valley. What’s more, Walker rolls to 59 percent of the vote in Marathon County, the site of Trump’s October visit and once a place that Dems could expect a decent performance. For Republicans, it’s a second straight cycle of falling short in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties. Four years ago, Walker took 72.4 percent in Waukesha County, 75.9 percent in Washington County and 70 percent in Ozaukee County. Had he hit those percentages this year, it would have flipped 21,185 votes to the guv and away from Evers. That would have more than made up for Evers’ 30,849-vote margin of victory. Instead, Walker hit 66.1 percent in Waukesha County, 72.2 percent in Washington County and 62.7 percent in Ozaukee County. To insiders, that is evidence of Trump’s impact on the GOP brand in suburban areas and Walker fatigue through four statewide runs and a run for prez. The question, they add, is whether it was a blip or a long-term trend. To some, Tuesday’s results were part of a realignment that has rural areas going more and more for Republicans and the Milwaukee suburbs slipping as college-educated voters move away from a party whose base has become much more populist. In looking at what might be driving that, some also note the absence of conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes from the airwaves. The never-Trumper used the WTMJ-AM radio signal — touted by Sykes as “the biggest stick in the state” — to rally Republicans and infuriate Dems. Without Sykes, Republican-leaning voters strayed. Looking statewide, the question for insiders is which parties’ problems are more easily fixable — Dems with rural voters or the GOP with those in the suburbs.

Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos: The GOP leaders protected their majorities and even picked up one seat in the Senate. Now they have to govern with new members all but itching for a fight, both with the GOP establishment in Madison and the new guv. Going into the election, some had expected Republicans to struggle in a midterm environment that seemed to be weighed down by President Trump. Instead, Senate Republicans win back the 1st SD by 10 points. And the only Dem target in the Senate who ended up with a nip-and-tuck race was GOP Rep. Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield, who wins an open Senate seat 51-49 in the Milwaukee suburbs. On the Assembly side, Republicans may have lost just one seat, an Assembly district in the Milwaukee ‘burbs where the initial count favored outgoing Republican state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, but has now swung to Dem Robyn Vining after the addition of newly counted absentee ballots. Even if that holds up, Republicans would emerge with a 63-36 majority. Considering some were predicting earlier in the cycle that Republicans could lose up to a half-dozen seats, that’s not bad. Now, though, it’s time to govern. While Republicans are celebrating the return of the 1st SD, some are watching to see how Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, plays with Senate GOP leadership. After all, he at times crossed Vos, and Fitzgerald already has his hands full at times with a conservative caucus that makes getting anything done difficult. In the Assembly, several new members about to join the GOP caucus have already made it clear they plan to shake things up. And they also aren’t likely to forget that groups supportive of Vos played for their opponents in GOP primaries. But before they get to the new dynamics in their caucuses next session, Fitzgerald and Vos may still have some work to do. Not long after Dem Tony Evers secures the guv’s office, Vos starts talking about looking at coming back in a lame-duck session to pull back some powers lawmakers had ceded to the executive branch. He warns a WisPolitics.com post-election party not to make any plans for vacations around Thanksgiving or in December, suggesting he’s looking at an aggressive calendar for the lame-duck session. Backers of the effort insist it’s just trying to clean up mistakes GOP lawmakers made in giving away too much to Walker, Dems howl that it’s an attempt to undercut Evers before he even walks in the door. Fitzgerald and Vos aren’t offering many specifics yet, though they’ve cited issues such as the guv’s power to implement via executive order some policies related to the voter ID law. Walker, meanwhile, isn’t saying much about the effort, and some wonder whether he’ll get on board. There are also those who think it’s terrible optics. But others point out it will be two years before Republican lawmakers face voters again. It’s a good bet this will fade from view by then. In looking at Evers’ win, some insiders see it as a good thing for the Fitzgerald-Vos relationship, which has had plenty of rocky moments. If Republicans want to stand unified against some of the policies that Evers will push, the two GOP leaders are going to have to do a better job of communicating with each other, something that hasn’t always been their strong point after eight years of almost uninterrupted control of the state Legislature.

School referendums: Voters across the state overwhelmingly weighed in to back nearly 94 percent of school referendum asks on Election Day ballots, signing off on more than $1.3 billion in requests to issue debt and raise revenue limits. That, combined with the $648.1 million in asks green-lighted earlier this year, means voters in 2018 approved more than $2 billion in school referendums in all, the highest on record, per a WisPolitics.com review. The figure, which tops the more than $1.7 billion passed in 2016, makes this year the highest since at least 1999 for money raised through the school district referendum process, according to a past Wisconsin Policy Forum report. The biggest ballot ask came in at $138.9 million from Middleton-Cross Plains School District to construct a new elementary school and renovate Middleton High School, among other things. It was one of 77 referendums voters approved on Nov. 6. Only five requests fell short: Goodman-Armstrong, River Valley, West Salem, Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Viroqua, which had the biggest rejected request: $36.9 million for district-wide building improvements.

Marijuana: Pot advocates are calling voters’ support for marijuana referendums across the state “the biggest win for cannabis ever in Wisconsin.” While the referendums to gauge support for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and its medical use are non-binding, the asks received the overwhelming backing of voters on Election Day. The 18 referendums were on the ballots of the state’s most populous counties, including Dane and Milwaukee. While legalization supporters acknowledge the challenge of getting a bill passed in the Republican-controlled Legislature to loosen the state’s marijuana laws, they point to recent changes in neighboring states that could help further the conversation in Wisconsin. Michigan, for example, became the first state in the Midwest to legalize the recreational use of cannabis through a statewide ballot initiative — though a second midwestern state, North Dakota, rejected a similar measure. Both states already have medical marijuana laws in place. And JB Pritzker, Illinois’ governor-elect, has expressed support for legal adult use.


Gerrymandering: Disappointing election performances by a caucus usually prompt at least some jostling for a change in leadership. Instead, Dems failing to make any significant gains in the Legislature prompts a simple refrain from that side of the aisle — “it’s the rigged maps.” Republicans scoff at the notion, saying it doesn’t explain how Dems were unable to pick up seats, particularly some in southwestern Wisconsin that went blue at the top of the ticket. Still, whatever role the GOP-drawn maps played in the Nov. 6 results, they won’t be a factor much longer. As Tony Evers wins the guv’s office, insiders note it can’t be understated just how important that victory is to Dem hopes over the next dozen years. Yes, Evers beat Gov. Scott Walker after three previous attempts failed. But more importantly for Dems’ long-term health in the Legislature, Evers gave the party a seat at the table for the looming redistricting fight in 2021. Had Evers not prevailed, Dems’ only hope to stop Republicans from drawing the maps once again would have been to take the Senate in the 2020 elections, and the seats up in that cycle aren’t seen as the prime ones. Instead, insiders expect Evers, a GOP Assembly and the Senate will be hard pressed to reach a deal on a new map. That would then kick the issue to the courts, which more often than not has drawn legislative boundaries in years past. Still, Republicans note it’s no guarantee the courts would — or even could — draw a map that was truly 50-50. For one, the 2018 results reinforced to some Republicans that Dem voters are so concentrated in Madison and Milwaukee that there simply aren’t enough of them in places such as north-central Wisconsin to draw truly competitive seats. Hogwash, Dems say. It may not be a 50-50 map come 2022, but it’d still be a lot better than what they’ve been running under for the past several cycles. There are still some Dems who hold out hopes their lawsuit challenging the district lines will be successful. But after the U.S. Supreme Court kicked back the suit to the lower courts and President Trump appointed Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, some see that as a longshot.


Scott Walker: The guv is a political animal. He can play the role of candidate as well as those of pundit and operative. He has been in public office for almost his entire adult life. And now that he lost a bid for a third term, insiders have a question for him: Now what? This run for a third term was supposed to be part of Walker’s redemption tour. His brief presidential bid turned off voters and put his political future in jeopardy. But after he began touring the state to reconnect with voters, landed Foxconn and pumped some $640 million into public education, some Republicans saw him as a pretty good bet for re-election. Instead, he’s looking for a new job. And as insiders look over what went wrong, a number of factors emerge. There’s the belief the electorate had Walker fatigue. After being on the ballot four times in eight years — not counting the months he left the state in 2015 to campaign for the presidency — election watchers say voters just had a hard time getting excited about giving him another four years at the helm. Then there was President Trump, whose approach to the presidency seems to have damaged the GOP brand in suburban areas as much as it has lit a fire in rural ones. There were the traditional struggles in a midterm for the party in power in the White House. And there was the difficulty of convincing voters to give him a third term when many wondered why he wasn’t able to pull off all of his new promises in the first eight years he had. Finally, there was Walker’s style. Critics saw his push to put more money into education and offer state protections for those with pre-existing conditions as political decisions to help him with voters. He had multiple opportunities over his first six years a guv to be more inclusive and strike compromise. Instead, he led the charge on a series of conservative priorities that put the regular fights in the Capitol front and center with the public. Still, his fans — and even some detractors — see him as one of the most consequential guvs in Wisconsin history. But fresh off a defeat, where does he go from here? Following the death of his father this fall, Walker talked about possibly going into the ministry like his dad. But after more than two dozen years in elected office, some see an opportunity for Walker to hit the private sector. Some see him as a possible member of the Trump cabinet or an ambassador. Still, many have a hard time seeing him walk away from politics for good. Whatever he decides, losing a bid for a third term typically is not a stepping stone to another national campaign. But at 51, there is time for Walker to find a new political path — if he chooses to take it.

Jennifer Shilling and Gordon Hintz: Election Day was not anything like what Dems had hoped to see in legislative races. And 2020 might not be much better, some add. Despite the disappointments, neither Shilling, D-La Crosse, nor Hintz, D-Oshkosh, faced a leadership challenge as colleagues largely chalked up the disappointment to the GOP-drawn maps. Republicans aren’t so forgiving in that assessment, and insiders from both sides wonder what might change in 2020. With President Trump up for re-election, some say, anything is possible. He could pull off another win in Wisconsin or crater and take the party down along with him. But if it’s another close race like 2018 at the top of the ticket, don’t expect a lot of movement in legislative races. For one, Shilling will have to protect Sen. Patty Schachtner, D-Somerset, who rode the Dem enthusiasm in early 2018 to pull a special election upset in a typically strong GOP seat. There was a whole lot of red in that part of the state in looking at the guv results. For targets, she could try to beat GOP Sen. Pat Testin, who pulled the shock of 2016 in the Senate races by beating former Dem Sen. Julie Lassa, of Stevens Point. Or she could look at another freshman GOP Sen. Dan Feyen, of Fond du Lac, who how holds a seat Dems were able to pick off in the recalls seven years ago before narrowly losing it in 2012. But there aren’t a lot of other seats that look ripe for a challenge, and at 19-14 next session, Dems would need to flip three seats to re-take the majority. On the Assembly side, Dems didn’t get much help from independent groups as the focus was on the state Senate. It also turned out seats in the Milwaukee ‘burbs were the most competitive ones, not those in places such as southwestern Wisconsin that the party decided to play. So it may be hard to persuade donors to invest heavily in the 2020 cycle for a couple of reasons, insiders say. One, being in the minority can be a tough slog anyway. But if the maps are as difficult as Dems say, why not wait until 2022 to really invest in trying to level the playing field in the Assembly? With Dem Tony Evers set to become guv in January and Republicans expected to hold at least one house after the 2020 elections, more than likely the task of drawing new lines for the 2022 elections would fall to the courts. That, some say, might be their best hope of re-taking the chambers. But it may prove difficult in the meantime to get donors excited. The flip side, others add, is while both are in the minority, it’s a different kind of minority with Evers in the East Wing and that should help on the resources front with the new guv able to do fundraisers for the caucuses. The best bet for Shilling and Hintz, some insiders say, is to recruit candidates all over, run them in 2020 for the experience and to build a base of talent, and then put them back up after the lines are drawn.

Paul Ryan: The Janesville Republican raised a record amount of money to help his fellow House Republicans. He campaigned for them across the country amid the difficult headwind of being the party in power at the White House. For the most part, he played nice with the president over the past two years despite his early misgivings of the GOP’s new standard bearer. His reward? Trump tells associates even ahead of the polls closing that Ryan was to blame for the election results, because he hadn’t done enough to support his agenda, according to national media. It’s all seen as part of Trump’s effort to shift blame for the difficult environment Republicans faced by insisting if they’d done more to support his agenda, they would’ve avoided the losses. The suggestion is galling to some Republicans, who see the president’s style as a major contributor to the toxic atmosphere nationally and the headwinds the GOP faced across the country despite a booming economy. The party in power at the White House almost always faces a difficult environment in midterms. Ryan’s effort may have helped stave off a true blue tsunami and limited it to just a normal wave, some Republicans argue. Not yet 48, insiders will be watching to see what Ryan does next. In announcing his retirement, he cited a desire to spend more time with his kids, who aren’t far off from the age he was when his father died. Opportunities will likely abound for Ryan to hit the speaking circuit, work at a think tank or create his own operation like one of his mentors, Jack Kemp. But does he have another run in him? Or in the era of Trump, has that door closed — at least for now — as the GOP base looks to candidates who push more of a populist message than the traditional Republican orthodoxy that Ryan has preached for years. To his fans, he will be remembered as the ideas guy of the GOP. To his detractors, his final term as speaker will be remembered for enabling Trump and pushing a tax package that has exploded the debt that Republicans once claimed to care about so deeply.


Nov. 14: WisPolitics.com breakfast with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, and will talk about trade, tariffs and the new Congress at a WisPolitics.com breakfast in D.C.

Date: Wednesday, Nov. 14

Time: Breakfast and check-in start at 8 a.m., with program going from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Location: AT&T Forum, 5th floor (near Union Station) 601 New Jersey Avenue NW Washington, DC 20001

Cost: $25

PRE-PAYMENT REQUIRED. Click here to register and pay the $25 fee (put “Nov. 14 DC event” in purpose of payment line): https://www.wispolitics.com/make-payments/

Sponsors of the WisPolitics DC event series: Michael Best / Michael Best Strategies, WPS Health Solutions, AARP Wisconsin and Xcel Energy.

Partners: Wisconsin Alumni Association, UW-Madison.



For the past 30 years, it’s been no mystery which Republicans were going to run for guv.

Come 2022, it won’t only be a wide open race, but Republicans looking to run statewide also may have to make a decision on a bid for guv or the U.S. Senate.

Dem wins in Tuesday’s elections gave them every statewide office in Wisconsin except one — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who has said this will be his last term in the Senate.

Should Johnson keep to that pledge, any number of Republicans will likely at least give a statewide bid a look in four years. Still, insiders say any number of factors will weigh into who pulls the trigger — from what the election results in two years mean for the political environment in 2022 to whether a run for statewide office makes sense for them.

“For all of them it will come down to atmosphere, environment, opportunity and interest,” said one GOP observer.

The last time Republicans had a truly wide open race for guv, then-Assembly Minority Leader Tommy Thompson won a six-way GOP primary on his way to knocking off Dem Gov. Tony Earl in 1986. Thompson then won re-election in 1990, 1994 and 1998 before leaving for the Bush administration, elevating then-Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum to the guv’s office.

Following McCallum’s loss in 2002, then-U.S. Rep. Mark Green started laying the foundation for his 2006 bid. And when then-Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker dropped his challenge of Green in that year’s primary, it won him favor with the GOP base; that instantly meant he was the front runner for the 2010 campaign before his re-election in 2014 and his loss on Tuesday.

In looking at the 2022 field, insiders mentioned a long list of Republicans who are expected to at least look at a run.

For guv, many believe it is a good bet that Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch will take a run at it. Kleefisch had a much more high-profile role in the Walker administration than some of her predecessors, and she made moves to lay the foundation for a possible bid if Walker had won the presidency in 2016 or left to join the GOP administration.

Along with taking a role on economic development issues under Walker, Kleefisch has been an unusually strong fundraiser for a lt. guv, prompted in part by the 2012 recall election and a network of donors who maxed out to Walker and then gave to Kleefisch as well to boost the ticket.

But now she’s looking at being out of public office for nearly four years before the 2022 August primary.

One Kleefisch backer said she will use her remaining weeks in the office to remind the public of her work.

“We’re not going to spend the next six weeks just sitting around the couch collecting a paycheck,” the backer said. “We’re going to deliver a value all the way through the end.”

There has long been speculation on whether Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, would want to run statewide. But he passed up a bid for Congress earlier this year after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, announced his decision not to seek re-election. And some see him preferring his role as speaker to the prospect of a statewide bid. In the office since 2013, this term will put him in line with the eight years that Dem Tom Loftus served as speaker from his election to the post in 1982 through his departure from the Legislature in 1991.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, was viewed as a possible U.S. Senate candidate for 2018 before he took a pass, and some have also viewed him as a possible candidate for Congress once U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, leaves office.

Insiders will also be watching to see if a member of the Legislature emerges as a possible contender for statewide office, or if a local official could launch a bid. Waukesha County Exec Paul Farrow, a former state lawmaker whose mother was a lt. guv under McCallum, is often on that list of possible candidates.

Likewise, Republicans will be watching GOP U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy and Mike Gallagher for any signs they want to run statewide, though the U.S. Senate could be a more attractive option.

Duffy, of Wausau, is one of the best fundraisers in the House delegation and was mentioned as a possible candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018. He has cut a national profile on Fox News, but he also isn’t a regular presence in the state’s largest media markets, some note. What’s more, Duffy may have to weigh whether he wants to take a run at statewide office or stay on the path to possible leadership in the House. Becoming chair of the Financial Services Committee could be in Duffy’s reach if Republicans take back the House.

Gallagher, meanwhile, just won his second term in the House and is just 34. The Green Bay congressman may want to put in more time in office before running statewide. But he has already developed such a strong reputation in the House that Dems didn’t put much of a fight into the 8th CD after contesting it heavily two years ago. He has a military background and worked as a staffer on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Insiders also note businessmen Eric Hovde and Tim Michels turned down bids for the U.S. Senate this year. Hovde, in 2012, and Michels, in 2004, both have run statewide before and have personal wealth that could help if they wanted to take another shot. It’s also always an open question whether someone emerges from the private sector, like Johnson in 2010, or Kevin Nicholson this year.

Insiders expect Nicholson will at some point make another bid for statewide office in Wisconsin. The questions are: Which one and when?

Nicholson was knocked in the GOP U.S. Senate primary this summer for his background as a Dem with critics questioning his credentials in Wisconsin’s conservative movement. Insiders suggest he would be wise to do some spade work the next several years by having a presence with the conservative grassroots, working with the party and building up his credibility with primary voters. That, they add, could help him address the questions that were raised during this summer’s race.

Some have also suggested he should run for another office before trying to go statewide. But someone with Nicholson’s ambition isn’t going to settle for a seat in the state Assembly, some argue.

A Nicholson supporter said the businessman and former Marine plans to stay involved in state politics.

“If the cards fall in the perfect place, he could be a candidate in 2022,” the Nicholson backer said.


An uptick in youth turnout was a contributing factor in the defeat of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and NextGen, the voter turnout group funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer, argues it had more than a small role in sparking it.

While many point to the national political environment as the impetus for increased enthusiasm among Dems, NextGen believes its efforts may have been the straw that broke the camel’s — or in this case, Walker’s — back.

“Young voters won this election for Tony Evers,” NextGen Wisconsin spokesman Sean Manning told WisPolitics.com.

The percentage of young people across the country voting in this year’s midterms is up significantly, with 31 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 to 29 casting a vote, up from 21 percent in 2014, exit polls show.

Data from NextGen shows several of the wards the group targeted in 2018 saw both increases in voter turnout and greater margins for Democrats. And exit polling from Edison Research shows voters between the ages of 18 and 29 supported Gov.-elect Tony Evers by a 23-point margin, up from a 4-point margin for Mary Burke in 2014.

They opted for Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin over Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir by a 29-point margin.

The support for Evers carried in typical Dem strongholds, such as UW-Madison, but also in wards on campuses that went for Walker in 2014, like Carroll College in Waukesha County — typically Republican territory.

In 2014, Walker won two wards located on that campus with slim margins: 53 percent and 51 percent, respectively. In 2018, those same wards flipped into the blue category, going for Dem Evers 54 percent and 58 percent, respectively. In those two wards, NextGen pledged 579 people to vote.

But Manning underscored the increase in support for Evers outside of Wisconsin’s urban areas was a clear part of the group’s 2018 strategy.

“You wouldn’t get the full picture if you just said it was Dane and Milwaukee,” Manning said. “It was also young voters in more rural areas and campuses that don’t get as much attention or resources from other campaigns.”

Besides Waukesha’s Carroll College, NextGen also targeted voter turnout efforts on campuses throughout the state, such as UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point and UW-La Crosse.

In some wards on the UW-La Crosse campus, for instance, turnout increased by as much as 150 percent. Margins for the Dem guv candidate were also up significantly compared to 2014. In the La Crosse wards, where NextGen pledged more than 1,800 students to vote, margins for Evers increased as much as 20 percent over Burke’s in 2014.

The group maintained a significant presence throughout the cycle, spending $2.9 million and committing 50,869 young people to vote across 32 college campuses.

Data shows turnout was up across the board in wards on several of these campuses: an increase of 226 percent at a ward in Kenosha County’s Carthage College and 158 percent at UW-Stout, for instance.

On all of these campuses, NextGen collected hundreds or even thousands of cards pledging students to vote.

To turn out the youth vote, Manning said NextGen focused much of its efforts on engaging voters on the issues early on, then pivoting toward highlighting Dem candidates like Evers and 1st CD candidate Randy Bryce in ads closer to the election.

While NextGen isn’t affiliated with Dems, Manning said the party’s Wisconsin candidates spoke to the issues NextGen found young people cared about the most: gun safety, climate change and racial injustice, among others.

Manning argues Walker’s stance on several of those issues may have been key to why the youth opted to vote for Evers this time around.

“Young people who were in grade school during Act 10 who had funding from their schools cut, saw education put on the backburner for tax breaks, for corporations like Foxconn, those students were the ones who delivered the win for Tony Evers,” Manning said.

For many, the end of the 2018 midterms signals the unofficial commencement of the 2020 presidential primary, but Manning isn’t saying whether the group has firm plans to revisit the Badger State.

“It started with electing Tony Evers, but this is really just the beginning of that change. Voting is habitual. A lot of people just voted,” he said.


Of the 11 candidates who won open legislative seats in contested races this week, three are Democrats. And one of those Dems is a familiar face to those at the Capitol.

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: 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.

See their profiles: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/new-faces-to-join-legislatures-ranks/

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


Tuesday: Legislative Council Study Committee on the Use of Police Body Cameras study meeting.
– 10 a.m.: 225 Northwest, state Capitol.

Wednesday: Group Insurance Board meeting.
– 8:30 a.m.: Hill Farms State Office Building, Room N108, 4822 Madison Yards Way, Madison.

(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront with Mike Gousha” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show features Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS on working with Gov.-elect TONY EVERS, followed by JOSH KAUL on his priorities as the state’s new AG.
*See viewing times in state markets here: http://www.wisn.com/upfront/
*Also view the show online each Monday at WisPolitics.com

“Rewind,” a weekly show from WisconsinEye and WisPolitics.com, airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. on Sundays in addition to being available online. On this week’s episode, WisPolitics.com’s JR ROSS and WisconsinEye’s STEVE WALTERS discuss the election results and what the new map looks like for Wisconsin.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/12902

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. On this week’s program, anchor FREDERICA FREYBERG talks with Senate Majority Leader SCOTT FITZGERALD on the possibility of a lame-duck session. Then, One Wisconsin Now’s SCOT ROSS and Capitol Consultants’ BILL McCOSHEN talk about the election and WPR’s SHAWN JOHNSON discusses the prospect of the Legislature acting to take away power from the guv’s office.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison.

“Capital City Sunday” airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on WKOW-TV in Madison, WAOW-TV in Wausau, WXOW-TV in La Crosse and WQOW-TV in Eau Claire. This week, host EMILEE FANNON talks with One Wisconsin Now’s SCOT ROSS and Capitol Consultants’ BILL McCOSHEN; followed by former Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO PAUL JADIN.

“The Insiders” is a weekly WisOpinion.com web show featuring former Democratic Senate Majority Leader CHUCK CHVALA and former Republican Assembly Speaker SCOTT JENSEN. This week, the two survey Wisconsin’s new political landscape.
*Watch the video or listen to the show: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-survey-wisconsins-new-political-landscape/

Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

Upcoming WisPolitics.com events in D.C. and Milwaukee include:

*A Wednesday breakfast with U.S. Rep. RON KIND. The Ways and Means Committee member will discuss trade, tariffs and the new Congress. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/nov-14-wispolitics-com-breakfast-with-u-s-rep-ron-kind/

*And a Wednesday Newsmaker Luncheon, produced in partnership with the Milwaukee Press Club, featuring former Gov. TOMMY THOMPSON. Thompson will take questions from the following panel of journalists: TMJ4’s CHARLES BENSON; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s DAN BICE; and WISN 12 News’ JOYCE GARBACIAK. See details and register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/milwaukee-press-club-former-wisconsin-gov-tommy-thompson-to-speak-at-newsmaker-luncheon-cohosted-by-wispolitics-com/

The WisPolitics.com post-election party attracted a bipartisan group including Lt. Gov.-elect MANDELA BARNES, Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS, and former Gov. SCOTT McCALLUM. Vos before a panel discussion on the election results warned lobbyists to not make long travel plans for the rest of the year, hinting at a busy lame-duck session. Barnes entered to a standing ovation and shook Vos’ hand. But then in brief remarks he challenged Vos’ earlier suggestions for legislation to take back some of the executive power GOP lawmakers had ceded to Gov. SCOTT WALKER. Barnes cited the issues of health care, education, the environment and infrastructure. “We don’t expect miracles on day one,” said the former Democratic Assemblyman from Milwaukee, admitting “I thought I would walk into a different Legislature, at least with us in control of one chamber. I just want to issue the challenge to the Assembly and Senate to match our call to work together. It shouldn’t be about taking anybody’s power. It should be making sure we can work together to solve the real issues.” He added: “I want to make sure this is not about power. It’s about doing something for the people of Wisconsin. …This is about coming together. This is about solving the crises that we face. …You know my door will be open. Happy to talk about whatever we can talk about.”

Sen. ALBERTA DARLING, R-River Hills, will return as the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee. That makes her tied for the most terms leading the powerful budget committee. Darling has led the committee since the 2011-12 session other than a brief period when Dems won back control of the Senate after the June 2012 recall elections. She also previously chaired it in 2003-04. See more in the Budget Blog: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/darling-re-appointed-jfc-chair/

The funeral service for former Wisconsin AFL-CIO President PHIL NEUENFELDT is scheduled for tomorrow at Christ Church United Church of Christ in Milwaukee. The funeral, which begins at 3 p.m., will be preceded by a visitation beginning at 11 a.m. The state AFL-CIO is then holding a celebration of life reception starting at 5 p.m. at Steamfitters Local 601 Union Hall in Milwaukee.

Communications firm GMMB, which served as a media consultant to Dem AG candidate JOSH KAUL and helped the DGA in its efforts for TONY EVERS, as well as a series of other candidates across the nation, is touting its candidates’ victory this week. The firm and its subsidiaries produced TV and digital ads, as well as placing media buys, during the course of the campaign. See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/gmmb-proud-to-help-our-candidates-claim-governorships-senate-seats-score-major-upsets/

CHRIS JENKINS, formerly Marquette University’s associate director of university communication, is starting a new job Monday as communications director for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. His last day at Marquette was Nov. 7.

The League of Women Voters is hosting a public forum Nov. 17 on addressing lead issues in Milwaukee. The free discussion, which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., features the following presenters: MICHAEL STEVENSON, of the Milwaukee Health Department; HELEN MEIER, assistant professor of epidemiology at UW-Milwaukee’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health; and CARMEN REINMUND, of Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers. The event will be held at the United Way Johnson Controls Volunteer Center. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/league-of-women-voters-public-forum-on-addressing-lead-issues/

MMAC is hosting an upcoming talk with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ERIN RICHARDS on the impact of student mobility on academic success. Richards, who was awarded the O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism from Marquette University on the topic, will be presenting her findings Nov. 20 at the MMAC office in Milwaukee. See more details: https://www.wispolitics.com/2018/mmac-policy-hash-with-erin-richards/

The TOMMY G. THOMPSON Center on Public Leadership is holding a free leadership conference on the UW-Madison campus’ Pyle Center Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The conference, entitled “Effective Public Leadership in America,” will feature: ALAN WISEMAN, co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, and others. A free buffet-style lunch will be served mid-way through the event. To reserve your spot, visit: https://tinyurl.com/TGT-EPL-Conf

For more Names in the News, see subscriber products from earlier in the week plus the press release page at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/

For upcoming events, see the “Week Ahead” in this product and in your e-mail Monday morning. Click here for the online calendar: https://www.wispolitics.com/category/events/

If you have a contribution, e-mail staff@wispolitics.com

(from the state Ethics Commission)

Ten changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:

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