State Republicans Savor Election Sweep, Democrats Return to the Drawing Board

As results of the Nov. 8 election rolled in, Wisconsin Republicans increased their majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, gaining one seat in each house.  State Republicans also captured the open 8th Congressional District seat being vacated by the retiring U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R- Sherwood), saw U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) reelected, and witnessed Donald Trump carry the state and its 10 Electoral College votes on his way to the presidency. All incumbent Republicans on Tuesday’s ballot were reelected, a rare feat.

When the 2017-18 Legislative session begins in January, state Senate Republicans will enjoy a 20-13 advantage over Democrats in the upper House, up from the current 19-14 advantage they hold, while in the lower House state Assembly Republicans’ advantage will increase from 63-36 to 64-35.

In key pick-ups, Republican challenger and Portage County GOP chair Pat Testin of Stevens Point defeated incumbent state Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) in central Wisconsin’s 24th Senate district by a 53-47 percent margin, while GOP challenger Trieg Pronshinske of Mondovi bested incumbent state Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempealeau) by a 52-48 percent margin in Western Wisconsin’s 92nd Assembly district.

Democrats entered the election needed to pick up three seats to win the majority in the state Senate, but ended up losing a net of one seat and nearly saw their leader, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) defeated.  Shilling hung on to win her 32nd District seat by just 58 votes over former Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-), whom Shilling had defeated in a 2011 post-Act 10 recall to win the seat. That race may yet be decided in a recount.

Any Democratic hopes of regaining control of the state Senate effectively ended as GOP candidates won a pair of closely watched state Senate races.  In one, incumbent state Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, fought back a challenge from Waupaca mayor Brian Smith, a Democrat, in the 14th Senate District .  In the other, longtime Republican activist Dan Feyen of Fond du Lac won the seat of the late state Sen. Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac).   Feyen outpolled Democrat and Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris 56 percent to 44 percent, to win the 18th Senate District, an area roughly triangulated by the cities of Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Waupun containing portions of Winnebago, Fond du Lac and Calumet counties.

In federal races, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump won Wisconsin, 48 percent to 47 percent, becoming the first Republican to carry the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984, on his way to sweeping several key swing states. Trump won 6,000 more votes in Wisconsin than Mitt Romney did in 2012, while Hillary Clinton won 236,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012.

As the result of Trump’s victory, Republicans now control the presidency, the Senate, and the House.

GOP control of the U.S. Senate was aided as incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson fought off Democratic challenger and former senator Russ Feingold, who Johnson had defeated in 2010, to win by a 50-47 percent margin. Republicans held onto the 8th Congressional District seat where Green Bay Republican Mike Gallagher easily outdistanced Democrat Tom Nelson, a former state Representative and current Outagamie County Executive by a 63-37 percent margin.