Each Party Claims Victory in Wisconsin Special Elections

Jun 13, 2018

After weeks of speculation about whether the “blue wave” would continue in Wisconsin, the results from Tuesday’s special elections are in, and they are mixed.

Republican Jon Plumer of Lodi won an Assembly seat north of Madison. He garnered 54 percent of the vote, to defeat Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd.  Meanwhile, Democrat Caleb Frostman collected 51 percent, to topple GOP state Rep. Andre Jacque for a state Senate seat in the Green Bay area.

Both districts lean heavily Republican, and both parties are claiming some sort of victory, in light of the varied outcome.

Jon Plumer’s triumph over Ann Groves Lloyd in Lodi Tuesday helps Republicans maintain a sizeable lead in the state Assembly. But in the Senate, GOP control was reduced to just a three-seat margin. That's because Democrat Caleb Frostman defeated state Rep. Andre Jacque for the Senate seat in De Pere. Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch had a mixed reaction to the results.

“I’m disappointed by Andre Jacque’s seat and I’m kind of frustrated that we lost that seat but in the same sense we have a seat that encompasses Dane County that a very conservative Republican won,” Kleefisch says.

Kleefisch dismisses the idea that Jacque’s loss was due in part to the fact that Republican Assembly leaders backed Jacque's opponent in the GOP primary last month. Kleefisch thinks Jacque has momentum and can win the August GOP primary and the November general election. That's when the two seats captured in Tuesday's special elections are up again.

“I’ll betcha dimes to donuts that the Republican will have a great shot in that Senate district come November. Special elections often have different motivations than the general elections do and they also have small voter turnout by comparison,” Kleefisch says.

Jacque and Democrat Caleb Frostman have turned in nomination papers for this fall's contests. Meanwhile, Melanie Conklin of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin thinks overall, Democrats had a good day Tuesday. Especially in the Senate, where she says Frostman won the De Pere seat with a big margin.

“No Democrat has held that seat since 1977 so more than 40 years and that was a very huge victory and they talked about an 18 point move from how Trump did in that district,” Conklin says.

Conklin chalked up the loss of Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd in Lodi to a heavily gerrymandered Assembly district that favors Republicans. But, she says Groves Lloyd did much better Tuesday than other Democrats who’ve run for the seat in the past.

Like the Senate race, both candidates running for the Assembly seat in Tuesday’s special elections turned in nomination papers and will be on the ballet this fall. Conklin says she’s confident Groves Lloyd can beat Jon Plumer in November.

“I absolutely think she can. The swing that we saw in both of those districts, tells me that people are very hungry for a change,” Conklin says.

Conklin believes Tuesday’s results signal that the blue wave continues to gather steam in Wisconsin. It started in January, when a Democrat captured a heavily Republican Senate seat in western Wisconsin. Then in April, Milwaukee Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, who was supported by Democrats, won a seat on the state Supreme Court. UW-Madison Political Scientist David Canon says Tuesday’s results provide incremental evidence of the blue wave.

“I think it would have been a bigger story obviously had the Democrats carried both of the special elections, but to pick up one of the two I think is a solid win for the Democrats in these special elections,” Canon says.

The winners Tuesday will finish out the terms of state Rep. Keith Ripp of Lodi and state Sen. Frank Lasee of De Pere. They resigned last December for jobs in the Walker administration. Walker wanted to wait until fall to fill the vacancies, instead of holding special elections. But a group led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder sued, and a judge ordered Walker to move up the date.