Wisconsin Capitol

In our fourth edition of the Wisconsin Political Round Up, Nathan Houdek and Andrew Hitt take a closer look at both sides of the aisle’s fight to win at the ballot box this fall.

First up, Hitt dives into the Republican’s view. To jump down to Houdek’s take on the Democratic viewpoint, click: “As Primary Election Approaches WI Democratic Gubernatorial Race Remains Competitive”

January – June Fundraising Recap

by Andrew Hitt

In July, Wisconsin Candidates were required to report fundraising activity for all campaign dollars raised between January and June of this year. While it’s always interesting to see the numbers come in, this report didn’t contain any surprises or significant deviations from my previously stated views on the upcoming primary and general elections. In short, we saw what we thought we would see.


Coming in at $5.5 million, Governor Walker raised nearly twice as much as all eight of his challengers combined. Walker also spent $1.6 million on TV during the reporting period. Meanwhile, none of his Democrat challengers made any TV expenditures throughout the first six months of the year. With $6 million in the bank, Walker also holds significant cash on hand advantage. None of the challengers have anywhere near $1 million in the bank.

Attorney General:

Republican AG Schimel raised $671,093 and his challenger Josh Kaul raised $590,636.  While we need to continue watching these fundraising numbers, if the current status quo holds, incumbency and outside spending will be the influential factors in this race.

1st and 6th Congressional Districts:

Again, no surprises here! Congressman Grothman trails his well-connected challenger Dan Kohl $425,207 to $264,850. While Kohl has $1.1 million in the bank, Grothman is behind with just under $900K. Certainly Grothman has a slight cash disadvantage, but it’s hard to imagine that this reliably red district will flip without a gigantic influx of Democrat cash. In the 1st CD, the leading Democrat candidate Randy Bryce raised $1.2 million and has $2.15 million cash on hand. He of course was in the race all year, but Republican candidate Bryan Steil who entered in May raised $659,433 in just 10 weeks and has $618,998 cash on hand. With Speaker Ryan’s endorsement, look for Steil to get help from Ryan to make up the fundraising gap.

For control of the Wisconsin Senate:

I previously identified Senator Marklein’s race as the one to watch. In order to gain control of the Senate, Democrats will need to take two seats, one of which will almost certainly need to be captured from Republican Senator, Howard Marklein. Bringing in $164,426 in political donations, Marklein has outraised his Democrat challenger, Kris Marion, who raised $93,761. Additionally, Marklein has $433,396 cash on hand while his Marion only has $51,846. If Democrats are relying on the Senate Democratic committee this election, they are probably going to need a backup plan. The Democratic Committee has only $327,970 in the bank while Republicans have $1.3 million to provide statewide support for its caucus.

As Primary Election Approaches WI Democratic Gubernatorial Race Remains Competitive

by Nathan Houdek

With the August 14 primary election fast approaching, the Democratic gubernatorial primary remains highly competitive with eight candidates vying for the chance to take on Governor Walker in November. Recently announced fundraising numbers, poll results, and endorsements provide a useful insight into the state of the race as we enter the final weeks.

Poll Results

The most recent Marquette Law School poll reveals that State Superintendent Tony Evers has increased his lead, jumping from 18% in the March poll up to 25% in June, and to 31% in the recent July poll. Evers continues to hold a commanding lead, according to the Marquette poll, with the next closest candidates, Firefighter’s Union President Mahlon Mitchell and State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout receiving only 6%. The remaining five candidates received between 2-5%.

While those numbers make it appear that Evers has the race locked up, a closer look at the poll results reveals that 38% of Democratic primary voters remain undecided, and the candidates remain largely unknown even among Democratic primary voters. Among those who say they will vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 51% don’t have an opinion of Tony Evers while over 80% don’t know enough about Mahlon Mitchell or Kelda Roys to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of either candidate.

For more information about the Marquette Law School Poll, click here.

Fundraising Numbers

On the fundraising front, the field of candidates is divided in two – those who have raised at least $650,000 and have enough cash-on-hand to invest in significant paid media in the closing weeks of the race and those who have raised less than $300,000 and have limited cash-on-hand, leaving them in a difficult position to get their message out through paid media. In the top tier, Tony Evers, Mahlon Mitchell, Kelda Roys, and Matt Flynn have the financial resources to purchase advertising time on TV, and all three are expected to run TV ads through Primary Election Day. Meanwhile, Kathleen Vinethout, Mike McCabe, Josh Pade, and Paul Soglin have limited money to boost their name ID through large-scale paid media in the closing weeks.

2018 governor’s race fundraising (from Madison.com)


The third key metric – endorsements – also largely favors Evers, Mitchell, and Roys. Evers has the support of many prominent current and former elected Democrats, including Fmr. US Senator Herb Kohl, Fmr Congressmen Dave Obey and Steve Kagen, and State Senator Mark Miller. Also of note, State Rep. Dana Wachs, who had been a candidate for Governor until a few weeks ago, has endorsed Evers. Mahlon Mitchell has secured endorsements from key labor unions – including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, Steelworkers, and Operating Engineers – as well as numerous prominent elected officials in Milwaukee, including Congresswoman Gwen Moore. Meanwhile, Kelda Roys is supported by many prominent women’s rights and social issue advocacy organizations, most notably EMILY’s List. She also has endorsements from a number of current elected officials and community leaders across the state.

Until the ballots are tallied on August 14, all eight candidates will continue to push the narrative that they are well-positioned to win the primary. However, the key metrics of poll results, fundraising numbers, and endorsements clearly point to the field being divided into two tiers. With Evers, Mitchell, and Roys leading on those metrics, and Flynn remaining in the mix due to his strong fundraising numbers, all signs point to this being a three to four person race heading into Primary Election Day. Of course, other important factors: Who has the strongest field program to get their supporters to the polls? Which candidate can attract the largest share of undecided voters? How much financial support will third-party organizations provide for each candidate? Will any other candidates drop out and endorse before the Primary? All of these outcomes could play a deciding role in the closing weeks of the campaign.

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