Wisconsin Capitol Building

Below is a Political and Legislative Update provided by the Michael Best Strategies Team. 

This update includes: 

  • Election 2022 Candidate Updates 
  • Changes in Evers Administration 
  • Assembly Democrats to Elect New Leaders 

Election 2022 Candidate Updates

Several incumbent politicians have made known their electoral intentions for 2022 over the last couple of weeks. Of note are the following:


State Representative John Macco (R-Ledgeview) announced (at about the 10-minute mark of the video) that he will not run for Governor and endorsed former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. Representative Macco, who lost his wife to breast cancer earlier this year, said he did not have it in him to put in the necessary effort and spend 13 to 15 hours a day on the road over the next 11 months to win the governorship, especially when he felt there was a “great alternative” in former Lt. Gov. Kleefisch. Macco said in the Facebook Live post that he will run for re-election to the State Assembly in November, for a fifth term and that as a supporter of term limits, that will be his last term. Kleefisch, who announced that she raised $1.2 million in individual donations within 48 hours of announcing her campaign and that her campaign is exceeding their fundraising goals for 2021, is the only announced major Republican candidate for Governor. Former Wausau congressman Sean Duffy (R-7th CD) and 2018 Republican US Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson are still weighing whether to enter the race or not. 

Gov. Tony Evers reported raising $5 million during the first half of 2021; $3.1 million in individual donations. Gov. Evers finished the first half of the year with $7.3 million in the bank. The Governor’s campaign’s cash-on-hand is 3 times the amount Gov. Walker had in the bank at this point in his 2018 re-election.

Secretary of State

Assembly State Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) announced that she will not seek a seventh term in the State Assembly and instead will run for Secretary of State. Rep. Loudenbeck was first elected to the State Assembly in 2010 and served on the powerful budget writing Joint Committee on Finance for the last four budget sessions, including as Vice Chair of the Committee for the last two sessions. Loudenbeck identified three priorities in her platform for the office; ensuring that the Office provides business class customer service, providing a check on the Wisconsin Election Commission to restore voter confidence in the election process and to ensure the asset management of the Board of the Commissioner of Public Lands is transparent and productive.
Democrat Secretary of State Doug La Follette was first elected to the office in 1974, ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 1978, ran for and was elected Secretary of State again in 1982 and has been re-elected since. La Follette, who is 81, has not announced yet if he will seek re-election. In an interview with Wispolitics.com, La Follette cited the status of the pandemic in Spring of 2022 will likely influence his decision. If the pandemic has subsided, he said he will likely run for re-election.
Currently there are three other Republicans who have announced their candidacy:

  • Jay Schroeder (Neenah). Schroeder was the Republican nominee for the office in 2018 and lost to La Follette with 47.2% of the vote.
  • Justin Schmidtka (Green Bay). A former Marine and firefighter, Schmidtka is a host of the Badger Resistance podcast.
  • Dmitry Becker (New Berlin). A veteran and member of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Local Government Elections

Assembly State Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) announced that she is running for Kenosha County Executive. Long-time county executive and former Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser announced earlier in the year that he would not seek re-election. Kerkman was first elected to the State Assembly in 2000 and has been re-elected since. Kerkman is a member of the Assembly Republican leadership team serving as the Majority Caucus Sergeant at Arms since 2011 and serves as the co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee.

Kerkman is the third candidate to join the non-partisan Spring Election race. The two other announced candidates are County Board Supervisor Jerry Gulley and Kenosha County Clerk of Courts Rebecca Matoska-Mentink. If all three candidates remain in the race, a primary would take place on Tuesday, February 15th. The top two candidates advancing out of the primary would compete in the April 5th general election. If Rep. Kerkman is successful in her county executive election bid, she will have to give up her Assembly seat. If she is unsuccessful, Rep. Kerkman would still be able to run for Assembly seat since candidate declaration papers and nomination papers for the state legislature are not due until June 1st, 2022. 

Assembly State Representative Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) is expected to join a crowded field of candidates for Milwaukee Mayor, now that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has been confirmed by the US Senate to be the US Ambassador to Luxembourg. Reimer was first elected to the Assembly in 2012.

Riemer would join seven already announced candidates including; Common Council President Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson, Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas, Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic and former Ald. Bob Donovan.

Lawmakers Seeking Other Officers or Not Seeking Re-Election

So far, we are aware of the following members of the State Assembly or State Senate seeking other offices or not seeking re-election. Note some members of the State Assembly and State Senate are exploring options and are waiting on the new legislative district maps before they make a final decision. State Senators in even-numbered seats are not up for re-election this year and can run for other offices without giving up their seats.

For incumbent members of the State Assembly and the State Senate in odd-numbered seats, they have until 5:00 PM on May 20th, 2022, to file their declaration of non-candidacy if they are choosing to not seek re-election.

Non-incumbent candidates for state elected offices have until 5:00 PM on Wedneday June 1st, 2022 to submit their nomination signatures to be a candidate for the November 2022 elections.

State Senate:

  • State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee, 4th SD); running for Lieutenant Governor
  • State Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point, 24th SD); running for Lieutenant Governor
  • State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point, 27th SD); retiring
  • State Senator Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska, 32nd SD); running for Congress, 3rd CD

State Assembly:

  • State Representative Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel, 6th AD); retiring
  • State Representative Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee, 7th AD); running for Milwaukee Mayor
  • State Representative David Bowen (D-Milwaukee, 10th AD); running for Lieutenant Governor
  • State Representative Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield, 13th AD); running for Lieutenant Governor
  • State Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton, 31st AD); not seeking re-election, running for Secretary of State 
  •  State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac, 52nd AD); retiring
  • State Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem, 61st AD); running for Kenosha County Executive
  • State Representative Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton, 79th AD); running for 27th Senate District

Changes in Evers Administration

A year out from Governor Tony Evers re-election several members of his cabinet have announced their retirements from state service or that they will be taking jobs in the private sector. Typically Administrations ask cabinet members and political appointees to make these decisions at this point so leadership changes in agencies doesn’t become a distraction as the focus turns to the re-election campaign.

Recent changes of note in the Evers Administration include:

Department of Administration

Gov. Tony Evers announced Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary Joel Brennan will be leaving the Evers Administration on Mon., Jan. 17, 2022. Brennan will become president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Gov. Evers also announced that he is appointing Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld to serve as Secretary-designee of the DOA upon Secretary Brennan’s departure in January. Secretary Koltin Blumenfeld will assume the role of DOA secretary on Mon., Jan. 17, 2022.

Department of Health Services

Medicaid Director Jim Jones is retiring from state service this month, after serving in the position for almost three years. Jones previously served as Deputy Medicaid Director during the Administration of Governor Jim Doyle. Lisa Olson will be the next Medicaid director effective January. Olson recently became Medicaid deputy director and previously served as assistant deputy secretary at DHS.

Office of the Commissioner of Insurance

In late November Governor Tony Evers announced the Commissioner of Insurance Mark Afable would be retiring from public service in December. Gov. Evers appointed Commissioner Afable in December 2018. Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Afable had worked for American Family Insurance since 1994 and most recently served as its chief legal officer. Deputy Insurance Commissioner Nathan Houdek will serve as interim commissioner following Commissioner Afable’s departure. Deputy Commissioner Houdek was appointed to his current position by Commissioner Afable in January 2019. 

Department of Financial Institutions

Gov. Evers announced he is appointing DFI Deputy Secretary Cheryll Olson-Collins to succeed Secretary Koltin Blumenfeld as the secretary of DFI. Deputy Secretary Olson-Collins will assume the role of DFI secretary on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Prior to serving as deputy secretary, Olson-Collins was the acting administrator of DFI’s Division of Banking. 

Department of Natural Resources

Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Todd Ambs announced at the Natural Resources Board meeting that he is retiring at the end of the month. Ambs previously served as the agency’s water division administrator from 2003 to 2010 under the Administration of Gov. Doyle.  Last year, DNR Secretary Preston Cole appointed Ambs, who was serving as assistant deputy secretary, to serve as deputy secretary when his predecessor Beth Bier left the agency. No replacements has been announced yet.

Assembly Democrats to Elect New Leaders

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) announced that he is stepping down from his role as Assembly Democratic Leader effective January 10, 2022 and Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein announced she is not running for re-election and instead running for the State Senate currently represented by Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) who is not seeking re-election. Assembly Democrats will elect their new leaders on Monday, December 20th.

Rep. Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) announced that she is running for leader. Rep. Neuabauer currently serves as one of two Assembly Democrats on the budget writing Joint Committee on Finance. Minority Caucus Chair Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit), the #3 in current caucus leadership, said he will not run for leader.

Three members of the Assembly Democratic caucus have announced their candidacy for the #2 position in the caucus leadership:

  • Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) announced that she is running for Assistant Minority Leader noting that the caucus leadership should represent all corners of Wisconsin. Rep. Emerson’s district is in western central Wisconsin.
  • Reps. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) announced his candidacy and promised to utilized the talents of all the members of the caucus to achieve their legislative goals.
  • Kalan Haywood (D-Milwaukee), who is the only current member of Democratic leadership running for this position, announced his candidacy promising to put the caucus in the best position to be successful and to work as a unified team.