In this update:
- Wisconsin Elections Hub
- Gubernatorial Election
- Lieutenant Governor Election
- Attorney General Race
- Legislative Races
- Post-Session Updates
- U.S. Senate Race
- Congressional Races
Wisconsin Elections Hub
In case you missed it…
The Michael Best Strategies team is proud to announce the launch of our Wisconsin Elections Hub.
The Wisconsin Elections Hub is a website which serves as an Encyclopedia for all things Wisconsin elections. It includes candidate information, historical data about races, and any update Michael Best Strategies has provided about the race.
When you enter the website you will see tabs for every statewide race, the legislative races, redistricting, and an archive of our past Capitol Insights newsletters. If you click on a button for a race it will direct you to a home page which includes information on each candidate, historical data about the race, and candidate information. Below the candidate information is an archive of posts Michael Best Strategies has created regarding the race.
We hope this tool will be regularly utilized as we head into election season. As always, if you have any question about anything you find on the Elections Hub, please do not hesitate to contact you Michael Best Strategies Contact.
Visit the Wisconsin Election Hub here: Wisconsin Elections Hub 2022 – Michael Best Strategies
Dems challenge Michels’ nomination papers
A Madison resident with the backing of the Democratic Party has challenged Tim Michels’ nomination papers, claiming Michels improperly filled out the requisite paperwork and should be disqualified from having his name on the primary and general election ballots. The challenge was filed with the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), which Michels recently said he’d dissolve if elected governor. Michels’ campaign manager, Patrick McNulty, called the complaint “petty and frivolous” and said it would “not distract our campaign in any way.”
The complaint filed with WEC alleges Michels did not include the municipality of his mailing address — as required by state law — on a significant portion of his nomination papers; instead, Michels only used the municipality of his residence. Although Michels resides in the Village of Chenequa, his mailing address is in the Village of Hartland. Ben Wikler, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said “Election integrity means at its core, following the law, and Tim Michels did not follow the laws.” In an official response to the complaint, Michels’ campaign is arguing the address he listed on his nomination form still substantially complies with state law since he receives mail at that address regardless of whether the municipality listed is Chenequa or Hartland. Michels’ attorney, Matthew Fernholz, said “An order that ousts a candidate for failure to identify a mailing address’s municipality — notwithstanding the fact that the candidate provided an accurate mailing address at which he receives mail — unreasonably impairs the right of voters to associate and restricts the voters’ opportunity to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice.”
WEC denied the challenge to Michels’ nomination papers unanimously, finding that Michels substantially complied with state law and therefore his nomination papers should be accepted. Responding to the decision by WEC, Michels posted a statement to Twitter writing in part, “in each step of the process, from the day we turned in our papers, to the staff recommendation earlier this week and now the unanimous vote of the Commission, our signatures were recognized as valid and sufficient[.]” Michels went on to write that his “campaign has not lost a beat” and he will “drive forward with all hands on deck….to defeat Tony Evers and get Wisconsin back on the right track.”
The decision by WEC means Michels’ name will be listed on the ballot for the Republican gubernatorial primary August 9th.
No promises from Trump to campaign for Michels
Businessman Tim Michels, who was recently endorsed by former President Donald Trump in his campaign for governor, said that Trump has not committed to campaigning for him ahead of the Republican primary on August 9th. He told reporters on “UpFront” that he did not ask Trump to campaign for him, saying that Trump will “make up his own mind.”
Furthermore, Michels said that his recent change in stance from reforming the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) to outright eliminating it was a not related to Trump’s endorsement. However, while he said that the WEC was “unsalvageable,” he also said that he did not support putting the Secretary of State in charge of elections. Michels also refused to reject Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen. He said that “everybody is confident … that there was [sic] problems with the election” and “nobody is sure what the extent of it was.”
Lieutenant Governor Election
Michael Best Strategies teams up to sponsor debates for lieutenant governor
Michael Best Strategies announced that it will host the only statewide, televised primary debates for the Democratic and Republican candidates for lieutenant governor in partnership with Spectrum News 1, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Wispolitics.com. The Democratic debate will be held on Wednesday, July 20, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at UW-Milwaukee Mainstage Theatre and will air live on Spectrum News 1. The Republican debate will be held on Thursday, July 21, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at UW-Milwaukee Mainstage Theatre and also will air live on Spectrum News 1. Candidates who have secured ballot access are invited to participate.
Both debates will be moderated by Jason Fechner of Spectrum News 1. Pete Zervakis and Sachelle Reed of Spectrum News 1, as well as Wispolitics.com’s JR Ross, will serve as panelists. Each campaign and sponsor organization will be offered a limited number of seats for the event. A small number of seats will be available to the public.
New free speech PAC will spend $100,000 to elect Roth
Speak Free or Die, an independent expenditure committee or “Super PAC,” announced that it plans to spend $100,000 in support of State Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) in his campaign for lieutenant governor. In its press release, it said that it was formed to support Roth, who it described as “an ardent champion of our first amendment values.”
In the press release, the group writes that “…the ability of Americans to speak their mind, petition their government, and worship without government interference is under assault” and that “big-tech censorship, higher education and the media have contributed to an ecosystem where the elites can stifle voices of dissent.”
Attorney General’s Race
Republican AG candidates weigh-in on mass shootings, marijuana enforcement
The Republican candidates for Attorney General spoke at a Milwaukee Federalist Society forum on Tuesday night, resulting in discussions on both recent mass shootings across the country and marijuana enforcement.
Eric Toney, the District Attorney for Fond du Lac County, said that restricted gun legislation would not deter criminals from using firearms, instead suggesting harsher punishments for violators, mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, and additional funding for mental health resources. Meanwhile, former State Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) argued that the Attorney General should be given more authority in urban areas, arguing that the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) should be able to intervene when district attorneys refuse help or need it. Karen Mueller, an attorney from Chippewa Falls, said she would not go against the state’s current law that allows for gun ownership at age 18.
The candidates differed in their approach to enforcing marijuana laws. Mueller said that the DOJ should concentrate its resources on prosecuting violent crime. Jarchow said that he previously supported reducing penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, but said that he would enforce the laws passed by the State Legislature. Toney said that marijuana legalization would increase crime, such as driving under the influence (DUI).
Watch the forum here:
Two first-time candidates for Assembly face no challengers
Two candidates for State Assembly will go unchallenged in both the primary and general election, absent campaigns from write-in candidates.
Dave Maxey (R-New Berlin) was the sole candidate to file their nomination papers for the 15th Assembly District, which is located in southeastern Wisconsin. He is a member of the New Berlin City Council, as well as a past president of the New Berlin Board of Education. The district was previously represented by retiring Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin).
Ryan Clancy, a Democrat and a Supervisor on the Milwaukee County Board, was the only candidate to file nomination papers for the 19th Assembly District. The incumbent, Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee), is not seeking re-election and will instead launch a campaign for the Milwaukee Common Council.
At least five candidates running for state legislature face challenges to nomination papers
Although the Democratic Party’s challenge to Tim Michels’ nomination papers has been the top story, his is far from the only challenge the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) will take up when it convenes on Friday. At least five other candidates running for a state office have had their nomination papers challenged. It will be left up to WEC to determine whether the challenges have merit and should be upheld. The following candidates are facing challenges to the nomination papers they submitted:
- Republican Mark Trofimchuck, of Brodhead, running in the open 15th SD.
- Republican Amber Provance, of Pepin, running for the 31st SD.
- Democrat Matt Brown, of Menomonee Falls, running in the 22nd AD.
- Democrat Patty Schachtner, of Somerset, running for the 28th AD.
- Republican Micah Behnke, of Green Bay, running in the 90th AD.
Evers calls for special session of legislature to “protect reproductive rights and healthcare access”
On Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order calling a special session of the legislature to take up legislation that would repeal Wisconsin’s current ban on abortion except to preserve the life of the mother.
Announcing the special session in a press release, Evers said “Every single Wisconsinite should have the right to consult their family, their faith, and their doctor to make a reproductive healthcare decision that is right for them…without interference from politicians who don’t know anything about their life circumstances, values, or responsibilities.” Evers’ order comes a month after a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that Roe v. Wade, a ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion for Americans, could be overturned.
Although Evers has the authority to call the special session, he can’t force the legislature to take any action. During previous special sessions called by Evers, the Republican-controlled legislature has quickly gaveled in and out. This time around appears to be no different with Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu promising the legislature will “gavel out of another blatantly political special session call.”
GOP hopefuls for governor were also quick to disregard Evers’ call, with Rebecca Kleefisch tweeting “Evers wants abortions without restrictions” and Kevin Nicholson tweeting that Evers wants “…to encourage the continuation of a practice that has killed 500K+ Wisconsin children[.]” Tim Michels agreed with Evers that the legislature should get to work, but to “Fix the tragic mess at the Union Grove Veterans Home” and “Pass and sign into law the Parental Bill of Rights.”
The special session will convene on June 22, 2022.
See tweets from GOP candidates for governor:
- Rebecca Kleefisch: https://twitter.com/RebeccaforReal/status/1534557419711389699
- Kevin Nicholson: https://twitter.com/KevinMNicholson/status/1534547743003267072
- Tim Michels: https://twitter.com/michelsforgov/status/1534578789774245888
Evers announces $35 million for local road improvements
Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) announced that the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will provide $35 million to support local road improvements throughout Wisconsin. A total of 40 projects from 28 different counties were approved from a pool of 306 applications. Contracts for these projects will be determined in the fall, with construction planned for next spring.
“I’m proud of our investments and work have improved more than 1,700 miles of roads across our state, and this historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will ensure we can continue building on our good work,” Evers said in a press release. “This investment in our state’s infrastructure will provide much-needed support for communities across Wisconsin to ensure we have a safe reliable transportation system for years to come.”
The first round of BIL funding targets both rural areas and urban areas of less than 50,000 people. For larger areas, approximately $25 million in additional funding from BIL will be announced in the coming weeks.
WI Supreme Court OKs release of COVID data
The Wisconsin Supreme Court (SCOWIS) approved the release of aggregate health records from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), after Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) sought to block the release of the records after several news outlets requested them in June 2020. WMC and two local chambers of commerce claimed that the release of the records — which contained the names of over 1,000 businesses with greater than 25 employees where at least two workers tested positive for COVID-19 — would “irreparably harm” the reputations of its member businesses.
In a 4-3 ruling, SCOWIS upheld the state appeals court’s ruling, which held that WMC failed to demonstrate a justifiable reason for preventing public access to the records. The four justices who ruled against the WMC were the three liberal justices and Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who is often a swing vote.
Vos asks EPA to waive reformulated gasoline requirements
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lift its fuel blending requirements for gasoline, which he claims “directly affects the southeast corner of our state where reformulated gasoline (RFG) is required.”
Vos argues that the EPA can and should waive the regulation due to increasing gasoline prices, claiming that “gas prices in Wisconsin’s RFG area are on average 40 cents higher per gallon than prices in areas of Wisconsin not required to have blended fuels.” He attributes the rise in gas prices to inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and executive orders issued by President Joe Biden.
According to the EPA, RFG is gasoline that is blended to reduce smog and toxic pollutants. It is required in cities with high levels of smog, but is optional elsewhere. RFG is used in sixteen states and the District of Columbia, with about 25% of all gasoline solid in the United States being reformulated.
Vos appoints attorney Don Millis to Elections Commission
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appointed tax attorney Don Millis to the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday. Announcing the appointment in a press release, Vos said Millis is “a respected attorney whose expertise makes him an excellent addition to [WEC].” Vos also said that Millis “will apply election laws fairly and ensure current law is being followed.” Millis is replacing current commission member Dean Knudson, who announced his resignation at a WEC meeting last month.
This isn’t Millis’ first time serving on WEC; he was also an appointee of then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald until he resigned in 2017. Millis also served on the old State Elections Board before it was replaced by the Government Accountability Board in 2007. WEC will next meet on Friday to decide 11 challenges filed to nomination papers, including a high-profile challenge to Tim Michels’ nomination papers.
Reactions to the appointment can be found below:
- Former Governor Tommy Thompson: “I’ve known Don for decades. He’s a true conservative fighter who understands election law and knows how to get things done. I can’t think of anyone better for this position.”
- Justice Mike Gableman:“Don will bring with him both the intellectual firepower and courageous resolve that are both necessary to enable him to help put a stop to the lawless actions of the leftist members of WEC.”
- RPW Chairman Paul Farrow: “All Wisconsinites want to have confidence in the results of our elections, and they want our election officials to enforce the rule of law. I look forward to Don Millis’ service and to equal access to free, fair, and secure election administration.”
- Outgoing WEC Chair Ann Jacobs: “While I am confident that we will not agree on all things going forward, I believe that [Don Millis] will be thoughtful and professional and will be a positive addition to the commission[.]”
Circuit Court extends temporary stay on state’s PFAS regulation authority
A Waukesha County Circuit Court judge extended a hold on an April ruling that could limit the ability of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to address pollution from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) sued the DNR in February 2021, arguing that the DNR did not have explicit authority to enforce standards governing PFAS pollution without undergoing the state’s rulemaking process to list PFAS as hazardous substances. In April 2022, Judge Michael O. Bohren ruled in favor of WMC but stayed his decision while waiting for an official motion form the DNR to stay the court’s ruling pending appeal; the DNR filed its appeal soon after.
Bohren said that an extended stay on the case was appropriate because of the ruling’s broad impact on enforcement. In a press release, the Midwest Environmental Advocates celebrated the stay, saying that it will “…limit the physical, mental, and economic harm suffered by those living in and around PFAS contamination sites in Wisconsin.”
U.S. Senate Race
AFSCME Council 32 endorses Barnes
AFSCME Council 32, a union that represents state, county, and city public employees, endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary this week. In an email first reported by The Capital Times, AFSCME Council 32 President Paul Spink announced the endorsement writing, “A former AFSCME member himself, Mandela has fought side-by-side with workers for his entire life…[h]e has always had our backs. It’s time for us to have his.” In a statement responding to the endorsement, Barnes said he’s “always been proud to work side-by-side with [AFSCME Council 32]” and that “Fighting for strong unions means fighting for strong families and strong communities.”
The endorsement from AFSCME Council 32 comes at a pivotal moment in the Democratic primary with Alex Lasry, one of Barnes’ four primary opponents, scoring a number of key union endorsements over the past year. Although Barnes has long been considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, recent polls have shown his lead may be decreasing, with a new internal poll released by Lasry’s campaign last week showing Barnes with a 3% lead over Lasry among likely Democratic voters.
In addition to Lasry, Barnes will face off against Sarah Godlewski and Tom Nelson during the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate on August 9th.
No Democrats file to oppose Gallagher, Grothman
Two Republican incumbents for the U.S. House of Representatives are unopposed in their bids for re-election, effectively guaranteeing them another term in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) of the 8th Congressional District is unopposed for the first time in his career. He is running for his fourth term. In the 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) is also unopposed for the first time as he seeks his fifth term in Congress.
Even if the Democrats had fielded a candidate for either race, it would have almost certainly been an uphill battle, with analysis from Marquette University finding Republican advantages of at 16 points under the newest Congressional map.
However, both Gallagher and Grothman will face primary challengers. Shaun Clarmont of Oneida filed 1,021 signatures to challenge Gallagher while Douglas Mullenix of Menasha filed 1,301 signatures to challenge Grothman. Candidates needed 1,000 signatures to get ballot access, meaning that Clarmont could be vulnerable to having his nomination papers challenged.
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