In this update:

  • Upcoming Events
  • Insights from D.C.
  • Governor’s Race
  • Attorney General’s Race
  • Legislative Races
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court Race
  • Post-Session Updates
  • U.S. Senate Race
  • 3rd Congressional District Race
  • Fundraising Opportunities

Insights from D.C.

Why the midterms are so hard to predict

Michael Best Strategies Senior Counselor & Former Congressman Steve Israel discusses the challenges of predicting the upcoming 2022 Midterm Elections and various factors that will influence voters.

Read The Hill article here:

Governor’s Race

Evers joins Biden at Labor Day event in Milwaukee, Barnes absent

Just over two months before the closely contested midterm elections, President Joe Biden and Governor Tony Evers teamed up to speak at a Labor Day event in Milwaukee on Monday. Declaring himself “the only candidate for governor who has actually bargained for a public sector union,” Evers delivered a short speech in which he highlighted some of the key accomplishments delivered by his administration and touted Biden’s union bona-fides. “I invested more than $150 million dollars in filling jobs and expanding job training and apprenticeships programs,” said Evers. He also cited a 15% income tax cut that he signed and “near record-low unemployment and one of the highest labor force participation rates in the country” as accomplishments that benefited Wisconsin workers. Evers then introduced Biden, saying the state needed federal partners to also support Wisconsin’s working families. “Fortunately, we have a president who understands the challenges facing working families and willing to work with us to find common sense solutions,” Evers said. “President Biden has been a very important partner for states across the country to direct recovery funds to schools, our economy, and public safety.”

Although Evers appeared with Biden onstage during the LaborFest speech, noticeably absent was Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Mandel Barnes. Meeting with labor leaders and workers on Tuesday, Barnes explained his absence to a group of reporters saying “we were actually in Racine taking groceries down to striking United Auto Workers, people who have been out there for about 120 days or more, and that’s where my priority has been.”

Michels releases new TV ad tying Evers to inflation

Tim Michels’ campaign is out with a new ad this week honing in on inflation and the high cost of daily items. “Every time you fill up your truck or buy groceries, remember, it’s politicians like Biden and Evers that got us into this mess,” says Michels while leaning on his red truck. According to the campaign, the spot is running statewide on broadcast and cable TV, but other details were not released. The narrator promises Michels will “tackle inflation, stop Evers’ runaway spending, and help you keep more of what you earn.” The ad closes with Michels saying “I’m Tim Michels. I’ve got a blueprint to grow jobs and stop the outrageous spending that got us into this mess.”

WMC backs Michels with new ad

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) is out with a new ad this week praising Tim Michels as a “job creator with a plan to rescue our economy,” while pointing to President Joe Biden’s and Governor Tony Evers’ “tax and spending policies” for making inflation and high gas prices worse. According to, the spot is part of a six-figure ad campaign that will run on digital and streaming services. The ad urges viewers to thank Michels for “supporting lower taxes, safer neighborhoods and better schools.” It also comes on the heels of another issue-based advertising campaign from WMC last winter that took aim at Evers over his tax policies.

Americans for Prosperity ad touts endorsement of Michels

The political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) launched a new $1 million digital ad campaign this week promoting its endorsement of Tim Michels. The group told the ads will run through September 30th on Facebook, YouTube, and other digital platforms. The ads are part of a statewide effort, but will particularly focus on swing voters in the Milwaukee area and Fox Valley. The ads show a photo of Michels with his right hand raised, a checkmark indicating he’s been endorsed by AFP, and the caption “Tim Michels for Governor: A Political Outsider Ready To Fight For Wisconsin Families.”

See digital ad #1

See digital ad #2

RGA ad says Evers is “wrong for our kids”

The Republican Governor’s Association released a new ad this week through its affiliate Right Direction Wisconsin. The $2 million ad is planned to run for two weeks on broadcast and cable TV in the Green Bay, Milwaukee, La Crosse, and Wausau markets. In the ad, the narrator describes Evers’ record of failures on education including public schools being forced to close, failing academic standards, and “parents [being] told they don’t have a say.” The narrator goes on to say “Our schools should teach reading, writing, and math, not crazy liberal ideas.”

DGA ad scrutinizes Michels’ charitable giving

The Democratic Governor’s Association released a new ad this week through its Alliance for Common Sense. The seven-figure buy is planned to run on TV in the Milwaukee area and includes a targeted digital component that will run statewide. The ad narrows in on donations made by the Michels’ Family Foundation which funded an organization that tracks women when they are near abortion clinics by using data from cell phones. The narrator says, “Michels doesn’t just want to criminalize abortion even in cases of rape or incest — he wants to treat women like they’re criminals. Tim Michels’ agenda is just too radical.”

Attorney General’s Race

Kaul announces Wisconsin to receive $14.4 million from JUUL Labs

On Tuesday, Attorney General Josh Kaul announced that Wisconsin will receive more than $14.4 million from a combined $438.5 million agreement with electronic cigarette maker JUUL Labs. The agreement between JUUL Labs and 33 states and territories was the result of a two-year bipartisan investigation into the e-cigarette manufacturer’s marketing and sales practices. In addition to the financial terms, the settlement would force JUUL to comply with a series of strict terms severely limiting their marketing and sales practices. “Targeting youth for e-cigarette sales is appalling,” said Attorney General Josh Kaul. “This agreement brings accountability for JUUL’s conduct and prohibits JUUL from engaging in the types of marketing practices it had been using to promote vaping among young people.”

According to the release from the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice, the states are in the process of finalizing and executing the settlement documents, a process that takes approximately 3-4 weeks. The $438.5 million would be paid out over a period of six to ten years, with the amounts paid increasing the longer the company takes to make the payments. If JUUL chooses to extend the payment period up to ten years, the final settlement would reach $476.6 million.

Kaul discusses gun control at law enforcement roundtable

Speaking at a law enforcement roundtable in Madison this week, Attorney General Josh Kaul called for stricter gun control measures in Wisconsin. Pointing to the Dept. of Justice’s firearm background check system, Kaul said that although the system is “really good,” it still has shortcomings. “The problem is we’ve got this loophole in the system for certain sales — it includes private sales — and so literally if somebody’s selling a gun out of their trunk, you know, law enforcement can’t intervene unless they have a specific reason to know there’s a crime there,” Kaul said. He also mentioned so-called “ghost guns” as being another loophole in the system because they are typically assembled by the buyer and lack a serial number.

Emergency detention, the practice in which law enforcement take a person into custody who is at risk of harming themselves or others, was another issue raised at the roundtable. The law allows police to detain a person at a mental health facility for assessment for up to 72 hours. Kaul said a red flag law would give law enforcement another tool to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and would be a less extreme step than emergency detention, which requires significant time and resources to enforce. Red flag laws allow police to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who they believe may present a danger to others or themselves.

Responding to Kaul’s push for additional gun control measures, Republican candidate for AG Erik Toney told that “Wisconsin already has a law on the books that guarantees due process rights for firearm restrictions based on dangerousness and a treatable mental illness.” Toney went on to say that “there is a mental health crisis and we can’t legislate our way to safety on this issue. Those proposed restrictions impede law-abiding citizens their constitutional right to exercise the Second Amendment while felons and dangerous criminals don’t care what the law says.”

Toney visits Milwaukee, says Kaul only pays “lip service” to public safety

Republican candidate for Attorney General Eric Toney was in Milwaukee this week following a fatal police shooting and crash downtown on Friday night. The AG hopeful held a press conference in the city with leaders of the Milwaukee Police Association and Wisconsin Fraternal Order of Police where he called for the Wisconsin Department of Justice to handle prosecutions in Milwaukee. “What we want to be doing is adding resources to keep people safe here in Milwaukee with our Department of Justice, with the prosecutor resources, and our DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation) resources to keep Milwaukee safe, because that protects all of Wisconsin,” Toney said. Speaking about the uptick in violent crime across Milwaukee, Toney said “I refuse to accept this as the new normal, and we need an attorney general that is going to make public safety their top priority and number one priority. Not just give it lip service like Josh Kaul has done.”

Responding to Toney’s remarks, Kaul campaign spokesman Joe Oslund said the AG has pushed to obtain funding for 70 new prosecutors as well as increase police training opportunities across the state. The spokesman also said that Toney was “silent as Republicans in the Legislature used the 2018 lame-duck legislation to strain DOJ’s budget. And to this day refuses to stand up to politicians like Robin Vos and call for common-sense steps to fund law enforcement through an increase in shared revenue or investing a portion of the state’s multi-billion dollar budget surplus to help fight crime.”

Legislative Races

Michael Best Strategies’ 2022 Legislative Candidate Book

Michael Best Strategies is pleased to announce the release of our 2022 Legislative Candidate Book. This brand new resource was put together by our team so clients have a one-stop-shop to learn about every candidate running for a seat in the Wisconsin legislature.

A copy of the book can be downloaded here: 2022 Candidate Book.FINAL.pdf

Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Kelly announces bid for seat on SCOWIS

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly announced that he is running again for a seat on the state’s highest court.

In the release announcing his candidacy Kelly said, “I am incredibly grateful to those all over the state who have encouraged me to run. They know the importance of electing a justice with a track record of protecting our Constitution, faithfully applying the law as written, and respecting the people of Wisconsin as his bosses. During my first term on the court, I faithfully carried out the humble role our Constitution assigns to the judiciary: resolving Wisconsinites’ disputes according to the law with neither fear nor favor for any party or position.”

Kelly, a conservative, was originally appointed to the state’s Supreme Court by Scott Walker in 2016. Kelly ran to keep the seat in 2020 but lost to then liberal Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky, 55.2% to 44.7%. Karofsky’s election in 2020 cut the conservative majority on the court from a 5-2 conservative majority, to a 4-3 conservative majority. That conservative majority has at times appeared even narrower, with Justice Brian Hagedorn often acting as a swing vote by siding with liberals on the court in several high-profile cases.

Conservative Justice Pat Roggensack is retiring at the end of her term next year meaning control of the court will be determined in the April 4th, 2023 Spring Election.

Liberal candidates Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz have both already announced their plans to run for Roggensack’s seat. A statement from Protasiewicz campaign spokeswoman Alejandro Verdin called Dan Kelly “a radical right-wing extremist” who is “running to serve a partisan political agenda.” Meanwhile, Mitchell campaign manager Sena Elliot released a statement calling Kelly a “reckless and failed Trump-Walker politician who would use the Court for conservative activism.” If more than two candidates remain in the race, there will be a Spring Primary Election on February 21st, 2023, to decide which two candidates will appear on the April 4th ballot.

Post-Session Updates

Evers and Underly announce K-12 priorities for 2023-25 Budget

Governor Tony Evers and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly announced on Tuesday morning their education priorities for the Governor’s 2023-2025 executive budget. Evers’ & Underly’s plan includes investments to address 5 key priorities:

  1. Improve reading and literacy outcomes.
  2. Expand to student mental health services and school nutrition.
  3. Invest in financial literacy and out-of-school programming.
  4. Address staffing shortages.
  5. Increase per pupil and special education aids “while holding the line on property taxes.”

In his press release, the Evers camp noted “the state is expecting to end the fiscal year with more than $5 billion in its coffers, ensuring the state can support new, increased investments in K-12 education without raising property taxes.” The budget plan announced today is an increase of nearly $2 billon for public schools to address the 5 priorities which Evers and Underly identified as issues in the state. This new plan would require the state to tap into the budget surplus.

While the plan has numerous hurdles to clear prior to its adoption, including from the GOP-controlled legislature, it’s informative of the type of issues Evers has emphasized during his run for re-election and the sort of issues that are driving Wisconsin voters. The education plan comes on the heels of a different Evers plan released at the end of August that aims to combat inflation by also tapping into the state’s budget surplus, as well as his “Doing The Right Thing Agenda for Wisconsin” in which he identified public safety as a top priority for his administration.

JFC approves DHS opioid settlement spending plan

On Thursday, the Joint Finance Committee first amended, and then approved, the Dept. of Health Serves’ (DHS) plan on how to spend roughly $31 million in opioid settlement money. The GOP-amended plan changed how the state will allocate approximately $5.75 million. $3 million was directed towards a grant program for law enforcement that provides treatment for jail inmates, education and awareness training, and community drug disposal programs. About 1/3 of the $3 million was reserved for law enforcement agencies in counties and municipalities with 70,000 or fewer residents.

Among the most significant changes to the original plan proposed by the Evers administration is a $2 million cut from support centers for family members who have loved ones actively using drugs or have overdosed. The committee also allocated an additional $1 million for using medication-assisted treatment programs such as methadone to help those with withdrawal symptoms, increasing the total amount to $2 million for the program. Other changes to the original Evers administration plan include:

  • allocating $10 million to expand prevention, treatment and recovery facilities, $1 million less than the Evers administration proposal.
  • allocating $250,000 for K-12 substance abuse prevention curriculum, $750,000 less than the Evers administration proposal.
  • eliminating the $1 million for community-level prevention programs and the $2 million for family support centers, both numbers proposed by the Evers administration.
  • allocating $750,000 for grants to organizations that serve after-school youth programs and expand opioid prevention programs.
  • allocating $1 million to a pilot program to create additional agencies that provide substance abuse treatment to Medical Assistance patients.

Referring to the changes made to the settlement spending plan, Senate co-Chair Howard Marklein said “I believe we’ve made improvements to the Department of Health Services’ plan… and this motion is certainly an improvement over the initial request by DHS.”

View the JFC hearing

U.S. Senate Race

Johnson ad paints Barnes as “too extreme”

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson released a new TV ad this week which his campaign says will air statewide. The ad uses a clip from one of Mandela Barnes’ most recent ads in which he says his “opponent is throwing everything he’s got at me, hoping you think I’m dangerous. But I can take the heat.” After playing that clip Johnson cuts in to point out some of Barnes’ “extreme” positions by saying that he is a supporter of defunding the police, that he wrote a bill to release criminals without bail, that he wants to eliminate employer-provided health insurance, that he supports doubling taxes, and that he wants open borders and supports “taxpayer-financed benefits for illegals.”

NRSC ad says Barnes wants to end cash bail


The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released a new ad this week which is part of a $1.2 million TV and digital ad buy. The ad uses footage from the tragedy at the Waukesha Christmas parade while the narrator asks, “what happens when criminals are released because bail is set dangerously low?” The ad then goes on to say that Barnes wants to end cash bail completely and accuses him of being a “dangerous Democrat.” The final shot of the ad shows Barnes next to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Wisconsin Truth PAC ad highlights Barnes’ personal security costs

Wisconsin Truth PAC released a new TV ad that is critical of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes for his personal security costs. The ad is part of a seven-figure buy which will run statewide on TV and digital platforms.

The ad shows video and imagery of shots being fired and police cars on a street at night with their lights flashing while the narrator says these are “actual crime scenes across Wisconsin, yet Mandela Barnes supports defunding the police.” The ad then points to the fact that while Barnes pushed for defunding the police, he also had more of “your tax dollars” reallocated to personal police security for himself that totaled “almost $600,000.” The ad ends with the narrator saying, “Mandela Barnes, less safety for you, more for him.”

Senate Leadership Fund ad says Barnes is “wrong on crime”

The Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC aligned with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, launched its first ads in Wisconsin this week targeting Democratic candidate Mandela Barnes. The ads, which are part of a nearly $2.4 million ad buy, will be broadcast on TV, radio, and digital ads.

All of the ads follow the same theme, which argues that Democratic candidate Mandela Barnes would make crime worse in Wisconsin. The narrator of the 30-second TV ad says that Barnes would eliminate cash bail and pointed to the tragedy of the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack. The ad also points to the fact that Barnes worked for a group that wants to defund the police and has a “long record of smearing the police while spending your tax dollars on security for himself.”

Watch TV ad here:

Watch the digital ads here: |

Listen to the radio spot here:

3rd Congressional District Race

Van Orden releases ad touting military service

GOP candidate for congress Derrick Van Orden released a new ad this week which reflects on his military service. The ad shows Van Orden packing up military equipment while a voice-over recounts the former Navy SEAL’s experience. Van Orden’s team did not reveal how much money was spent on the ad or where the ad will be running.

Congressional Leadership Fund releases ad opposing Brad Pfaff

The Republican super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, announced its first ad in a more than $720,000 ad campaign planned for the 3rd Congressional District. The spot is planned to run in the La Crosse and Wausau markets and is part of a greater campaign for 21 congressional districts which totals nearly $162 million.

The ad links Democrat Brad Pfaff to the “D.C. elites” while displaying images of President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A narrator then describes how these “elites” are destroying America and spending big on Pfaff’s campaign because he supports their “big spending, price hiking, reckless schemes.”

Fundraising Opportunities

A list of all upcoming fundraiser opportunities can be found by clicking the button below. For any questions or more information, please do not hesitate to contact your Michael Best Strategies contact.

Wisconsin Campaign Fundraisers

Michael Best Strategies (Strategies) helps companies accelerate their success through a combination of strategic business consulting, lobbying, government relations, public affairs, and communications. The firm has thrived by providing a diverse team of professionals with the experience, skills, and relationships necessary to help each client achieve their goals more quickly and fully.