In this update:
- Upcoming Events
- Governor’s Race
- Attorney General’s Race
- Post-Session Updates
- U.S. Senate Race
- 3rd Congressional District Race
- Fundraising Opportunities
Evers raises $4.5 million
According to a press release from Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ campaign, the first-term governor raised over $4.5 million in the span of 37 days during the most recent campaign finance reporting period. That’s double what Scott Walker raised in the same period in 2018. Evers received over 34,00 contributions from over 25,000 donors during the 37-day period and has more than $6 million in the bank. Evers’ campaign said the governor has raised more than $25 million since January 2021, the most of any prior Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate at this point in the cycle. For comparison, Walker raised $15.6 million during a similar time period in 2018.
September’s campaign finance reports are due next week Tuesday.
Michels calls on Evers to suspend parole, pardons in WI
GOP candidate for governor Tim Michels sent a letter to incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers this week calling for an immediate halt to the work of the Wisconsin Parole Commission and Pardon Advisory Board. In the letter, Michels said Evers has “released at least 884 convicted criminals…into Wisconsin communities,” “includ(ing) more than 270 who killed or attempted to kill and more than 44 child rapists.” Michels went on to describe three different violent offenders released by the Parole Commission and said it’s “not a surprise” that Evers “sympathize(s) with and coddle(s) brutal, convicted criminals.”
During a press conference in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Evers said he doesn’t have the authority to stop paroles in the state and he promised the work of the commission would continue. Evers also implied Michels’ letter made it plain the construction executive didn’t understand the law. “Well, whoever’s saying that is unprepared to be governor of the state of Wisconsin because paroles have to happen,” Evers said. “By law they have to happen. And so the parole board will still continue to do the work.”
Evers and Michels disagree on marijuana legalization
Democratic Governor Tony Evers and his GOP rival Tim Michels disagree when it comes to the legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin. Evers has even promised to prioritize legalization in his upcoming state budget if he is re-elected. The Democratic governor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent article that “it’s time for Wisconsin to join more than a dozen states across the country by legalizing and taxing marijuana, much like we already do with alcohol, so we can continue to compete for talented workers to come to our state, expand access to medical treatment for thousands, and have more resources to invest in critical state priorities like K-12 education.” Although Michels has not recently commented on the issue publicly, he did say in a radio interview with WTAQ in May that “I do not support the legalization of marijuana. I think it’s all a slippery slope. I really do.” According to an August Marquette University Law School Poll, 69% of registered voters thought marijuana should be made legal while 23% wanted it to remain illegal and 8% did not register an opinion.
Evers’ plan for legalization, a replica of a plan he proposed in 2021, would require marijuana retailers and distributors to obtain permits from the state Department of Revenue. Marijuana producers and processors would be required to get permits from both the Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). DATCP would also be required to test marijuana products for potency and contaminants. Evers’ plan would impose a 15% excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales while retail sales would require a 10% excise tax in addition to the existing sales tax. According to Evers, the taxes would generate an additional $165.8 million in fiscal year 2025.
Legalization in Wisconsin hinges on the GOP-controlled legislature, which has not indicated a desire to change the status quo. While the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee, Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein have not commented on the chances of Evers’ proposal being included in the next budget, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu has indicated he would not support legalization in Wisconsin until the Food and Drug Administration signs off on it. “I think that discussion needs to be done at the federal level and not have some rogue state doing it without actual science behind it,” LeMahieu said in 2021.
Two new polls show tight race between Evers and Michels
Two new polls released this week showed a tight race between Democratic Governor Tony Evers and his GOP rival Tim Michels.
The poll from Spectrum news/Siena College showed Evers had the support of 49% of likely voters while Michels was backed by 44%. The telephone poll of 651 likely voters was conducted September 14-15 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. The poll also showed Evers’ overall favorability was +4%, with 47% of respondents saying they viewed the governor favorably while 43% viewed him unfavorably. Michels on the other hand was 32% favorable and 43% unfavorable for a -9% overall favorability rating. 24% of likely voters did not register an opinion on Michels.
Other insights from the poll include:
- 33% said Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, while 48% said it’s on the wrong track.
- 72% said the state should have a new law on abortion, while 22% supported keeping the existing 1849 statute in place.
- 43% said economic issues including inflation and cost of living were the most important issue in determining who they will vote for in November. “Threats to our democracy” was the second most important issue at 19%, followed by “abortion” at 8%, and “climate change” at 8%.
FiveThirtyEight rates Siena College an A pollster.
The poll from Emerson College found 45% of likely voters backed Evers while 43% supported Michels. The poll of 860 likely voters was conducted September 16-18 using cell phone interviews, text to web response, automated calls over landlines, web survey via email and an online panel, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.27%. The poll also showed Evers’ overall favorability was -2%, with 47% of respondents saying they viewed the governor favorably while 49% viewed him unfavorably. Michels on the other hand was 46% favorable and 44% unfavorable for a +2% overall favorability rating. Nearly 11% of likely voters did not register an opinion on Michels.
FiveThirtyEight rates Emerson College as an A-minus pollster.
Michels hosts fundraiser with DeSantis
Florida’s GOP Governor Ron DeSantis visited Wisconsin last weekend to stump for fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels. The pair participated in a rally and fundraiser in Green Bay hosted by Turning Point Action prior to the Packers game Sunday evening. Michels campaign finance director Brandon Rosner said that Michels raised $500,000 during the event which had about 30 people in attendance. According to WisPolitics.com, donations started at $5,000 for two VIP tickets to the rally. The top donation was $40,000 for two tickets to a roundtable with DeSantis, six tickets to the rally and two tickets to the Packers-Bears game with Michels.
AdImpact says gov’s race most expensive in nation
According to a tweet from AdImpact, a group that tracks political advertising throughout the country, nearly $55 million has been spent on TV advertising for the Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race, making it the most expensive general election matchup in the country so far. The spending includes $38 million from Dems and $16.8 million from the GOP. Dem spending includes $22.7 million by an affiliate of the Democratic Governors Association and $12.3 million by Governor Tony Evers’ campaign. Democratic advocacy group A Better Wisconsin Together spent $2.8 million. On the GOP side, two affiliates of the Republican Governors Association spent a combined $13.2 million while GOP nominee Tim Michels’ campaign had spent $3.6 million.
AdImpact said the combined spending between the primary and general elections so far has been $93.7 million, putting Wisconsin third behind Illinois and Georgia for the most in the country.
Ads from Evers and DGA highlight allegations against Michels Corp
The Evers campaign and the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) each released a new ad this week claiming GOP rival Tim Michels’ construction company had a culture of sexual harassment and assault. The Evers campaign declined to provide details on the buy other than saying the ad will air statewide on broadcast and cable, while the DGA said its ad is part of a seven-figure buy that will run statewide.
In a press release, Michels called the content of the ads “unproven allegations” and said “harassment in the workplace should not be condoned, nor tolerated.” “Shame on Governor Evers and others who are trying to destroy the reputation of a great Wisconsin company for political purposes. These smears defame a great company, all in the name of politics. There’s no place for that garbage here,” Michels said.
See the ad from the Evers campaign:
See the ad from DGA
RGA ad questions safety of parole commission
The Republican Governors Association released a new ad this week critical of the Wisconsin Parole Commission, which the ad calls “Tony Evers’ Parole Commission.” The RGA said the ad is part of a $790,000 buy that will air on broadcast and cable TV in Milwaukee.
Attorney General’s Race
Harris speaks at DAGA Conference in Milwaukee
Vice President Kamala Harris made a stop in Milwaukee on Thursday to speak at the Democratic Attorneys General Association meeting in Milwaukee. Harris discussed a number of topics including safeguarding elections from misinformation and protecting access to abortion. She praised Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul for challenging the state’s 1849 law that bans abortion except to save the life of the mother. “Josh, our administration has your back,” Harris said.
At a press conference ahead of Harris’ speech, RPW Chairman Paul Farrow and GOP AG candidate Eric Toney said the Biden/Harris administration has shown a lack of leadership on public safety. Toney spoke at length about crime issues in Milwaukee and the lack of security at the southern border. He was critical of both Harris and Kaul for not putting the necessary resources into police departments and border security. “Where we need the help from our United States Attorney’s Office, from the federal government, is on the violent crime that we are seeing here in Milwaukee; that they are refusing to address and looking to basically sweep it under the rug and pretend it does not exist,” Toney said.
Watch the VP’s DAGA speech:
Evers calls for special session of Legislature
Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order calling for a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature to convene at 10 a.m. on October 4, 2022, to “create a pathway for Wisconsinites to repeal Wisconsin’s 1849-era criminal abortion ban.” Specifically, the governor’s proposal calls for creating a statewide binding referendum process through a constitutional amendment. The proposal would allow voters to file petitions with the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) to hold a vote on proposed state laws and constitutional amendments or to repeal current state law. If a sufficient number of signatures by qualified electors are validated by WEC, a vote would be held at the next general election at least 120 days after the petition is filed. Under the proposal, a simple majority vote is required to decide the referendum.
Earlier this summer, Evers called for a similar special session asking legislators to “repeal Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban.” The GOP-controlled legislature opened and closed that session without debate or action. Reacting to the governor’s most recent call for a special session, GOP Assembly Leader Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu issued a joint statement that read “Governor Evers would rather push his agenda to have abortion available until birth than talk about his failure to address rising crime and runaway inflation caused by his liberal DC allies. Hopefully, voters see through his desperate political stunt.”
Evers’ GOP rival Tim Michels also weighed in on the call for a special session and dismissed it as a diversion tactic. “Evers doesn’t want this election to be a referendum on his job performance on crime, inflation, or education because he knows that people would reject his tired, old agenda,” said Michels spokesperson Anna Kelly.
Evers, DHS announce $32 million in EMS Flex Grants
Governor Tony Evers, in conjunction with the state Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake, announced $32 million in emergency medical services (EMS) Flex Grants have been awarded to EMS providers across the state. According to the press release, an additional $20 million has been allocated to build on an existing $12 million investment in EMS Flex Grants that Evers announced during his 2022 State of the State address. Evers said the increase in grant funding is based on a “substantial need” and that it will “provide much needed support to our EMS providers across the state to help ensure they have the tools and resources they need to meet the needs in their communities and continue their life-saving work.”
Underly delivers State of Education address
Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly delivered her second State of Education address this week at the Capitol. Underly discussed a variety of topics including increased funding for schools, teaching difficult concepts such as racism and sexism, and creating a compassionate learning environment for LGBTQ+ students. Underly specifically identified the GOP-controlled Legislature as being an obstacle to increasing education funding using the state’s projected $5 billion surplus. “This Legislature is sitting on a surplus — money that we paid as taxpayers, believing that it would be put to good, public use,” Underly said. “Instead, it just sits there helping no one while all our schools face choices between school safety upgrades or teacher pay raises — that are unsustainable, by the way — on one-time federal funding, or going to referendum yet again.”
Responding to Underly’s speech, Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom spokesman Will Flanders said “simply throwing more money at these problems without any commitment for change won’t improve results. Giving all Wisconsin families more educational options, including the chance to send their children to private schools just as she did, offers real solutions to these very serious problems.”
GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels was also critical of Underly’s speech. “Tony Evers and Jill Underly are focused on imposing woke politics and gender ideology in the classroom,” Michels said in a press release. “We need education that teaches kids how to think – not what to think. Evers and Underly believe pronouns save lives. I believe that literacy and quality education saves lives.”
U.S. Senate Race
Two new polls show tight race between Johnson and Barnes
Two new polls released this week showed a tight race between Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and his Democratic rival Mandela Barnes.
The poll from Spectrum news/Siena College showed Johnson had the support of 47% of likely voters while Barnes was backed by 48%. The results are within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4.5%. The survey of 651 likely voters was conducted September 14-15 by telephone and also showed Johnson’s favorability was 13 percentage-points underwater, with 37% of respondents saying they viewed the Senator favorably while 50% viewed him unfavorably. Barnes on the other hand was viewed favorably by 41% and unfavorably by 39% for a +2% overall favorability rating. 20% of likely voters did not register an opinion on Barnes.
FiveThirtyEight rates Siena College an A pollster.
The poll from Emerson College found 48% of likely voters backed Johnson while 44% supported Barnes. The poll of 860 likely voters was conducted September 16-18 using cell phone interviews, text to web response, automated calls over landlines, web survey via email and an online panel, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.27%. The poll also showed Johnson’s overall favorability was +1%, with 49% of respondents saying they viewed the incumbent Senator favorably while 48% viewed him unfavorably. Barnes on the other hand was 45% favorable and 46% unfavorable for a -1% overall favorability rating. Nearly 11% of likely voters did not register an opinion on Barnes.
FiveThirtyEight rates Emerson College as an A-minus pollster.
Barnes raises millions through Act Blue
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes’ campaign confirmed it has raised nearly $6.3 million in August through Act Blue, a digital platform that Democrats use to raise money through online donations. The $6.3 million does not include donations Barnes received outside of the Act Blue platform. Third quarter fundraising numbers for U.S. Senate candidates are due for submission to the Federal Elections Commission by October 15.
Barnes releases three new ads
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes is out with three news ads this week. According to Barnes’ campaign, the ads are part of a multi-million dollar buy that will run statewide on broadcast, cable, and digital platforms. In the first ad, Barnes disputes allegations made by his GOP opponent Senator Ron Johnson that he has unpaid taxes while also accusing Johnson of self-dealing by writing a tax loophole that benefitted himself. In the second ad, Barnes describes his familial background and says he’ll fight to protect “the promise of America.” The third ad features a man identified as a retired police officer who says Barnes “doesn’t want to defund the police,” and is “very supportive of law enforcement.”
See the ad on taxes:
See the “promise of America” ad:
Wisconsin Truth PAC ad critical of Barnes’ criminal justice proposals
Conservative advocacy group Wisconsin Truth PAC released a new ad this week opposing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes. The ad highlights the increase in crime in the state, as well as criminal justice policies it alleges Barnes supports that would make Wisconsinites less safe. The spot is part of a $12.5 million buy that will air statewide on TV, radio, and digital platforms.
SLF ad highlights Barnes’ support for eliminating cash bail
The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a super PAC aligned with Republicans in the Senate, is out with a new ad this week that focuses on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes’ support for eliminating cash bail. The ad features the grandmother of a girl who was severely injured during the Waukesha Christmas parade attack. According to SLF, the ad is running statewide in all markets. WisPolitics.com reported the GOP-aligned super PAC filed reports with the FEC that included more than $3.1 million in TV spending between Aug. 31 and Sep. 14.
NRSC ad says Barnes wants to reduce prison population by half
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released a new ad this week that features a clip of Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Mandela Barnes saying “reducing prison populations is now sexy.” NRSC said the ad is part of a high six-figure buy that will run on TV and digital statewide.
AFP ad claims Barnes “will cost you more”
Americans for Prosperity-Action released a new ad this week that claims U.S. Senate candidate Democrat Mandela Barnes will increase costs while GOP Sen. Ron Johnson will “put more money in your pocket.” Details such as how much was spent on the spot or on what platform it will run were not available.
3rd Congressional District Race
Van Orden ad casts Pfaff as career politician
3rd Congressional District GOP candidate Derrick Van Orden is out with a new ad this week that labels his Democratic opponent Brad Pfaff a “career politician” who had “never had a career outside politics.” Details on where the ad would run, which platforms it would run on, and how much was spent on the ad were not made available.
Pfaff discusses abortion in new ad
3rd Congressional District Democratic candidate Brad Pfaff released a new ad this week in which he highlights his pro-choice views on abortion while claiming his GOP rival Derrick Van Orden would “[ban] abortions even when a woman’s life is at risk.” The ad will run in the La Crosse market, but additional details on the spend were not available.
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