In this update:

  • Governor’s Race
  • Legislative Races
  • Attorney General’s Race
  • U.S. Senate Race
  • 3rd Congressional District Race
  • Upcoming Events
  • Fundraising Opportunities

Governor’s Race 

Polling in governor’s race remains within margin of error

Democratic Governor Tony Evers and his Republican rival Tim Michels met last weekend for the first and only gubernatorial debate of the November general election. The two candidates discussed a number of topics including: attracting and retaining workers, inflation and the projected budget surplus, crime and guns, teaching about race in school, and access to abortion.

On unemployment and attracting more workers to the state, Evers said he would continue to provide municipalities with funding so they could figure out how to best attract and retain workers. Michels, for his part, said the state “created an entire class of lazy people during COVID,” and “it’s time to get them back engaged in our economy, to stop just sending them the unemployment checks.” Evers disagreed with Michels’ assessment. “I’m still trying to battle the issue of lazy Wisconsinites when we have so few people that are unemployed in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said. Michels also stated he wanted to reform the tax code to make Wisconsin more competitive with other states.

Another notable part of the debate centered on addressing inflation and creating a plan to utilize the state’s projected $4.3 billion surplus. Evers pointed to the record surplus as a sign that his administration did the right thing during the pandemic by sending federal dollars to small businesses and family farms. Michels countered that the surplus was an indication the state had been overtaxing residents to the tune of $6 billion. Both candidates promised tax cuts for middle-class families to help with rising costs and as a way to spend down a portion of the surplus. “We’re going to lower our taxes on middle-class folks in the state of Wisconsin by 10%,” Evers said. Michels promised “massive tax reform” to “get more money in people’s pockets here in Wisconsin.”

Warren stumps for Evers

Cropped Approved CFF

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) joined Governor Tony Evers (D-Plymouth), candidate for Lt. Governor Sara Rodriguez (D-Brookfield), and Attorney General Josh Kaul this week for a rally on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The event was focused on early voting and mobilizing students to turn out at the polls. “This is a big fight. This is a monumental fight for the future of Wisconsin,” Warren said. “When there is this much at stake. We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back. I’m in this to fight back.” Warren was also critical of Michels’ positions on abortion and the 2020 presidential election. “Tim Michels crawled into bed with the election deniers, and the conspiracy theorists, and offered to use his office to undermine our democracy,” Warren said.

The progressive senator from Massachusetts also spent time highlighting decisions made by U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) that she disagreed with. Warren pointed to Johnson voting against capping insulin costs, co-sponsoring federal abortion bans, and proposing to switch Social Security and Medicare from mandatory to discretionary spending as reasons Wisconsinites should not vote to re-elect Johnson. “Ron Johnson is for Ron Johnson and for extremist Republicans, and he wants a partner in the governor’s office,” Warren said.

Warren is not the only high-profile Democrat visiting Wisconsin in October. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and former President Barack Obama will also be making stops in the Badger State this week to stump for Democratic candidates Mandela Barnes and Tony Evers.

Youngkin stumps for Michels

Virginia’s GOP governor Glenn Youngkin joined gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels (R-Chenequa) for a get-out-the-vote rally this week in Waukesha. Also speaking at the rally were U.S. Congressmen Bran Steil (R-Janesville) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), as well as state Senate candidate Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield).

Taking the stage at the rally, Youngkin said Democrats like Governor Tony Evers (D-Plymouth) are “agents of chaos,” who are failing the country. “Everything they touch, they make worse,” Youngkin said. The Governor of Virginia pointed to rising crime, inflation, border security, and the spread of fentanyl as issues Democratic policies have made worse. Citing his own experiences in Virginia, Youngkin claimed he saw Democratic politicians “actually let prisoners out of prison who were not even eligible yet for parole, because they were criminal-friendly, they were not victim-protecting.”

Youngkin also touched on how close the race between Michels and Evers is and encouraged rally-goers to find 10 friends and make them promise to vote for Michels. “You got to knock doors, you got to make phone calls. Every head should have a hat, every yard should have a sign, every car should have a bumper sticker,” Youngkin said.

Evers’ campaign releases two new ads

This week, Governor Evers’ campaign released two new ads. The campaign did not release any of the details regarding either ad buy, however according to AdImpact, Evers has more than $4.1 million reserved in paid media now through election day. In addition to that, those backing Evers have reported more than $8 million reserved for the final two weeks. Evers’ GOP Challenger Tim Michels and his backers have reserved more than $7.7 million.

The first ad features an Oconomowoc mom who says getting her kids a good education is one of the most important things for her, and that she’s concerned when she hears Tim Michels say that “we’re already throwing so much money at education.”

The second ad features Evers and his wife Kathy talking about their favorite local pizza spot and that “we needed to help places like this” when the pandemic hit. Evers goes on to tout more than a billion dollars in grants and tax cuts to help small businesses prevent layoffs and create jobs.

Watch the first ad here: Tony for Wisconsin: “Mom” 

Watch the second ad here: Tony for Wisconsin: “Dino’s” 

Michels’ campaign releases new ad

GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels released a new ad this week in which he promises to “stop the madness.” No information was provided regarding the ad buy, however according to data collected by AdImpact, Michels and his backers have more than $7.7 million in paid media reserved through Election Day. That’s in contrast to the more than $12 million Evers and his allies have reserved for the final two weeks of the race. In the ad, Michels claims Evers has released Wisconsin’s worst criminals, killed jobs, paid people not to work, and let “so much go up in flames.”

Watch the ad here: Up In Flames

RGA releases ad opposing Evers’ re-election bid

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) released a new ad opposing Governor Tony Evers this week. The ad is part of the largest buy from RGA through its ACC Wisconsin 2022 PAC and is listed at $3.3 million according to AdImpact. The ad focuses on the release of violent offenders through parole, with the narrator calling them “the very worst criminals in Wisconsin history” and saying families weren’t notified of their release.

Watch the ad here: ACC Wisconsin: Worst Criminals

Restoration PAC releases ad opposing Evers’ re-election bid

Restoration PAC released a new ad this week opposing Governor Tony Evers’s re-election bid. The ad is part of a reported $900,000 buy on TV. The ad discusses how Evers once headed an agency that suggested white people wear “privileged wristbands.” The narrator says during the ad that “when he had a chance to stop the poison of judging young students by their skin color, he vetoed the legislation. Let’s judge Tony Evers by his actions. Vote for a new governor.”

Watch the ad here: Poison

Sunrise in America Political Fund releases ad opposing Evers’ re-election bid

The Sunrise in America Political Fund released a new ad this week that links Governor Tony Evers to President Joe Biden. The ad is part of a $500,000 spend and is running in the La Crosse and Eau Claire markets on broadcast, cable TV, and radio. The ad states that things have been bad under Biden and Evers, but it will only get worse because “winter is coming” and heating bills are expected to go up 28%. The ad says this is an extra burden on Wisconsinites who are already dealing with inflationary pain at the pump, grocery checkout, and on rent.

Watch the ad here: Winter Is Coming

Legislative Races 

Pre-Election Look at Most Competitive Legislative Races 

The story heading into the 2022 Elections is not whether Republicans will retain strong majorities in both houses of the Legislature, they will and will likely grow them, but how many new lawmakers will be elected this cycle. 30 lawmakers have announced they will not be seeking re-election to their current office, the third largest turnover in one election in state history.

Read Michael Best Strategies’ comprehensive memo to get the insight and analysis on the most competitive state legislative races in Wisconsin for the 2022 Elections.

RACC puts $229K into 73rd AD race 

The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee (RACC) transferred more than $229,000 into 73rd Assembly District candidate Angie Sapik’s campaign during the pre-election reporting period. This comes as RACC begins to move money late in the campaign cycle and as Republicans look to secure a veto-proof majority in the Assembly.

Sapik reported $262,861 in receipts during the pre-election filing period. She also reported $246,955 in expenses and ended the period with $15,906 in the bank. Sapik’s Democratic opponent, Laura Gapske, had not filed her report with the state yet as it is not due until October 31st.

Attorney General’s Race 

Kaul and Toney face off in second debate

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and GOP challenger Eric Toney met in Madison at the Wisconsin State Bar Association for their second and final debate before the November 8 general election. Toney argued Kaul should not be re-elected because of slow turnaround times on evidence testing at the state crime labs and leaving investigator and prosecutor positions unfilled at the state Department of Justice. Kaul claimed Toney was exaggerating the number of unfilled positions and confirmed a report released by DOJ earlier in October that showed 83 of 90 special agent positions were filled and 43 of 50 prosecutor were filled was in fact accurate. “Mr. Toney doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Kaul said.

For his part, Kaul focused on Toney’s promise to enforce Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban and argued Toney wants to use the authority and resources of DOJ to prosecute women and doctors for having an abortion. “Our AG needs to have public safety as its top priority,” Kaul said. “Not a far-right, radical agenda that wants to make sure a law with no exceptions for rape or incest… is enforced.” Toney shot back, “what you just heard is the attorney general calling a district attorney a ‘radical’ because we would enforce the rule of law.”

Watch the debate here

Kaul releases new ad featuring National Sheriffs’ Association President 

Attorney General Josh Kaul is out with a new ad this week which features National Sheriffs’ Association President and former Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney. According to AdImpact, the ad will air in Milwaukee, Green Bay-Appleton, La Crosse-Eau Claire, and the Wausau-Rhinelander markets. No details of the ad price was provided, however Kaul and the Democratic Attorneys General Association have $2.2 million in paid media reserved over the final two weeks of the race. In the ad, Mahoney touts his 40-year law enforcement career and says that he cannot think of a better Attorney General candidate. Mahoney also praises Kaul for putting murderers, serial rapists, and other violent criminals in prison.

Watch the ad here: The Real Thing

Post-Session Updates 

Reading and math scores drop in Wisconsin

Fourth and eighth grade students’ reading and math scores declined in Wisconsin since 2019, just as they have in most states across the nation. Nationally, the average math score for fourth grade students dropped five points compared to 2019, and the score for eighth graders declined by eight points. Meanwhile, reading scores for both fourth and eighth graders dropped three points. In Wisconsin, the average math score of fourth graders decreased by five percent compared to 2019, and the average score for eighth graders declined by 7.52 points. Reading scores also declined, with the average reading score for fourth graders dropping by 2.33 points and eighth graders by 5.15 percent. The data is from the National Assessment of Educational Progress or the “Nation’s Report Card.” The assessment provides math and reading scores on a scale of 0 to 500 and rates the percentage of students who have reached NAEP achievement levels of basic, proficient, and advanced. The report also states that Wisconsin has the highest black-white racial gap of any state in the country based on average scores for both grades in each subject.

In response to the report, state Superintendent Jill Underly stated that the results reflect a national trend showing that students are recovering from disruptions to learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Underly stated, “Recovery is a continuous journey, and we haven’t yet reached a destination we are satisfied with, nor do we just want to return to where we were before.” GOP Gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels responded to the report stating, “Tony Evers has failed us for four years as governor and for four decades as an education leader. We now trail even Illinois in 4th grade reading proficiency. Time for a change.” Evers campaign spokesperson Sam Roecker in response to Michels’ statement said, “Instead of supporting parents, students, and teachers, Tim Michels wants to bring his radical and divisive brand of politics to our kids’ classrooms— his agenda for our schools could lead to endless lawsuit against school districts and could raise property taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

State Senator Alberta Darling also criticized Evers regarding the data showing Black students scoring behind white students in Milwaukee schools. She stated, “although our state tests have indicated this, we now know where Milwaukee stands with other major U.S. cities. This is heartbreaking, our kids deserve better and instead we have bureaucrats fighting bipartisan reforms while schools continue to try the same failed methods that got us here.” Sen. Darling’s Democratic colleague on the education committee, Sen. Chris Larson, stated in a tweet that the scores reveal “hard truths” about the state of K-12 education in Wisconsin. Senator Larson said that “1) Despite pandemic setbacks, WI is still in the top 10 of states for reading & math 2) Our racial achievement gap is still shamefully the worst in the U.S. 3) Voucher schools have failed to fix these inequities.”

U.S. Senate Race

Campaign Finance Update

Ron Johnson
$ Raised: $2.6 million
$ Spent: $3.6 million
Cash on Hand: $3.5 million

Mandela Barnes
$ Raised: $8.5 million
$ Spent: $9.4 million
Cash on Hand: $2.5 million

In the final look at fundraising numbers before the November general election, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes reported that he had out-raised his opponent U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) by almost $6 million. The most recent reporting period, which ran from October 1 – 19, saw Barnes raise $8.5 million, spend $9.4 million, and have $2.5 million in cash on hand. Johnson raised $2.6 million, spent $3.6 million, and had $3.5 million in cash on hand to finish the reporting period.

The pre-general report comes less than two weeks after the October quarterly report that showed Barnes outraised Johnson $19.5 million to $11.6 million between July 21 and September 30.

New polls released in U.S. Senate race

Two new polls were released this week in the U.S. Senate race. A new CNN poll conducted by SSRS showed U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) had the support of 50% of likely voters while his Democratic rival Mandela Barnes was backed by 49%. The poll of 714 likely voters was conducted October 13-17 using a combination of online and telephone interviews. The margin of error is +/- 4.5%. FiveThirtyEight rates SSRS a C pollster.

A new Data for Progress poll found 51% of likely voters supported Johnson while 46% backed Barnes. The poll of 1,376 likely voters was conducted October 14-22 using a combination of text messages, live calls, and web panel respondents. The sample was weighted according to age, gender, education, race, geography and voting history. The margin of error is +/- 3%. FiveThirtyEight rates Data for Progress a B pollster.

Barnes releases three new ads

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes released three new ads this week. The first ad comes ahead of former President Barack Obama’s visit to Milwaukee on Saturday. The Barnes campaign stated the ad will run on digital and radio in Milwaukee, but did not provide any information regarding the cost of the ad buy. In the ad, Obama states that Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is in Wisconsin’s hands. Obama then goes on to tout Mandela Barnes and his endorsement of Barnes.

The second ad by Barnes accuses U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) of failing to make things better during his time in office. According to AdImpact, the spot is running in the Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Wausau, and La Crosse/Eau Claire markets. In the ad, Barnes states that Johnson has had 12 years in office, “but costs are still rising and all he’s managed to do is write a tax cut for himself.”

The third ad was released by the Barnes campaign in conjunction with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and is critical of Johnson over his position on abortion. According to AdImpact, the ad is a joint buy of $325,690 and will run for the final two weeks of the race. In the ad, the narrator states that Johnson cosponsored a bill that would have banned abortions with no exception for rape, incest, or life of the mother, and that Johnson said if women don’t like Wisconsin abortion laws, they “can just move.”

Watch the first ad here: Obama

Watch the second ad here: Believe

Watch the third ad here: Won’t Stop There 

Johnson, NRSC release new ad

U.S Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) released a new ad that claims Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes “supports all the policies causing you and your family so much pain.” Additional details on the spot were not available.

Watch the ad here: Causing You Pain

SLF releases new ad opposing Barnes’ re-election bid

The GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) released a new ad critical of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes’ positions on cash bail and police funding. According to AdImpact, the group has $4.5 million in paid media reserved for the final two weeks of the race. Additional details on the spot were not available.

Watch the ad here: SLF: “Not Sexy” 30s – WI

Wisconsin Truth PAC ad opposes Barnes’ re-election bid

Wisconsin Truth PAC is out with a new ad claiming Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes supports “a massive tax increase on middle class families,” and wants to hire “an army of IRS agents to audit working families.” The GOP-aligned super PAC said it would be spending almost $1.3 million over the final two weeks of the race. Additional details on the spot were not available.

Watch the ad here: You Already Know 30s

3rd Congressional District Race 

Campaign Finance Update

Derrick Van Orden
$ Raised: $291,135
$ Spent: $1.1 million
Cash on Hand: $554,078

Brad Pfaff
$ Raised: $229,130
$ Spent: $444,164
Cash on Hand: $116,516

In the final look at fundraising numbers before the November general election, Republican 3rd CD candidate Derrick Van Orden reported that he had out-spent his opponent Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) by nearly $800,000. The most recent reporting period, which ran from October 1 – 19, saw Van Orden raise $291,135, spend $1.1 million, and have $554,078 in cash on hand. Pfaff raised $229,130, spent $444,164, and had $116,516 in cash on hand to finish the reporting period.

The pre-general report comes on the heels of news from the Dem-aligned House Majority PAC that it pulled $1.7 million in paid media reserved to support Pfaff for the final two weeks of the race.

House Majority PAC drops ad buy for Pfaff

Wisconsin 3rd CD candidate Braf Pfaff’s (D-Onalaska) campaign has less money in paid media support than he did at the beginning of the week. That’s because House Majority PAC decided to drop the $1.7 million it had reserved in ad buys for Pfaff for the final two weeks of the race. The Dem-aligned super PAC’s move leaves Pfaff with significantly less paid media spending than his Republican opponent Derrick Van Orden for the final stretch of the campaign. According to AdImpact, Van Orden and his GOP allies had $1.2 million in paid media reserved for the final two weeks of the race compared to the $260,000 that Pfaff and his Democratic backers plan to spend.

The Pfaff campaign declined to comment on House Majority PAC’s decision to pull funding.

Cook Political Report moves 3rd CD to “likely Republican”

Cook Political Report announced Tuesday that it moved Wisconsin’s 3rd CD from “lean Republican” to “likely Republican.” The move comes after FiveThirtyEight’s generic ballot average showed the GOP regained the lead over Democrats for the first time since August and after House Majority PAC pulled its paid media funding for 3rd CD Democratic candidate Brad Pfaff.

Earlier this month, the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball also moved the 3rd CD from “lean Republican” to “likely Republican.”

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 

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