In this update:

  • Administration Updates
  • Legislative Updates
  • Election Updates
  • Fundraising Opportunities

Administration Updates

LFB releases analysis on fiscal impact of Evers’ Budget

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo this week on fiscal impact of the governor’s proposed budget which stated that Wisconsinites could see a net increase in taxes and fees of more than $108 million. In addition to this, measures proposed in the governor’s budget to improve tax collection efforts would generate another $34.1 million. The memo states that although Gov. Evers proposed nearly $1.5 billion in tax reductions including a 10% break for the middle class, these reductions are overshadowed by the proposed increases on manufacturers and investors.

In response to this, the GOP co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee called out the Governor for touting his budget as cutting Wisconsinite’s taxes when in reality it would result in a net increase statewide. Co-chairs Rep. Born and Sen. Marklein stated, “This is another example of why Republicans will go back to base, remove his tax increase, and build a budget that is made for Wisconsin.” Governor Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback responded that the governor has been working on tax breaks that are “real, responsible tax relief that’s targeted to the middle class and working families who need breathing room in their household budgets, not to splurge on big breaks for millionaires and billionaires who don’t need any extra help making ends meet.”

State Building Commission deadlocks on capital budget

The State Building Commission deadlocked along partisan lines on approving Governor Tony Evers’ capital budget with 4 Democrats voting in favor and four Republicans opposed. The $3.8 billion capital budget proposed by the governor now goes to the Joint Committee on Finance without a recommendation. Gov. Evers said the GOP was playing politics rather than having “a meaningful discussion about how these projects would serve the needs of the folks they represent.” “Despite today’s unfortunate outcome, we will continue to fight for these projects as we work to invest in and build 21st century infrastructure in communities across our state,” Gov. Evers said.

In contrast, Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu praised the move to not recommend, saying more information is needed on inflation projections from DOA before the capital spending is approved. “The Department of Administration’s inflation estimate has added as much as 50% to construction costs for some building projects,” Sen. LeMahieu said. “This faulty calculation could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary cost overruns.”

La Follette retires

Democratic Secretary of State, Doug La Follette, has decided to retire three months into his 12th term. Governor Evers immediately announced the appointment of former State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski (D) to fill the position. Under state law, the Governor has the power to fill a vacancy in the Secretary of State’s office, and Ms. Godlewski will serve the remainder of La Follette’s term.

In response to the Governor’s decision to fill the vacancy through an appointment instead of a special election, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu stated “Gov. Evers has repeatedly acted to subvert the normal course of elections in Wisconsin. He has already tried to cancel a regularly scheduled election mere days before voting and is now denying Wisconsinites the chance to choose one of their statewide, elected office holders. This suggests a pre-meditated action to award the power of incumbency to a partisan ally. It is an insult to voters of Wisconsin and our democratic process. I call on the Governor to immediately call a special election to give the people of Wisconsin the opportunity to select their representative to fill this vacancy.”

Governor Evers dismissed GOP criticism, stating that he found out that former Secretary La Follette was retiring on March 14th, and he contacted Ms. Godlewski the following day because her former role as treasurer “intersected significantly” with the role of secretary of state. “This is such an odd, odd story that the Republicans have put into place here, you know, the idea that somehow I colluded with Godlewski and Mandela and all these other people,” Governor Evers said.

On Wednesday, the Legislature passed along party lines a joint resolution calling on Gov. Evers to exercise his powers to call an “immediate” special election to fill the office because “the voters of Wisconsin expect, deserve, and are entitled to select their state constitutional officers.” In his time speaking on the resolution, Majority Leader LeMahieu (R) emphasized the fact that there are 3 years and 9 months remaining in the term and that the people should be allowed to choose their secretary of state. Senator Roys (R) spoke in opposition to the resolution and called it “another Republican scheme”. The nonbinding joint resolution passed in the Senate 20-11 and the Assembly 62-35.

Payne makes DNR leadership appointments

Wisconsin DNR Secretary Adam Payne announced today his appointment of Steven Little as DNR Deputy Secretary and Mark Aquino as Assistant Deputy Secretary. According to the press release, Mr. Little has served as the Assistant Deputy Secretary since 2020 while Mr. Aquino has been a manager at the DNR since 2001. Regarding the appointments, Sec. Payne said “I have spent the last few months getting to know our team and have been so impressed with the knowledge, passion and dedication of everyone that I have met. Steven and Mark are highly regarded, and I am looking forward to working closely with them and our strong leadership team.

          Steven Little                                                Mark Aquino

                 DNR Deputy Secretary                             DNR Assistant Deputy Secretary


Legislative Updates

Dems introduce “Restore Roe” Act

Governor Tony Evers and Lt. Governor Sara Rodriguez joined Senator Kelda Roys (D) and Representative Lisa Subeck (D) on Tuesday to announce new legislation to repeal the 1849 abortion ban. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, this bill “repeals a statute that provides that any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony”. Governor Evers said, “I’ve been clear from the beginning that I won’t sign a bill that leaves Wisconsin women with fewer rights and freedoms than they had before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe. This bill will simply restore access to safe, legal abortion in Wisconsin to what it was on June 23, 2022—nothing more, and nothing less. We must restore Roe, and I’m proud to join Legislative Democrats in continuing our fight to restore access to reproductive freedom in Wisconsin with a clean repeal of our state’s 1849-era criminal abortion ban.”

Co-author Senator Roys released the following in regards to the proposed bill, “Women – not politicians – are the only ones who should make decisions about their bodies, lives, and health. Abortion is common, safe, and not controversial – Wisconsinites overwhelmingly want to see their rights restored to what they were under Roe v. Wade. We cannot afford to make Wisconsin even more hostile to health care providers and pregnant people if we want our state to thrive. Everyone loves someone who will need an abortion, and no one should be treated like a criminal when they do.”

The Democrats’ new bill comes a week after Republican lawmakers introduced a bill to allow exceptions for rape and incest. Governor Evers stated, “Let’s have a debate. The Republicans have their bill, the Democrats have their bill. The people of Wisconsin should be able to hear a debate about this issue.”

Senate confirms three of Evers’ cabinet picks

The state Senate unanimously confirmed without debate three of Governor Tony Evers’ cabinet picks on Wednesday. The confirmed nominees include WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes, Tourism Secretary Anne Sayers, and Insurance Commissioner Nathan Houdek. The votes to confirm were the first taken on Gov. Evers’ nominees since Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said he would restart the confirmation process following Gov. Evers’ re-election in November 2022.

    Missy Hughes                          Anne Sayers                 Nathan Houdeck

Election Updates

Supreme Court candidates meet for only debate

On Tuesday, state Supreme Court candidates Janet Protasiewicz and Dan Kelly met for their only debate before the April 4th election. During the debate, the two were repeatedly critical of one another’s partisan connections. Liberal candidate Janet Protasiewicz stated that conservative candidate Dan Kelly is “one of the most extreme, partisan characters in the history of the state.” Former Justice Kelly rebutted that his opponent was “bought and paid for” by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), who had transferred at least $2.5 million to Judge Protasiewicz’s campaign. In response, Judge Protasiewicz promised she would recuse herself from any case involving the DPW and was additionally critical of Kelly’s opposition to a recusal standard that would require justices to withdraw from cases if there is a potential conflict due to money spent in their races.

On the issue of abortion, Judge Protasiewicz pointed out that Justice Kelly received an endorsement from anti-abortion group Wisconsin Right to Life and that the group requires candidates to pledge to “champion pro-life values.” Judge Protasiewicz, who has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, stated that any ruling she makes on the abortion ban will be based on the law and the Constitution, but that if Justice Kelly is elected she can say “with 100 percent certainty that 1849 abortion ban will stay on the books.” Justice Kelly in response claimed Judge Protasiewicz was being untruthful and stated, “That’s absolutely not true, once again. So this seems to be a pattern for you, Janet, just telling lies about me. So you don’t know what I’m thinking about that abortion ban. You have no idea.”

On Wisconsin’s legislative maps approved by the state Supreme Court last year, Judge Protasiewicz called the maps “rigged” and pledged to hear a new challenge to the lines and that her view on the maps is similar to that of the dissent filed by the court’s liberals in the decision. Justice Kelly responded that Judge Protasiewicz is telling the public how she will rule in a case, stating, “She’s already told each and every one of you how she will approach this. And although she says the formulaic words that she will follow the law, she’s never said one thing in this campaign that would lead to any reasonable belief that that’s what she would do.” Justice Kelly also asserted that Judge Protasiewicz would attempt to “steal legislative authority and use that in the courts.”

On the issue of a constitutional amendment on bail, the two candidates found common ground. Justice Kelly stated that the amendment, which is on the ballot for approval in April, would be a “good and useful change” for judges. Judge Protasiewicz agreed and said that she would take the measure further and allow for certain dangerous offenders to be held without bail. Both candidates also agreed that the Supreme Court should remain an elected position and not an appointment. Justice Kelly stated, “We are servants, and you all are the bosses. I like the idea that the servants need to come back regularly to their bosses and give a report on what they’ve done with the authority that they were loaned.”

Kelly and Protasiewicz on “UpFront”

This past week both former Justice Kelly and Judge Protasiewicz were featured on WISN’s “UpFront” for separate interviews. WISN stated that they invited both of the candidates to participate in a live statewide television debate, but only Justice Kelly agreed to do so.

In the interview, Justice Kelly discussed his thoughts on the state’s 1849 abortion ban, stating that he has continually emphasized the role of the court and its duty to remain nonpartisan. Justice Kelly says he will vote however he feels the case should be interpreted, which very well could be against the 1849 abortion ban. The conversation led to Justice Kelly discussing Judge Protasiewicz’s view of separation of powers, with him stating, “I know the difference between the court and the legislature, and I’m not sure my opponent does.” The hosts of the interview discussed with Judge Protasiewicz her endorsements from Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List and asked if she was in agreement with these groups to overturn Wisconsin’s abortion ban. Judge Protasiewicz responded, “One of my personal values is that a woman should have the right to choose and make her reproductive health care decisions. I hope that I have been equally as clear that I have no predetermined decision on how any case regarding the 1849 ban is going to turn out.” When asked about her openness on her personal values, Protasiewicz responded, “I think it’s really critical that the voters understand and know what the values of a candidate is, especially in a race such as this, a statewide Supreme Court race. Why hide behind a filmy little veil or curtain and say you’re going to make your decisions based on the law and constitution? We can all say that.”

The interview also touched on the topic of recusal, specifically how Judge Protasiewicz has stated she will recuse herself from any case involving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, while Justice Kelly has not committed to the same with the Republican Party of Wisconsin. In response, Justice Kelly stated, “We’re not accepting contributions from the Republican Party the way that she is.” UpFront’s moderator also brought up Judge Protasiewicz’s ads that claim Justice Kelly is corrupt and asked, “Can you be bought?” Justice Kelly said, “No. Absolutely not. I appreciate you bringing this up because this is infuriating, truly infuriating. This is supposed to be a judicial campaign and now a serial liar, like my opponent, comes out and tries to trash my father’s legacy. That’s appalling and it’s inexcusable.”

On the record-breaking cost of this election, Judge Protasiewicz said, “Well, I’ll tell you, Supreme Court races are very, very expensive, and it’s hard to get our message out. So yes, it’s very expensive, but we’re also having the ability to talk to people all over the state to make sure our message comes out.” Judge Protasiewicz also defended her time as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge and a number of sentences that she gave out with little or no jail time to repeat violent offenders. When asked why she ruled the way she did, Judge Protasiewicz responded, “I’d say this: hindsight’s 20/20. If somebody re-offends, and I have information in front of me indicating, you know, helping me, fashion a sentence that I think is appropriate. I do that based on the information that I have. If they later re-offend, sometimes they do, you know, I’m not able to tell necessarily who’s going to re-offend. Of course, looking back on it, I say I wish I would have known that you were going to re-offend, right? Of course, I do.”

WMC poll shows SCOWIS race within margin of error

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) shared an internal poll with WisPolitics this week that shows liberal Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz with a narrow lead over conservative candidate Dan Kelly, as well as a large portion of likely voters still undecided. The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted on Mar. 21st using live calls with 60% over cell phones. The poll’s margin of error is +/-4.3%.

According to the poll, Judge Protasiewicz has the support of 43% of likely voters while former Justice Kelly is backed by 41%. Notably, 16% of respondents were still undecided as to who they would vote for in April. According to WMC, a poll conducted earlier this month found Judge Protasiewicz leading Justice Kelly 45-41.

The latest poll also found that Judge Protasiewicz’s favorability is +4 with 39% of respondents having a favorable opinion of the liberal candidate and 35% having an unfavorable one. According to WMC, the poll it sponsored earlier this month showed Judge Protasiewicz’s favorability +10 with a 38-28 split. WMC declined to shared Justice Kelly’s favorability numbers. Also of note, the poll found 40% of Republican respondents said they will definitely vote in the SCOWIS race, compared to 34% of Democrats.

The earlier poll of 700 likely voters was conducted Mar. 2nd using live calls with a margin of error of +/-3.7%. Both polls were conducted by OnMessage Inc, which is rated a B/C pollster by FiveThirtyEight.

Protasiewicz releases five new ads

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz released five new ads titled “Ethics”“Anna”“Assets”“Gavel”, and “The Truth”. The first ad features several people, including former Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney and his successor Kalvin Barrett, claiming Justice Kelly corrupt.

The second ad features a woman named Anna from Green Bay who says she had to have an abortion because of serious health complications during her pregnancy. She then claims Justice Kelly doesn’t believe women should have that freedom and would uphold the state’s ban on abortion.

The third ad features three seniors who say they depend on social security and earned it. They claim Justice Kelly compared social security to slavery and wrote that those on the program are “people who have chosen to retire without sufficient assets to support themselves.”

The fourth ad claims Justice Kelly wants abortion banned even in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother and would uphold the state’s 1849 ban that allows doctors and nurses to be jailed.

The final ad is running statewide on radio and claims Justice Kelly “wants to feed you a dirty pack of lies because he can’t stand on his own record.”

  Ad 1                                     Ad 2

Ad 3                                 Ad 4                                    Ad 5

Project Democracy PAC releases ad

Project Democracy PAC recently released a new ad as a part of their six-figure digital buy in support of Judge Janet Protasiewicz titled, “Wisconsin Business Leaders Support Judge Janet Protasiewicz”. The ad is set to target business executives and economic leaders in Wisconsin, as well as over 200,000 voters who identify as moderate, centrist, independent, lean Democratic or lean Republican. The ad features three business leaders who say they have had enough of the “endless attacks on our democracy.” The ad then seeks to tie former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election to conservative Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly and says, “Anyone who has attempted to undermine our elections is not fit for the Supreme Court.”

Gun control group releases ad backing Protasiewicz

Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund recently announced a new TV ad against conservative Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly. The ad will be aired in the Madison and Milwaukee markets as a part of a $500,000 buy. The ad begins by focusing on abortion, stating that Justice Kelly “worked for a radical anti-abortion group” and could uphold Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban on the court. The focus then shifts to gun control and says that Justice Kelly wrote the opinion on a case that “[makes] it easier for dangerous people to carry guns in public.” The narrator closes by stating, “Dan Kelly is too extreme for our Supreme Court.”

Wisconsin Family Action supports Kelly with new advocacy campaign

Pro-life advocacy group Wisconsin Family Action Inc. announced a $225,000 statewide effort to encourage Wisconsin voters to vote for conservative Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly. According to a press release announcing the multimedia advocacy campaign, the ads will “educate voters about the judicial philosophy of each candidate and seek to motivate them to cast their ballots accordingly.” Two digital ads released as part of the effort claim liberal candidate Janet Protasiewicz will overturn the state’s 1849 abortion ban and allow “unlimited abortions,” as well as overturn the state’s legislative maps.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America backs Kelly with new ad

Conservative group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America launched a new advocacy campaign this week to support former Justice Dan Kelly in his bid for state Supreme Court. The group send it plans to spend $2 million on canvassing, TV, and digital ads. The TV ad claims Judge Janet Protasiewicz “showed sympathy” for a violent sex offender by allowing him back on the street instead of ordering jail time.

A Better Wisconsin Together steps up spending for Protasiewicz

A Better Wisconsin Together has upped its spending on mail, digital, and radio ads to support liberal Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz, according to new records filed by the group this week. The new buys total $761,723 and promote Judge Protasiewicz as highly qualified for the state Supreme Court because of her longtime experience as a prosecutor.

Listen to the radio ad: click here

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.