Incumbent Doug La Follette (D) defeated Amy Loudenbeck (R), Neil Harmon (L), and Sharyl McFarland (G) in the election for Wisconsin secretary of state on Nov. 8, 2022. County canvass results published by the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Nov. 21 showed that La Follette had received 7,442 votes more than Loudenbeck, a 0.3 percentage point margin. Loudenbeck did not request a recount—an option due to the close margin—and conceded on Nov. 21.
La Follette’s new term beginning in 2023 will be his 12th term in office.
Duties of the Wisconsin secretary of state include recording the official acts of the governor and the executive department, compiling and keeping laws and resolutions adopted by the legislature, having custody of the state’s records, and authenticating certain documents. According to Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shawn Johnson, “[M]ost of the office’s responsibilities have been outsourced to other state agencies that answer to the governor.”
The responsibilities of the office were a central issue in this race, particularly concerning election administration. Wisconsin is one of five states where the secretary of state has no election-related duties. The legislature transferred election administration responsibilities from the secretary of state to a nonpartisan elections board in 1974. Since 2016, the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission has overseen the state’s election administration. La Follette and Loudenbeck disagreed about whether the secretary of state should have a role in the state’s election system.
La Follette was first elected secretary of state in 1974 and served one term before an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 1978. He was elected secretary of state a second time in 1982 and has since served 10 consecutive terms. La Follette said that maintaining the state’s independent election system was “[t]he critical issue in this campaign for Secretary of State.” He said, “The state of Wisconsin has been a pivotal battleground in several of the past presidential elections. … For this reason, it’s more important than ever that we elect a Secretary of State that will defend our democracy over party. As America’s longest-serving incumbent Secretary of State, I have the track record and deep well of experience to do it.” La Follette also said he wanted the secretary of state’s office to again have responsibility for business-related functions.
Loudenbeck was first elected to represent District 31 in the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2010. Her campaign website stated, “The Secretary of State’s office has fallen into disrepair and disfavor thanks to the neglect of Democrat Doug La Follette who has been in that office for forty-four years.” Loudenbeck said, “[M]y goal would be to modernize the office, to be responsive to requests for authentication of documents, to be a billion dollar board member for the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands and actively engage in the role that currently exists for the secretary of state that I see as being neglected right now.” Loudenbeck said she would advocate for abolishing the Wisconsin Elections Commission and moving election administration duties such as training, guidance, voter roll maintenance, and voter outreach to the secretary of state’s office.
In 2018, Democrats gained a state government triplex in Wisconsin when Democratic candidates defeated Republican incumbents in the elections for governor and attorney general, and La Follette was re-elected. All three offices were up for election again in 2022, and each Democratic incumbent was re-elected.
This was one of 27 secretary of state elections held in 2022.