Tagwisconsin

Stories about Wisconsin

Special election preview: Milwaukee Common Council

Three out of 15 seats on the Milwaukee Common Council are up for special primary election. The nonpartisan primaries for Districts 1, 5, and 9 are on Feb. 21, 2023. The general election for all three races is scheduled for April 4. The filing deadline to run passed on Jan. 3.

Candidates for District 1 are: 

  • Zandra Bailey,
  • David Bowen, 
  • Marshall Martin, 
  • Andrea Pratt, and
  • Vincent G. Toney.

The special election was called after Ashanti Hamilton left office to become the director of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention on Aug. 30, 2022. Hamilton served from 2004 to 2022. 

Candidates for District 5 are: 

  • Ray Banks,
  • Joe Fisch,
  • Annette Jackson,
  • Jeff Spence,
  • P. Thomas Thadison III,
  • Lamont Westmoreland, and
  • Bruce Winter.

The special election was called after Nikiya Harris Dodd left office due to family and medical issues on Nov. 25, 2022. Dodd served from 2019 to 2022. 

Candidates for District 9 are: 

  • Odell Ball,
  • Amber Danyus,
  • Russell Goodwin,
  • Walt Love,
  • Cherie Ray,
  • Donna Ross,
  • Larresa Taylor, and
  • Jasmine Tyler.

The special election was called after Chantia Lewis was removed from office on July 18, 2022. Lewis served from 2016 to 2022.

Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin and the 30th-largest city in the U.S. by population.  

Additional reading: 



Special primary preview: Wisconsin State Senate District 8

The special primary for Wisconsin State Senate District 8 is on Feb. 21, 2023. Jodi Habush Sinykin (D), Janel Brandtjen (R), Daniel Knodl (R), and Van Mobley (R) are competing to advance to the special general election scheduled for April 4. The filing deadline to run passed on Jan. 3.

The special election was called after Sen. Alberta Darling (R) left office to retire on Dec. 1, 2022. Darling served from 1993 to 2022. 

As of February 2023, 23 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2023 in 11 states. Between 2011 and 2021, an average of 74 special elections took place each year. Wisconsin has held 22 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2022.  

Additional reading: 



Election preview: Wisconsin statewide primary

The statewide primary for Wisconsin is on Feb. 21, 2023. The filing deadline to run was on Jan. 3. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices: 

  • Wisconsin State Senate District 8
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court – Justice Patience Roggensack’s seat 
  • Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in the following areas: 
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The primaries for Wisconsin Court of Appeals District I, Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV, and Milwaukee County Circuit Court were canceled after fewer than three candidates filed for each election. The primaries for DeForest Area School District, Madison Metropolitan School District, McFarland School District, Middleton-Cross Plains School District, Milwaukee Public Schools, Sun Prairie Area School District, and Verona Area School District were canceled due to a lack of opposition. 

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for April 4, 2023.  Wisconsin’s primary is the 2nd to take place in the 2023 election cycle. The next primary is on May 16 in Kentucky and Pennsylvania. 

Additional reading: 



Election preview: Madison, Wisconsin

The primary for Madison, Wisconsin is on Feb. 21, 2023. Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for April 4. The filing deadline to run was on Jan. 3.

Candidates filed for Madison Common Council Districts 1-20. The primaries for districts 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 were canceled after fewer than three candidates filed for each election. 

Candidates also filed for mayor of Madison. Incumbent Satya Rhodes-Conway, Scott Kerr, and Gloria Reyes are running in the nonpartisan primary. While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party. Madison has a Democratic mayor. As of February 2023, 62 mayors in the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 26 are affiliated with the Republican Party, three are independents, seven identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, and two mayors’ affiliations are unknown.

Madison is the second-largest city in Wisconsin and the 79th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

Additional reading:



Wisconsin Supreme Court primary less than three weeks away

The top two vote-getters in the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court will advance to a general election on April 4. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow, former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell, and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz are running.

Justice Patience Roggensack, whose term will expire in July, is not running for re-election.

While supreme court elections are officially nonpartisan, the court is considered to have a 4-3 conservative majority. With Roggensack—a member of the court’s conservative majority—retiring, this election will determine the ideological control of the court. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Corrinne Hess, “[Mitchell and Protasiewicz] are running as liberal candidates. Kelly and Dorow are running as conservative candidates.”

Dorow joined the Waukesha County Circuit Court in 2012 after being appointed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). In her campaign announcement, Dorow said, “We must replace Justice Roggensack with a judicial conservative who will fairly and faithfully apply the law as written to the facts of the cases that come before the court.” Roggensack endorsed Dorow in January 2023.

Kelly previously served on the supreme court from 2016—when Walker appointed him to fill a vacancy—to 2020. Kelly said, “If an activist were to win next April, Wisconsin’s public policy would be imposed by four lawyers sitting in Madison instead of being adopted through our constitutional processes. I won’t let that happen on my watch.” Justice Rebecca Bradley endorsed Kelly in November 2022.

Mitchell, who was first elected to the Dane County Circuit Court in 2016, said, “[P]reserving the integrity and independence of the court has never been more important. … Wisconsinites deserve a justice who has the highest respect for the Wisconsin Constitution and is committed to ensuring that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is an instrument of balance and justice rather than partisan divide.” Former Justice Louis Butler endorsed Mitchell in June 2022.

Protasiewicz was first elected to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2014. Protasiewicz said, “We must restore confidence that judges aren’t just trying to reach their favored outcomes, but actually applying the law and the constitution. I’m running to restore integrity to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and get politics out of the courtroom.” Justice Rebecca Dallet endorsed Protasiewicz in May 2022.

Wisconsin reporters and political commentators have identified abortion policy, election administration, and legislative redistricting as some of the legal issues the court could address following the election. According to the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Alexander Shur, “With the court’s ideological balance up for grabs, the candidate elected in April will play a decisive role in upcoming cases that may include the legality of Wisconsin’s near-complete 1849 abortion ban, fights over legislative redistricting and the power of the executive branch in administering laws.” Wisconsin has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The governor is Democrat Tony Evers, while the Republican Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse political analyst Anthony Chergosky said in November 2022 that the entrance of a fourth candidate “injected [the race] with a lot of unpredictability,” noting the possibility of two conservative or two liberal candidates advancing to the general election. WKOW TV Capitol Bureau Chief A.J. Bayatpour and Cap Times Capitol Bureau Chief Jessie Opoien each said in January 2023 that they did not think it was likely that two conservative or two liberal candidates would advance.

Heading into the 2020 election, the court had a 5-2 conservative majority. In that election, liberal Jill Karofsky defeated Kelly 55.2% to 44.7%.

Wisconsin is one of two states holding elections for state supreme court in 2023.



Wisconsin State Legislature sends three ballot questions to the April ballot

Wisconsin voters will be deciding on three ballot questions—two constitutional measures and one advisory question—on April 4. 

The constitutional measures relate to the conditions of release for an accused individual before conviction and cash bail. The two questions were referred to the ballot with the final passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2) on Jan. 19.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature is required to approve an amendment by a majority vote in two successive sessions for the amendment to appear on the ballot.

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Assembly Joint Resolution 107 (AJR 107). The state Assembly approved AJR 107 by a vote of 70-21 on Feb. 15, 2022. The state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 23-10 on Feb. 22.

During the 2023-2024 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as SJR 2. It was approved by the state Senate on Jan. 17, 2023, by a vote of 23-9. It was approved by the state Assembly on Jan. 19, 2023, by a vote 74-23. In both chambers, Republicans supported the amendment. In the House, Democrats were divided 12-23. In the Senate, Democrats were divided 2-9.

Questions 1 and 2 both amend Article I, Section 8 of the state constitution. Question 1 would authorize the state legislature to define serious harm in relation to the conditions—designed to protect the community from serious harm—a judge imposes on an accused person released before conviction. Question 2 would authorize judges to consider the following conditions when imposing and setting cash bail:

  • a previous conviction of a violent crime, 
  • the probability the accused will not appear in court,
  • the need to protect the community from serious harm as defined by the state legislature,
  • the need to prevent witness intimidation, and
  • the potential affirmative defenses of the accused.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R), one of the sponsors of the amendment, said, “The proposed amendment also broadens the factors that a judge can consider when setting a monetary condition for release, or cash bail for violent crimes. As I said earlier, Wisconsin is the only state that only allows judges to consider a single factor when setting cash bail. Under our proposal, and for violent crimes only, judges will have the flexibility to determine bail based on the totality of circumstances.”

ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the amendment saying it “would undermine the safety and stability of people detained pretrial and their communities, exacerbate inequities in the state’s cash bail system, and raise significant concerns under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the excessive bail prohibition under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Wisconsin voters last amended this section of the state constitution in April 1981 with the passage of Question 3. It was approved by a vote of 73.15% to 26.85%. The amendment permitted the legislature to allow courts to deny, revoke, or set terms of bail.

In 2022, Ohio voters approved a similar constitutional amendment that requires courts to consider factors such as public safety, the seriousness of the offense, a person’s criminal record, and a person’s likelihood of returning to court when setting the amount of bail.

The Wisconsin State Legislature also voted to send an advisory question to the April ballot asking voters, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?” The advisory question would have no binding effect. 

To place an advisory question on the ballot, the state legislature is required to approve it by a simple majority vote in each chamber in one legislative session. The governor’s signature is not required to place it on the ballot.

The advisory question was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4). It passed the state Senate on January 17, 2023, by a vote of 22-10. On January 19, the state Assembly passed SJR 4 by a vote of 62-35. Legislative Republicans and one Democrat supported adding the question to the ballot. The remaining Democrats opposed the question.

Between 1985 and 2022, 18 measures appeared on odd-numbered year ballots in Wisconsin. Eleven measures were approved, and seven were defeated. The last spring odd-year election to include a ballot measure in Wisconsin was in 2015. Voters approved the measure, which provided for the election of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice by a majority of the justices serving on the court.

Additional reading:



These Wisconsin State Senate candidates raised the most money and lost

Elections for 17 of 32 seats in the Wisconsin State Senate took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Republicans held a 20-12 majority heading into the election.

This article details the five candidates who raised the most money and lost their election. In the 2022 election cycle, 14 of 17 general elections were contested. The losing candidates are shown along with the percentage of the vote they received compared to the winner. In cases where the race was pushed to a runoff, vote percentages for both advancing candidates are included.

State Senate candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election

This information comes from candidate reports to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission covering the period of Jan. 1, 2021, through Oct. 24, 2022.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • David Estenson – $368,184 – District 31 (Lost general 50% – 50%)
  • Kelly Westlund – $296,644 – District 25 (Lost general 43% – 57%)
  • Kristin Alfheim – $231,809 – District 19 (Lost general 46% – 54%)
  • Jessica Katzenmeyer – $109,343 – District 5 (Lost general 47% – 53%)
  • Robert Relph – $81,713 – District 27 (Lost general 32% – 68%)

State Senate candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election last cycle

This information comes from candidate reports to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission covering the period of Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • Jonathon Hansen – $1,465,744 – District 30 (Lost general 45% – 55%)
  • Neal Plotkin – $1,248,365 – District 8 (Lost general 46% – 54%)
  • Paul Piotrowski – $1,165,455 – District 24 (Lost general 44% – 56%)
  • Patty Schachtner – $753,809 – District 10 (Lost general 40% – 60%)
  • Dan Kapanke – $620,520 – District 32 (Lost general 50% – 50%)

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Wisconsin PACs submitted to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



These Wisconsin State Assembly candidates raised the most money and lost

Elections for all 99 seats in the Wisconsin State Assembly took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Republicans held a 57-38 majority heading into the election.

This article details the five candidates who raised the most money and lost their election. In the 2022 election cycle, 81 of 99 general elections were contested. The losing candidates are shown along with the percentage of the vote they received compared to the winner. In cases where the race was pushed to a runoff, vote percentages for both advancing candidates are included.

Assembly candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election

This information comes from candidate reports to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission covering the period of Jan. 1, 2021, through Oct. 24, 2022.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • Ryan Huebsch – $458,957 – District 94 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Lu Ann Bird – $395,788 – District 84 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Laura Gapske – $391,762 – District 73 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Don Vruwink – $389,271 – District 33 (Lost general 50% – 50%)
  • Ed Hibsch – $242,515 – District 64 (Lost general 43% – 57%)

Assembly candidates who raised the most money and lost their general election last cycle

This information comes from candidate reports to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission covering the period of Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2020.

The candidates who raised the most money and lost their election were:

  • Kriss Marion – $753,778 – District 51 (Lost general 48% – 52%)
  • Joel Jacobsen – $707,265 – District 63 (Lost general 42% – 58%)
  • Emily Siegrist – $686,703 – District 24 (Lost general 49% – 51%)
  • Sarah Yacoub – $542,849 – District 30 (Lost general 44% – 56%)
  • Kristin Lyerly – $468,327 – District 88 (Lost general 48% – 52%)

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Wisconsin PACs submitted to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



Fifteen of 20 Wisconsin State Senate committee chairs raised less money than the average member this cycle

Elections for 17 of 32 seats in the Wisconsin State Senate took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Republicans held a 20-12 majority heading into the election.

Committee chair fundraising

State legislative committee chairs set a committee’s legislative agenda. Some committee chairs raise significantly more money than their non-chair counterparts in the state legislature. The average amount raised by delegates who did not serve as a committee chair was $153,990. The funds raised by each of the State Senate’s 20 committee chairs are shown below.

  • Administrative Rules Committee – Stephen Nass – $39,810
  • Agriculture and Tourism Committee – Joan Ballweg – $33,736
  • Economic and Workforce Development Committee – Dan Feyen – $77,200
  • Elections, Election Process Reform and Ethics Committee – Kathy Bernier – $6,866
  • Employment Relations Committee – Chris Kapenga – $107,460
  • Financial Institutions and Revenue Committee – Dale Kooyenga – $191,882
  • Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection Committee – Duey Stroebel – $93,430
  • Housing, Commerce and Trade Committee – Dan Feyen – $77,200
  • Human Services, Children and Families Committee – Andre Jacque – $122,458
  • Information Policy and Technology Committee – Julian Bradley – $41,591
  • Insurance, Licensing and Forestry Committee – Mary Felzkowski – $148,877
  • Joint Finance Committee – Howard Marklein – $534,256
  • Joint Legislative Audit Committee – Robert Cowles – $17,662
  • Joint Legislative Council Committee – Chris Kapenga – $107,460
  • Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties – Van Wanggaard – $107,606
  • Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems – Dan Feyen – $77,200
  • Judiciary and Public Safety Committee – Van Wanggaard – $107,606
  • Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee – Stephen Nass – $39,810
  • Legislative Organization Committee – Chris Kapenga – $107,460
  • Natural Resources and Energy Committee – Robert Cowles – $17,662
  • Review of Administrative Rules Committee – Stephen Nass – $39,810
  • Senate Finance Committee – Howard Marklein – $534,256
  • Senate Health Committee – Patrick Testin – $428,547
  • Senate Organization Committee – Devin LeMahieu – $447,005
  • Sporting Heritage, Small Business and Rural Issues Committee – Rob Stafsholt – $40,658
  • Substance Abuse and Prevention Committee – Jesse James – $112,267
  • Tax Exemptions Committee – Patrick Testin – $428,547
  • Transportation and Local Government Committee – Jerry Petrowski – $1,600
  • Universities and Technical Colleges Committee – Roger Roth – $821,857
  • Utilities, Technology, and Telecommunications Committee – Julian Bradley – $41,591
  • Veterans and Military Affairs and Constitution and Federalism Committee – Eric Wimberger – $51,271

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Wisconsin PACs submitted to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.



Thirty-five of 40 Wisconsin Assembly committee chairs raised less money than the average member this cycle

Elections for all 99 seats in the Wisconsin State Assembly took place on Nov. 8, 2022. Republicans held a 57-38 majority heading into the election.

Committee chair fundraising

State legislative committee chairs set a committee’s legislative agenda. Some committee chairs raise significantly more money than their non-chair counterparts in the state legislature. The average amount raised by delegates who did not serve as a committee chair was $145,429. The funds raised by each of the Assembly’s 40 committee chairs are shown below.

The data above are based on campaign finance reports that active Wisconsin PACs submitted to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Political expenditures that are not controlled by candidates or their campaigns, known as satellite spending, are not included in candidate totals. Federal PACs are not required to report to state agencies. Transparency USA publishes campaign finance data following major reporting deadlines.

This article is a joint publication from Ballotpedia and Transparency USA, who are working together to provide campaign finance information for state-level elections. Learn more about our work here.