Republicans Aim for Super Majority in State Assembly

 Joe Murray  |    April 13, 2020
Republicans Aim for Super Majority

For nearly three decades, Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly have languished in the political minority. Over the last 29 years, Republicans have controlled the Assembly for 24 years; Democrats only five. It’s been a long and powerless dry spell for Democrats in the legislature’s Assembly chamber.

In 2020, Assembly Democrats could face a new challenge. Republicans currently hold a 63-36 majority in the lower House, only three seats shy of a historic veto-proof majority that could be used to override vetoes made by Gov. Tony Evers. If the political environment remains competitive at the top of the ticket and the GOP finds a path to 66 seats, this will enhance the power of the legislature at the expense of Evers. A GOP super majority could have enormous consequences on major issues in the next legislative session.

The possibility of a veto-proof Assembly GOP majority has not been lost on Democrats. Their 2020 goal is to identify competitive districts where they can pick up seats and stop the GOP from reaching a super majority. This article takes a closer look at the Assembly districts most likely to be ‚Äúin play‚ÄĚ as the election season moves into high gear.

13 seats: In June, all candidates must file their nomination papers, and the list of competitive districts could expand or shrink. As it stands today, 13 Assembly districts are currently on the potentially competitive list: eight districts are located in rural Wisconsin, five in urban territory; eight districts are located in western Wisconsin; five on the eastern side of the state; nine districts are represented by Republicans, four by Democrats. These unique characteristics signal more geographic balance and political balance this cycle with the competitive districts than the previous two election cycles.

Political geography: The 13 seats on this list are fairly well distributed between western Wisconsin with eight seats and eastern Wisconsin with five seats, and there are three primary factors that place these districts on the early list: 

  1. The ‚Äúcompetitive‚ÄĚ election history of each Assembly district.
  2. The growing partisan divide between urban and rural voters. 
  3. The top-of-the-ticket competitiveness in the presidential election in November.

If the presidential election is close in Wisconsin, the eight rural districts on this list will likely perform well for Republicans and the five urban districts slightly better for Democrats. The political choices of urban and rural voters have moved farther apart over the last 10 years in the Badger State.

President Trump carried rural Wisconsin comfortably in 2016 but underperformed in traditionally conservative suburban districts. If this dynamic holds again in 2020, Democrats will zero-in on eastern Wisconsin suburban districts where Republicans hold four of the five seats. The GOP, on the other hand, will target rural, western Wisconsin districts held by Democrats in northern Wisconsin. Both sides can be expected to target political geography that favors their party.

 Open seats: Only one seat on this list is open, with no incumbent, heading into the November elections, the 29th Assembly District currently held by state Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond). Stafsholt is running for the 10th Senate District held by Sen. Patty Schachtner (D-Somerset). Open seats are generally more susceptible to flipping from one party to the other in competitive districts. If other competitive districts open up due to retirement, both Democrats and Republicans will target more financial resources into those districts.

 It’s still early in the 2020 election cycle, so it’s very possible for other competitive districts to be included on this list. Watch for more information on these districts and others in future editions of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine.

Joe Murray is Director of Political and Governmental Affairs for the WRA. 

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