2020 WRA Election Recap


 Joe Murray  |    December 16, 2020
Election Recap

With the 2020 elections in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a deep breath and explore how the elections turned out in Wisconsin. As you know, the WRA and local boards spend a lot of time and effort in congressional and state legislative elections in the Badger State, so let’s review how the candidates the WRA supported fared in the November 3 elections.

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The WRA and the National Association of REALTORS® do not take a position in the presidential contest. However, top-of-the-ticket elections have significant influence on down-ballot races, and the results from the 2020 presidential race in Wisconsin surprised many political prognosticators in November. For the most part, polling showed a clear and comfortable lead for Joe Biden, but the polls were wrong.

The Biden-Trump race was, once again, extremely close. Biden won Wisconsin by only 20,540 votes, which is less than one percentage point. In 2016, Trump carried Wisconsin by only 22,748 votes, just under one percentage point. In the end, Wisconsin was truly “in play” for both sides, and Biden hung on for a very narrow victory.

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Going into the November 3 elections, most political insiders didn’t think there would be a lot of competition in Wisconsin congressional elections, except for the 3rd Congressional District in western Wisconsin held by Ron Kind (D-WI). Kind did have a close election, but in the end, he pulled out a narrow win. 

All other members of the congressional delegation had easy victories. A couple of facts are noteworthy: State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) will replace longtime Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner in the 5th Congressional District; and with his 24 years of service, Ron Kind is now the senior member of the Wisconsin congressional delegation.

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Every two years, one half of the Wisconsin Senate must run for reelection. In 2020, the even-numbered seats were on the ballot, and five of these 16 total seats were seriously contested. Heading into November 3, Senate Republicans held a 19-14 majority.

The goal for Senate Republicans in the 2020 election cycle was to grow their 19-14 Senate majority by three seats to reach a 22-11 supermajority. The goal for Senate Democrats was to stop the Republicans from reaching their goal. In the end, Republicans picked up two seats, bringing their new majority to 21-12. 

Democrat Brad Pfaff of Senate District 32 narrowly defeated former GOP Senator Dan Kapanke by 600 votes to keep the Republicans from reaching supermajority in the state Senate. Republicans, however, carried all four remaining targeted seats including Senate District 8 with Alberta Darling, 10 with Rob Stafsholt, 24 with Patrick Testin, and 30 with Eric Wimberger.

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Every two years, all 99 members of the Wisconsin Assembly must run for reelection. Going into this election cycle with a historically large and very comfortable 63-36 majority, Assembly Republicans, just like their Senate colleagues, had a similar supermajority goal. To reach that goal, Assembly Republicans needed to hold all 63 of their current seats as well as add three more to reach a total of 66 seats.

In the end, the Assembly Republicans failed to meet their supermajority goal for two significant reasons. First, with a 63-36 majority heading into a potentially difficult election cycle, Assembly Republicans were on defense. With a big majority and what appeared at the time as a “blue wave” election unfolding, Assembly Republicans found themselves in a defensive posture trying to protect a number of potentially vulnerable suburban seats from flipping from red to blue in November. Secondly, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin raised a record amount of money that was transferred into state legislative seats all over Wisconsin, putting more seats “in play” with a two-to-one or better cash advantage. After all the votes were counted, Assembly Republicans lost only two seats and maintained a solid 61-38 majority.

In the end, there was no blue wave in the November election, and while Assembly Republicans lost two seats in suburban Milwaukee, Senate Republicans picked up two. Bottom line: legislative Republicans held 82 seats going into November 3 and have 82 seats today. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Wisconsin, but very little changed in down-ballot congressional and legislative elections.

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

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