Outside Political Groups Target Wisconsin in 2018

 Joe Murray  |    March 08, 2018

The 2018 midterm elections in Wisconsin are very likely to generate a record level of campaign spending in top-of-the-ticket races and down-ballot elections as well. This year’s elections include the race for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, U.S. Congress and state legislative positions. And with the single, significant exception of Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Republicans hold all the power in Wisconsin and have the most to lose if the 2018 elections prove to be difficult for the GOP.

Democrats sense an opportunity to finally take back some of the power they lost in the 2010 elections when Wisconsin flipped from blue to red in one of the worst midterm election cycles for their party in decades. With legislative and congressional redistricting at stake in the next few years, national Democrats and their third-party allies have zeroed in on three specific 2018 election targets in Wisconsin to prevent their party from being locked out of the redistricting process for another 10 years: governor, attorney general and state Senate.

If Democrats can defeat Gov. Walker or flip the state Senate to Democratic control, they will have a seat at the table for the 2021 redistricting process — unlike 2011 when the GOP controlled all branches of government and redrew the lines to their benefit. 

In order to help Democrats regain at least one level of power in state government, three outside political organizations have already announced their intention to fundraise and organize in Wisconsin elections this year. Two of the three groups are dedicated to defeating Gov. Scott Walker and flipping the state Senate from Republican to Democratic control, and the other organization is seeking to defeat current Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Here’s a brief look at the three organizations.

National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC): This relatively new Democratic group plans to spend millions of dollars in state elections. In February, it announced plans to target 11 states in 2018, including the Wisconsin race for governor and the Wisconsin Senate. The NDRC’s goal is to defeat Gov. Walker and flip the Wisconsin Senate from Republican to Democratic control.

his committee is headed by former President Barack Obama and his former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Their mission: break the GOP monopoly on power in Wisconsin to allow Democrats to participate in the next congressional and legislative restricting process. “By focusing on these state and local races,” said Holder, “we can ensure Democrats who will fight for fairness have a seat at the table when the new maps are drawn in 2021.”
The NDRC targeted four states in the upper Midwest, including Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Today, Republicans control both houses of the legislature in all four states and three of the four governorships; Minnesota is the exception.
EMILY’S List: This longtime fundraising powerhouse has targeted 10 legislative chambers across the country, including the Wisconsin Senate. EMILY’s List backs pro-choice female candidates, and Republicans in Wisconsin have passed several pro-life-related initiatives since taking power in 2011.
EMILY’S List has a nationwide political fundraising operation, and the organization could provide tens of thousands of dollars for Wisconsin Democrats if the opportunities are there to take control of the Wisconsin Senate. The GOP controls the upper chamber 18-14.

Democratic Attorney’s General Association (DAGA): As noted in the February 2018 issue of Wisconsin Real Estate Magazine, DAGA has put a priority on five current races for attorney general, including Wisconsin. Republican incumbent Brad Schimel faces Democrat Josh Kaul in 2018, and Kaul made DAGA’s top-tier list.

State attorneys general have seen their role in the national political landscape become more partisan, and the DAGA decision to target the 2018 race for attorney general is no surprise given Wisconsin’s status as a swing state and the midterm history favoring the party outside the White House.

For now, these three organizations have made Wisconsin a priority in the 2018 election cycle. It’s very possible other outside political groups, including Republican and conservative organizations, will join them depending on the national landscape and political opportunities in Wisconsin. Either way, it’s clear that the 2018 midterm elections in Wisconsin could break all the records in overall campaign spending and grassroots organizing.

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

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