On November 8th, 2016, Wisconsin shocked the country when it turned red. As a swing state that was highly contested, many Americans believed that Wisconsin would ultimately turn toward the biggest voice that had been echoing from it: Hillary Clinton.
Like many states, the major cities within Wisconsin glowed blue: Madison, a university town, and Milwaukee, a city that has been gentrified and glorified for millennials. The rest of Wisconsin, including its rural areas and the Upper Peninsula, unanimously voted for Trump. Given the weight of this, the state became red and contributed to the election that has given us a President that millions resent (and that’s to put it nicely).
November 2016 was stunning and disheartening to many people. So what can voters do about their current situation? The answer, to many Democrats, lies in this year’s mid-term elections, come November. Wisconsin faces a tight struggle whose outcome may not be known until the last moment. In this way, the state may be a microcosm of what is happening nationwide.
Both the statewide and congressional races in Wisconsin and Minnesota, which are two upper Midwestern states that hope to rebound from their red glow, are important gauges of President Trump’s political pull with Republicans in Midwestern swing states. His popularity has see-sawed in these states, and Tuesday’s results prove that the president has been an asset for Republicans who support him. Whether these states will tend to vote red or blue is also an important indication for the nation.
The Senate race, in particular, is a smaller version of the power struggle that is happening along the national front. Many of the same forces and players have converged in a state that not only has historically played an important role in disruptive political movements, but that has also been brimming with dissent and unhappiness for several years. This is the fourth shot– and last chance– at dethroning Scott Walker; Democrats are trying to hold on to the first openly gay Senate nominee; Paul Ryan’s retirement at the early age of 50 leaves a scramble for his seat, and his influence. Wisconsin is sitting at the edge of a political overthrow, and so is the country, so pay attention to the results.
During the Presidential election, everyone held their breath to see how Wisconsin turned out. The same kind of tense approach has been taken with the primaries.
The Governor Primary
Democratic: Tony Evers, 41.6%
Republican: Scott Walker, 91.6%
Out of all the candidates on the ballot, Scott Walker is perhaps the most nationally known. He is also the one in the most danger of losing the governors mansion and has been shown to be favored at less than fifty percent. Polls in July showed that Evers led Walker, and Walker himself has admitted that he may have to succumb to the “Blue Wave,” the Democratic movement that many people claim is going to take over the polls in November.
Walker created a presidential bid that faltered quickly in 2016. Many Republicans believe that Walker’s political machine, and Wisconsin’s overall rightward drift, could make this another surprising red win come November. Walker is seeking a third term, which would be his fourth win in eight years. Walker has campaigned for governor in 2006, 2010, and 2014, and also won a recall election in 2012.
In 2011, Walker signed Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, which curtailed collective bargaining rights for public employees. He decimated labor rights and public school funding, which led to intense protests and signs in many green Wisconsin yards: RECALL WALKER. In June 2012, Walker won his recall election; it was the first and only governor recall election to date which failed to unseat the incumbent governor. Walker became the first U.S. governor to win a recall election, and he is continuing his bid.
Evers is a Wisconsin schools superintendent who is perhaps the best-known and best-funded Democratic candidate. Evers has claimed he will fight for affordable health care and better public schools, and “believes that what is best for our kids is best for our state,” according to his website. He will have to unite a fractious base in a governor’s race that both national political parties regard as a defining political moment.
Evers’ struggle is an example of the struggle that faces Democrats nationwide. Although this is one of the most favorable national environments ever for Democrats, the “Blue Wave” is in deep trouble, due to its splintered nominee pool. There are many people who are vying for the Democratic spot; in comparison, there are often few Republicans. This splintering effect can lead to Democratic votes being spread across several candidates, whereas Republican votes are funneled toward one or two, leading to a more steady and more concentrated election pool.
If there is to be a “Blue Wave,” Democrats had better begin to agree on who their best nominees are. Evers was in a crowded field of seven other entrants; Scott Walker faced just one other, and he has over ninety percent of the Republican support. In this way, Wisconsin is an example of the struggle that faces Democrats in many other states. Wisconsin’s Democratic nominee won not even half of their party’s support; the Republican nominee won ninety-one percent of theirs. Does this spell doom for the Blue Wave?
The Senate Primary
Democratic: Tammy Baldwin (uncontested)
Republican: Leah Vukmir, 49.2%
Baldwin is a first-term Democrat and is Wisconsin’s first-ever openly gay Senate nominee, elected in 2012. A Madison native, Baldwin held high numbers in private and public polls. Baldwin hopes to be a representative who can work for the great, hard-working people that make up Wisconsin and is a role model for the LGBT community.
Vukmir won the GOP Senate primary and is considered to be a darling of conservative talk radio and the GOP establishment. She was nominated over businessman and veteran Kevin Nicholson, who received almost $11 million– indirectly from supporting groups– from Illinois businessman Richard Uihlein, which created an unusual tie between a politician and his corporate supporter. Republicans propelled Vukmir, an establishment Republican, who publicly made clear her praise for and support of President Trump. Vukmir also harnessed the support of state party leaders, including Paul Ryan, and she gained the financial and organizational backing of the Wisconsin Republican Party.
Vukmir faced Kevin Nicholson, a political newcomer, and former Marine. The contest between candidates became a determination to defend and prove their devotion to Trump; in this sense, the Senate race is an example of what other contenders face. The Republican party is split between those who are like Trump and those who are not. Some nominees have decidedly made public the fact that they are Republican, but a kind of Republican that our president does not represent. Whether this is to appeal to more voters, the ideology can make or break a campaign, no matter in which state that campaign is situated.
Republican: Bryan Steil, 51.6%
Democratic: Randy Bryce, 59.6%
The First District represented the race to replace Paul Ryan, who has stood for the district for over twenty years; Ryan represents a district south of Milwaukee. Currently, Ryan is the House Speaker and is perhaps best known for his Vice-Presidential bid alongside Mitt Romney in 2012. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Ryan recently announced his retirement, which opened up Democratic hopes to take his seat.
Randy “Iron Stache” Bryce is an ironworker and internet sensation who won a bitter local contest for the Democratic congressional nomination. He sought to challenge Ryan before Ryan announced his retirement, and defeated teacher Cathy Myers for the nomination. Although it is public information that Bryce has a DUI and has defaulted on child support payments, Democrats showed their overwhelming support for him. As with the 2016 election, perhaps voters are interested in nominees who represent an honest, different approach, despite their pasts.
Steil is from Janesville, the same hometown as Ryan. As a server on the Board of Regents, Steil oversees the University of Wisconsin (UW) system. He also has a history working in manufacturing as he has lived in southeast Wisconsin, and is representative for the high quality of schooling.
Why You Should Care
Wisconsin will have to wait to see if its rural voters, who were once dependable Democrats but who turned to Trump and Walker, are able to return to a blue allegiance, and if that blue allegiance will be able to unite; the state will also have to wait to see if the “Blue Wave” will truly pull through, despite a scattering of Democratic candidates. Are Republican nominees like Trump, or not? These key aspects are exemplary of what the rest of the nation is facing as we push further toward the midterm elections. Come November, perhaps these primaries will be indications of what will be won– and what could be lost.
Laura Myers is a Lead Contributor for theDailyLead.