Incumbents, including State Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) survived a primary challenge Tuesday, while four of five closely watched Republican primaries for open GOP seats turned into lopsided victories. In the weeks leading up to the Fall Primary Election, the number of challenged races left pundits wondering if there would be some big surprises. Despite a number of key “open seat” races, the power of incumbency and name identification largely prevailed.
The Aug. 11 Fall Primary solidified what will ultimately be another in a long series of historic elections in Wisconsin. Unlike past state-wide elections, the focus this year will be on filling seats held by long-time legislative leaders, such as Sen. Fred Risser who is the longest-serving state legislator in United States history.
Former state Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) won a seven-way Democratic primary to succeed Democratic Sen. Fred Risser of Madison, who is retiring after more than six decades in the state legislature. Risser and his staff have worked closely with WBA on technical banking issues and complex uniform laws that often don’t make the headlines but have an impact on the day-to-day activities of bankers.
The exception to the incumbent rule was in the northwestern part of the state (29th Assembly District) in a Republican primary, where Menomonie chiropractor Clint Moses won a narrow victory against candidates Neil Kline, who worked as an aide to former state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) and Ryan Sherley.
In Green Bay, School Board Vice President Kristina Shelton defeated incumbent Rep. Staush Gruszynski (D) in the partisan primary for the Assembly District 90 seat. Rep. Gruszynski had previously lost his committee assignments after allegations rose of him harassing a staffer. Democrats plunged six figures into the primary to unseat Gruszynski after he refused to step down.
Republican Scott Fitzgerald is set to fill the seat of “Dean of the Delegation” Jim Sensenbrenner in the WI 5th Congressional District. Fitzgerald easily cruised to a victory last night and has been one of the strongest pro-banking voices in the state legislature as Majority Leader. The banking industry will greatly miss Sensenbrenner as strong voice for business in the House of Representatives, but Fitzgerald will be able to pick up where Sensenbrenner left off.
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Harris as VP: Wisconsin Connection to Sen. Harris: Milwaukee Bucks Owner
Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is Joe Biden's VP pick. Harris’s prominent early backers included Avenue Capital’s Marc Lasry, part owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Blair Effron, a veteran investment banker and co-founder of Centerview Partners. Lasry told CNBC’s Brian Schwartz of the pick: “I think it’s great. … She’s going to help Joe immensely. He picked the perfect partner.”
According to Politico, Wall Street seems to be more at ease with Harris. On more traditional banking policy, “this is modestly positive for cannabis legalization. Harris is a sponsor of legislation to de-list cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. … We see the pick as modestly negative for financials. Harris has a background as a state attorney general, which suggests she would advocate for a broad CFPB enforcement strategy. She also was vocal in opposing bank deregulatory legislation that Congress enacted in 2018.” Want to see more from Politico? Here’s a rundown of where Harris stands on major issues.
The fall election matters greatly for the financial services industry and WBA will continue to highlight why is it important for bankers to cast their ballots in November. Voter turnout is typically between 15-20% for an August primary compared to the 70% who show up to a to vote in a November presidential election, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Absentee voting will be the key to success in the next several weeks. Candidates who moved forward in Tuesday's partisan primary now turn their sights to the Nov. 3 general election, when vote by mail are expected to sharply rise as voters cast their ballots in the presidential race.