By Lorenzo Cruz

Most political operatives prognosticated that the U.S. Supreme Court would not reverse the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision on the redistricting court case. In early March, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on a 4–3 decision to adopt Governor Tony Evers’ legislative and congressional maps rather than use the GOP-controlled state Legislature’s version of the maps. 

The majority in the split state Supreme Court decision viewed the Governor’s configured maps as more closely aligned to the ‘least change’ approach, which was used to develop the existing legislative and congressional boundaries drawn a decade ago. The state Supreme Court decision was considered a victory for Democrats and a setback for the GOP.

The Governor’s maps had 55 GOP seats and 44 Dem seats in the State Assembly and 20 GOP seats and 13 Dem seats in the State Senate. By contrast, the GOP maps had 64 Assembly GOP seats and 35 Dem seats and 22 Senate GOP seats and 12 Dem seats. Even under the Governor’s new maps, Democrats still had an arduous path to regaining majorities in both houses of the state Legislature.

In what many capitol observers considered a surprising move, the nation’s highest court in a 7–2 majority overturned the ruling and found that the state court erred in its application of the Voters Rights Act (VRA), which led to the creation of a seventh majority Black Assembly district. Currently, there are six majority Black districts on the map. The GOP-designed maps contained five majority Black districts. The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected the GOP’s request to overturn the Governor’s congressional maps. 

In the appeal, GOP lawmakers contended that Evers’ plan violated the U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause because it improperly applied the federal VRA when drawing seven majority Black Assembly districts in the Milwaukee area. The U.S. Supreme Court conservative block sided with the GOP position and sent the issue back to the state court. The Supreme Court’s reversal in the case meant more rounds of court activity around what the maps should look like.

The state Supreme Court’s decision could have brought resolution or more litigation at the federal court. In early April, Wisconsin was under a cloud of uncertainty and momentarily waiting in limbo on the maps. However, the judicial winds changed swiftly again in mid-April with the state Supreme Court in a 4–3 decision approving the GOP’s version of the legislative maps. With the elections looming in the fall and nomination papers set to circulate on April 15, the state Supreme Court acted decisively on the case. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found the Wisconsin Legislature’s maps complied with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other applicable federal and state legal requirements. Furthermore, the state Supreme Court concluded the Legislature’s maps were race neutral and followed the ‘least change’ approach, which the state’s highest court adopted a decade ago.

WBA expected interested parties on both sides to fight vigorously and exhaust all avenues in the judicial process to secure legal, legislative, and congressional maps that support their desired political outcomes. Barring any more legal challenges, the state Supreme Court’s action brings closure to the redistricting court case in 2022.

The political stakes are extremely high with control of the U.S. Congress and state Legislature as well as Wisconsin’s Gubernatorial seat in play. The Badger State could again be a battleground
and a bellwether for the rest of the country for hotly contested races. Stay tuned for more political developments as the drama continues to unfold in the primary and general elections.

Triangle Background

By John Cronin

In a 7–2 decision released Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision the Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered three weeks ago on new state legislative district maps. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a similar request to overturn congressional boundaries set by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A brief timeline:

  • November 11, 2021 – GOP-controlled Legislature passes new legislative and congressional maps
  • November 18, 2021 – Dem. Governor Tony Evers vetoes those maps
  • November 30, 2021 – Wisconsin Supreme Court sets “least change” approach to analyzing proposed maps parties submit to the Court
  • January 19, 2022 – Wisconsin Supreme Court oral arguments on redistricting case, proposed maps submitted by interested parties (Legislature, Governor, Wisconsin members of Congress, etc.)
  • March 3, 2022 – Wisconsin Supreme Court delivers a 4–3 ruling in favor of maps Gov. Evers submitted to the Court (Ziegler, R. Bradley, and Roggensack dissent)
  • March 7, 2022 – GOP-controlled Legislature appeals the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the Governor’s maps adopted by the Court were inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In question were seven districts fully or partially located in the City of Milwaukee.
  • March 23, 2022 – U.S. Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Supreme Court erred in their application of Court decisions on the guarantee of equal protection and the Voting Rights Act. (7–2 decision, Justices Sotomayor and Kagan dissent)
What’s next?

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to either select a different map submission or reconsider the Governor’s maps in a manner consistent with the Court’s opinion today.

An April 15 deadline looms: this will be the first day legislative candidates may circulate nomination papers to get on the ballot for the Fall election.

A new Superintendent of Public Instruction will be taking the reins to oversee K-12 education in Wisconsin, and both chambers at the Capitol will be back to full strength with one new member in each house. The 2021 Spring Election took place yesterday to decide who would replace Carolyn Stanford Taylor as State Superintendent after she opted not to seek reelection after being appointed to the role by Gov. Tony Evers in 2019.

In the only statewide election on the ballot, Pecatonica Area School District Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly defeated former School District of Brown Deer Superintendent Dr. Deborah Kerr. The margin was 57%-43%.

Residents of Wisconsin’s 13th Senate District elected current Republican Rep. John Jagler (37th Assembly District) to the seat vacated by Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), who was elected to Congress last year. Jagler defeated Democrat Melissa Winker by a margin of 51%-44%. The Senate will once again have 33 members, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 21-12.

Likewise, voters in the 89th Assembly District gave the nod to Oconto businessman Elijah Behnke, a Republican, to succeed former Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) in this Northeast Wisconsin seat. Behnke defeated Democrat Karl Jaeger by a margin of 63%-37%. Republicans now hold a 61-38 majority in the Assembly.

In one other notable race, Judge Shelley Grogan unseated incumbent Judge Jeffrey Davis in District II of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. The final tally was 53%-43%. District II handles appeals from trial courts in 12 counties in Southeastern Wisconsin, excluding Milwaukee County.

There were several other local races on Tuesday’s ballot. A list of those results from the Southern part of the state may be viewed here. Several out-state county-by-county results are linked here.

By, Alex Paniagua

Split Government in Wisconsin Continues 

Rep. Kind Wins and the Wisconsin Legislature Stays in GOP Hands

The state of Wisconsin took center stage in a showdown that places election margins for president and several other local contests on a razor’s edge. Wisconsin Democrats had a major funding and polling advantage that yielded little change in six months on both a state-wide and local scale with Democrats spending 4-1 in some parts of the state.   

Voter turnout appears to have exceeded the 2012 high of 3.1 million people and late absentee ballots in urban areas propelled Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump in a harrowing media-fueled clash where many expected different results. As of 8 a.m. this morning, Biden maintained a lead of approximately 20,750 votes or 0.63 percentage points. A recount is not automatic in Wisconsin, but the second-place candidate can request one. The campaign doesn’t have to pay for the cost of the count if the margin is within .25 percentage points.  

Congressman Ron Kind held on in a close race, beating Derrick Van Orden in the 3rd Congressional District (La Crosse/Western Wisconsin) by 11,000 votes. Kind released a statement trumpeting his future work: “I am committed to fighting for the farmers, veterans, families, businesses, and workers who move our state forward.” The banking industry is counting on Kind, who supported a tax fairness measure (ECORA) to continue his work next Congress.  

The other Wisconsin Congressional races mainly hit the mark of predictability and current Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald easily won his race and will replace Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

Wisconsin continues to hold on to its purple battleground reputation nationally but voted locally to hold on to incumbents giving Republicans a continued strong hold on the legislature. There were no major upsets, simply many close races that will set the stage for future elections to promote early/absentee voting. 

The Wisconsin state Senate Republicans increased their majority by winning seats in the Northwestern part of the state (Rob Stafsholt) and in Brown County (Eric Wimberger) and held on to a key seat in the Milwaukee area held by Sen. Alberta Darling.  

Republicans in the Assembly maintained a commanding majority of 61 seats (before recounts and the final canvas), but Assembly Democrats look to pick up two seats in suburban Milwaukee. As of this morning, Democrat challenger Sara Rodriguez was at 51 percent and sitting Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, was at 49 percent. While Democrat Candidate Deb Andraca was leading Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) 2 percent.  

In what looked to be a potential recount, Rep. Nick Milroy (D-South Range) was leading challenger Republican Keith Kern, by only 139 votes.  

The WBA Advocacy Team is preparing a video and preliminary analysis about how the elections are likely to impact the banking industry on local, state, and federal levels. It will be sent around once it’s available.

By, Alex Paniagua

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.

Click here to jump straight to the results.

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.

In other news…
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 PoliticoHere’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.

Here's what happened in the races to watch:

Office District # Party of Primary Winner Area of WI Website
Senate 6 D La Tonya Johnson Milwaukee
Senate 10 R Rob Stafsholt NW WI – Hudson
Senate 16 D Melissa Sargent Madison area (East)
Senate 26 D Kelda Roys Madison area (West)
Senate 28 R Julian Bradley Waterford, Greenfield, New Berlin
Senate 30 D Jonathon Hansen Green Bay and North
Senate 32 D Brad Pfaff La Crosse
Assembly 8 D Sylvia Ortiz Velez Milwaukee
Assembly 11 D Dora Drake Milwaukee
Assembly 14 R Bonnie Lee Brookfield and Waukesha
Assembly 17 D Supreme Moore Momokunde Milwaukee
Assembly 29 R Clint Moses NW WI – St. Croix
Assembly 35 R Calvin Callahan NE WI – Lincoln and Langlade
Assembly 41 R Alex Dallman Central WI – Adam, Green Lake
Assembly 48 D Samba Baldeh Madison (North)
Assembly 55 R Rachel Cabral-Guevara Neenah-Appleton
Assembly 60 R Robert Brooks Ozaukee County
Assembly 69 R Donna Rozar Central WI – Wood, Jackson, Monroe
Assembly 76 D Francesca Hong Madison (downtown)
Assembly 90 D Kristina Shelton Green Bay
U.S. House 1 D Roger Polak Racine-Janseville
U.S. House 3 R Derrick Van Orden West Wisconsin
U.S. House 5 R Scott Fitzgerald SE Wisconsin – Dodge, Jefferson, Waukesha, Washington
U.S. House 6 D Jessica King East Central Wisconsin


By, Amber Seitz