Wisconsinites Prepare for Upcoming General Election

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How your bank can best engage with pro-banking candidates

By Lorenzo Cruz

This year, turnout for the August primary in Wisconsin hit over 25% — the best performance in 40 years. As over 690,000 voters cast their ballots in the hotly contested GOP gubernatorial primary and over 500,000 voters cast theirs in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Wisconsinites can expect lots of activity as we near this November’s primary election.

Gubernatorial Primary

In the GOP primary for governor, construction business magnate Tim Michels (R-WI) defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R-WI) to advance to the general election. The Trafalgar Group had the race at a statistical dead heat in their August statewide survey before the primary, however Michels won by a sizable number of votes and garnered 47% to Kleefisch’s 42% — a margin of victory exceeding 35,000 votes.

Michels won 62 of the 72 counties while Kleefisch significantly underperformed in southeastern Wisconsin, a key area where she needed to do well. Michels’ Trump endorsement, a $12M self-funded war chest, and an effective business outsider message proved too much to overcome for Kleefisch, endorsed by Pence and Walker. Michels will face incumbent Governor Tony Evers.

Kleefisch urged her supporters in the concession speech to get in the fight against Evers. Evers has portrayed Michels as part of the radical right, a divisive extremist, and a Trump fanatic on abortion, voting rights, gun safety, and public education.

Joining the governor’s ticket for lieutenant governor are state Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and state Rep. Sara Rodriguez (D-Milwaukee). Roth won 30% of the vote with state Sen. Patrick Testin being his closest challenger in a large primary. On the Democratic side, Rodriguez defeated Peng Her, Hmong Institute CEO, with 76% of the vote. Both candidates outspent their opponents and won by double-digit margins.

Gubernatorial Primary

In the GOP primary for governor, construction business magnate Tim Michels (R-WI) defeated former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R-WI) to advance to the general election. The Trafalgar Group had the race at a statistical dead heat in their August statewide survey before the primary, however Michels won by a sizable number of votes and garnered 47% to Kleefisch’s 42% — a margin of victory exceeding 35,000 votes.

Michels won 62 of the 72 counties while Kleefisch significantly underperformed in southeastern Wisconsin, a key area where she needed to do well. Michels’ Trump endorsement, a $12M self-funded war chest, and an effective business outsider message proved too much to overcome for Kleefisch, endorsed by Pence and Walker. Michels will face incumbent Governor Tony Evers.

Kleefisch urged her supporters in the concession speech to get in the fight against Evers. Evers has portrayed Michels as part of the radical right, a divisive extremist, and a Trump fanatic on abortion, voting rights, gun safety, and public education.

Joining the governor’s ticket for lieutenant governor are state Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and state Rep. Sara Rodriguez (D-Milwaukee). Roth won 30% of the vote with state Sen. Patrick Testin being his closest challenger in a large primary. On the Democratic side, Rodriguez defeated Peng Her, Hmong Institute CEO, with 76% of the vote. Both candidates outspent their opponents and won by double-digit margins.

U.S. Senate Race

In the U.S. Senate race, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D-WI) secured the Democratic nomination with 78% of the vote after his top rivals bowed out of the race in an unprecedent move to align the Democratic voters behind him more than a week out from the primary.

Barnes will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in a race that could determine majority control in the U.S. Senate. Johnson’s campaign looks to tie Barnes to some struggling national issues such as inflation, economy, crime, and education. On the other hand, Barnes will aim to link Johnson to extreme positions on education, abortion, taxes, and guns.

Notable Primary Race Results

  • Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) defeated Trump-endorsed challenger Adam Steen (51% to 49%).
  • Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) captured 74% of the vote.
  • State Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska) will face off against GOP military veteran Derrick Van Orden in the Third Congressional District.
  • Incumbent Attorney General Josh Kaul (D-WI) will take on GOP primary winner Eric Toney.
  • Republican nominee Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton) will battle long-time Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D-WI).
  • Retired bank executive Jerry O’Connor (R-Fond du Lac) won in the 52nd Assembly district.
  • In three key contested GOP state Senate primaries, Rachel Cabral-Guevara (R-19), Jesse James (R-23), and Cory Tomczyk (R-29) came through victorious.

 

 

Make Your Voice Heard

With the primaries in the rear-view mirror, the winners turn their attention and resources to the fall general elections in November. The Cook Political Report considers Wisconsin one of four toss up states for the gubernatorial race. Democrats and Republicans are vying for the governor’s veto power and gaining or blocking super majorities in the legislature. Candidates, political parties, and outside groups are expected to spend hundreds of millions to win control of Congress, the governor’s office, attorney general, and the state legislature. It is critical that bankers continue to engage in the political process to support pro-banking and pro-business legislators.

The Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) urges the membership to continue to give to the PAC, conduit, or the issue advocacy fund. WBA has set an ambitious PAC/conduit fundraising goal of $300,000 by the end of the year. As of August, WBA members have contributed $151,000 to WBA’s advocacy efforts. Additionally, WBA staff donated over $12,000 during a two-week campaign.

We thank you for your continued generosity and eagerness to assist WBA in reaching its goal. If your bank has not already contributed, please consider doing so before the November general election. To learn more about WBA’s political funds, please visit wisbank.com/give or contact me.

Membership engagement remains an important advocacy priority as we continue through WBA’s fiscal year. By becoming involved with WBA’s Gold Triangle Club or naming an Advocacy Officer at your bank, you are one step closer to achieving WBA’s highest recognition for overall advocacy effort — Bankers Involved in Grassroots and Government (BIGG) Award. Membership-driven political activism is the most effective and vital tool to the success of our Association. Help WBA provide bankers a seat at the table and influence policy decisions impacting the banking industry in Wisconsin by raising our participation this year!