Wisconsin Democrats Win Election That Scott Walker Tried to Keep From Happening

Trump won the seat by 18 points and the GOP has held it for 40 years.

A group of protesters chant at the entrance for the Gov. Scott Walker event Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at Mid-State Equipment in Janesville, Wis. (Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP)Janesville Gazette via AP

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Wisconsin Democrats won a special election Tuesday in a state Senate district that President Donald Trump carried by 18 points. Democrat Caleb Frostman, a former head of the Door County Economic Development Corp, defeated Republican Rep. Andre Jacque by 800 votes in a district outside Green Bay. It’s the first time a Democrat has won the seat in 41 years.

While Republicans held on to an open assembly near Madison that was also on Tuesday’s ballot, the defeat was a major rebuke to Republican Gov. Scott Walker. As energized Trump-era Democrats won special elections in unexpected districts across the country earlier this year, Walker had refused to schedule the elections until three different judges ordered him to do so. 

The seats became open in December 2017 after two Republican members of the Legislature joined Walker’s administration. Walker said he wouldn’t schedule elections to replace them, claiming it would be a waste of money because the Legislature was set to adjourn in the spring. A Democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric Holder sued Walker, and on March 22 Dane County Circuit Court Judge Josann Reynolds ruled that the governor had a “plain and positive duty” to hold the elections. Republican legislative leaders then attacked Reynolds as an “activist Dane County judge,” even though she was appointed by Walker in 2014, and announced they would reconvene to pass legislation allowing the governor not to schedule the elections.

Meanwhile, Walker went back to court to ask for more time to postpone the elections, only to face two further rulings that he was constitutionally required to schedule them. “Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are, as the governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation,’” Court of Appeals Judge Paul Reilly, a Republican, ruled March 28. Walker then dropped his appeal and scheduled the elections.

This is the second special election Wisconsin Democrats have won this year. In January, Democrat Patty Schachtner pulled off a shocking upset by 11 points in a northwest Wisconsin state Senate district that had been in GOP hands since 2000, and that Trump carried by 17 points. Walker called it a “wake-up call,” and subsequently refused to schedule further special elections. Democrats need to win two more seats to retake the Senate chamber in November.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

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