On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

The race for Wisconsin in this year's midterms

Share story

Incumbent Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives to deliver his state of the state address in January 2018 at the Capitol in Madison, Wis.
Steve Apps | Wisconsin State Journal via AP

The races for governor and U.S. Senate have generated the most attention in Wisconsin, but they aren't the only ones of interest on the Nov. 6 ballot. Here are capsules looking at the top races of interest across Wisconsin:

Governor

Governor Wisconsin
In this Aug. 14, 2018, file photo, Tony Evers speaks after winning Wisconsin's Democratic gubernatorial primary election during an event in Madison, Wis.
Amber Arnold | AP

Who's running?

Republican Gov. Scott Walker is seeking a third term and is on the ballot for a fourth time in eight years. He won a recall election in 2012. Tony Evers, the state superintendent of schools since 2009, is running as a Democrat to challenge Walker.

What are they arguing about?

Walker contends that he's turned the state around since 2011, leading to record-low unemployment, more people working than ever before and improved test scores for school children. He's also signed into law $8 billion in tax cuts and a host of conservative priorities, including a photo ID requirement to vote, scaling back of environmental regulations and the Act 10 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers.

Walker, who promised not to seek a fourth term if re-elected, says there is more to do and it would be a mistake to make a change now.

Evers says Walker isn't looking out for the interests of the middle class, in favor of tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and corporations. Evers says Walker's claim to be an "education governor" is a joke given cuts in K-12 spending Walker made in his first term and the Act 10 law. Evers has also said Walker failed to lead on making health care affordable and the state's roads are in worsening condition with no plan on how to pay for making improvements.

Key issue

Walker has tried to make the race about Evers' willingness to raise taxes, saying that would hurt the state's economy. Evers is open to raising the gas tax to pay for roads, changing income tax brackets to benefit the middle class and overturning a manufacturing and agriculture tax credit that has primarily benefited the wealthy.

Evers has tried to make the race about health care and Walker's support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Walker favors passing a state guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, but Evers argues it would be as strong as what's in federal law now.

Hot takes

Polls have shown Evers with a slight lead, while Walker is trying to rebound after his failed run for president in 2015. But Walker has a proven political operation that has shown it can get voters to the polls, while Democrats are still in rebuilding mode. The race was expected to come down to turnout and which candidate could motivate the tiny sliver of independents to side with them. ___

U.S. Senate

Who's running?

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, one of the most liberal members of Congress, is seeking a second term. She faces Republican Leah Vukmir, a state senator, nurse and a leader in the national conservative group the American Legislative Exchange Council. Vukmir has been in the Legislature since 2002. Baldwin has been in Congress since 1999 and in elective office since 1986.

What are they arguing about?

Pretty much everything. There are stark differences between Baldwin and Vukmir on just about every issue of any consequence.

Key issue

Much of the race has focused on their divergent opinions on health care and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Baldwin is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act and also backs universal health care. Vukmir wants to repeal the law, but says she also wants people with pre-existing conditions to be guaranteed coverage. Baldwin argues it makes no sense to repeal the law that provides that guarantee.

Vukmir has made Baldwin's handling of the opioid over-prescription crisis at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center an issue in the race, saying her inaction let veterans down. But the family of a veteran who died there has come out in support of Baldwin, cutting television ads to help her.

Hot takes

The race was the most expensive in the country during the Republican primary when Vukmir was challenged by Kevin Nicholson, but since her win the race has been surpassed by others. Baldwin has maintained a steady lead in the polls and outside money has not poured in for Vukmir to help her out. Vukmir is a close ally of Gov. Scott Walker and his son, Alex, is her political director.

Attorney General

Who's running?

Republican Brad Schimel is looking for a second term. He faces Democrat Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor.

What are they arguing about?

Sexual assault evidence kits, opioids and school safety, to name just a few topics. Kaul has criticized Schimel for taking too long to test thousands of unanalyzed sexual assault kits, failing to curb Wisconsin's opioid crisis and suggesting teachers should arm themselves. Schimel has painted Kaul as an inexperienced outsider in Wisconsin legal circles.

Hot takes

Schimel spent 25 years as a prosecutor in Waukesha County. Kaul spent four years as an assistant federal prosecutor in Baltimore and is the son of the late Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.

Secretary of State

Who's running?

Incumbent Democrat Doug La Follette is seeking his 11th term. Looking to unseat him is Republican Jay Schroeder.

What are they arguing about?

Wisconsin's secretary of state has almost no powers. Schroeder has promised to reduce the office's funding to reflect its diminished status and push for a referendum to either make the office officially a ceremonial post or restore the position's powers. La Follette says he stands with working people, supports expanding access to health care and wants to restore civility to politics.

Hot takes

Famous Wisconsin progressive "Fighting Bob" La Follette was Doug La Follette's great-uncle. Schroeder is a mortgage loan officer.

Treasurer

Democrat Sarah Godlewski and Republican Travis Hartwig are running to replace incumbent Republican Matt Adamcyzck, who is running for the Legislature.

What are they arguing about?

Like the secretary of state's office, the treasurer has almost no real duties or powers. Godlewski wants to give the treasurer the ability to review state finances and protect vulnerable senior citizens from financial exploitation. Hartwig wants to assist in audits of state and local government. Neither of them could do anything unless the Legislature bestows more powers on the office, however.

Hot takes

Godlewski claims to have saved taxpayers millions of dollars as a civilian adviser for the Defense Department during the war in Iraq but has refused to elaborate, saying her work was top secret. U.S. Bank fired Hartwig from his mutual fund administrator job in July after he refused the bank's demand that he drop out of the race. U.S. Bank is currently under contract to provide banking services for the state through mid-2019 and is bidding to win the next contract. Bank officials said the treasurer's role conflicts with the bank's contract bid.

1st Congressional District

Democratic iron worker Randy Bryce and Republican attorney Bryan Steil are running to replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan.

What are they arguing about?

Steil wants to grow high-wage jobs and lower health care costs through price transparency and health savings accounts. Bryce wants to preserve the Affordable Care Act and other social programs such as Medicaid.

Hot takes

Ryan has held the seat representing southeastern Wisconsin for 20 years. Steil spent a year working for Ryan in Washington in 2003 and currently serves on the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. Bryce has old baggage including failure to pay child support, but he's managed to generate more than $6 million in contributions.

6th Congressional District

Who's running?

Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman is seeking his third term in Congress in a district that has been solidly Republican for decades. His challenger is Democrat Dan Kohl, nephew of former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, who worked for his uncle's Milwaukee Bucks from 1992 to 2006 in various capacities, including helping manage the team's salary cap. He's never held elected office. Grothman has never lost a race and previously served in the Wisconsin state Senate.

What are they arguing about?

Health care and taxes. Kohl criticizes Grothman for his votes in support of the GOP effort to dismantle some elements of Obamacare. Grothman said Kohl is lying in ads when he accuses Grothman of not wanting to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Grothman said he supports coverage for pre-existing conditions and voted for bills that would keep that provision. Grothman also believes the Republican tax cuts he supported will help the economy, while Kohl argues that the main beneficiaries of the new tax law are the wealthy.

Hot takes

Grothman has said he expects the race to be the toughest of his career. But it will take a big blue wave for a Democrat to take a district that the party has held only once since 1964 -- and for only two years. While Grothman cites fundraising as the reason why he expects a challenging contest, he's not far off from Kohl financially. Grothman has raised $1.7 million compared to Kohl's $2.5 million. The district is still considered solidly Republican or leaning Republican.

Legislature

Dozens of Republicans and Democrats will face off across multiple races for control of the state Legislature. Republicans go into Election Day with an almost insurmountable 64-35 majority in the Assembly but hold an 18-15 edge in the Senate, giving Democrats hope they can flip two seats and retake control of that chamber for the first time since 2012. That would create gridlock in the state capital after six straight years of complete GOP control of state government.

What are they arguing about?

Money, mostly. Questions about how to fund road repairs, how much money public education deserves, and whether to give paper-maker Kimberly-Clark tax credits to keep a Fox Valley plant open are among the hotter topics.

Hot takes

Democrats hope a trio of female Senate challengers -- Kriss Marion, Lee Snodgrass and Julie Henszey -- can go at least two-for-three and give the party a 17-16 majority in the chamber.