Discover more from The Recombobulation Area
LIVE BLOG: Wisconsin’s 2022 Midterm Elections
It's the official home for Election Day updates at The Recombobulation Area. Wisconsin is the most closely contested swing state in the nation, so you had better be voting.
The Recombobulation Area is a six-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written and published by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
It is now Election Day in Wisconsin. The midterms are here. The polls are open. We made it.
If you have not yet voted early by mail or in person, stop what you're doing right now and get to the polls and cast your vote.
Wisconsin has same-day voter registration, so if you’re a first-time voter or you recently moved or might have to register for whatever reason, you can do that at your polling place tomorrow.
We’ll be here when you get back.
…all set? Great! Good job with the voting! The more people who participate in the process, the better our democracy can be. Everyone’s votes should count. Let’s hope that’s not a controversial statement with some this year.
We know the readers here at The Recombobulation Area are intelligent and engaged individuals (you guys rule!), so we know you’ll be doing your civic duty and voting today if you haven’t already. But with the stakes as high as they are and both top-of-the-ticket races being tossups and so many state legislative races being crucially important, it might be a good idea to reach out to someone you know to see make sure they’re voting or to see if they might need help getting to the polls. Every last vote is going to matter.
So, being that it is Election Day, there is a lot of ground to cover today, and we’re going to do it as best as we can. We’ll be collecting all of our updates, reactions, analysis, reports, insider information, funny anecdotes, random nonsense and scoops that might come our way here on this very page you're reading now, The Recombobulation Area’s Official Election Day Live Blog.
Reminder that you can always send press releases and news tips to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll also be posting updates on Twitter at @DanRShafer, in what might be the last ever election night live-tweet. (We’re kidding. We think.)
And at 9:00 p.m., after the polls close, we’re going to be joined by Kristin Brey of As Goes Wisconsin for an Instagram Live show, where we’ll react to the early results! You’ll be able to find us at instagram.com/therecombobulationarea. Be sure to tune in!
Update 1:07 a.m.:
All further updates for the late-night crowd will be at @DanRShafer on Twitter.
Update: 12:25 a.m.
VICTORY FOR TONY EVERS IN WISCONSIN!
Update 12:10 a.m.:
Democrats are claiming victory in the 31st Senate District, which projected to be one of the most competitive in the state.
Jeff Smith defeats Republican Dave Estenson in this race. Estenson was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 (we obtained video of his Facebook live, which you can see here), and reports showed that the state Department of Justice investigated Estenson for misconduct allegations while he was working as a police officer.
Update 11:45 p.m.:
The swinginess of the Fox Valley and northeastern Wisconsin is often overlooked. In 2018, Tammy Baldwin won all four of Winnebago, Outagamie, Brown and Door counties — but so did Scott Walker.
As it stands, Ron Johnson is currently ahead in all four of those counties. But Tony Evers appears to be faring better than he did four years ago. While he’s behind in Outagamie and Brown, he’s ahead in Door County and Winnebago is neck-and-neck.
Update 11:30 p.m.:
The era of the WOW counties as the GOP stronghold in Wisconsin is over.
Update 11:05 p.m.:
Huge. With those two victories, it is very likely that Democrats will have prevented a Republican supermajority in the Wisconsin State Legislature.
Those were the two races listed as “tossups” by CNalysis. With Democrats winning both, Republicans will need to pull off an upset somewhere else to get two more seats to reach 66. Right now, it is looking like they will gain three, putting them at 64, short of the supermajority.
Update 10:50 p.m.
HERE COMES MILWAUKEE.
Update: 10:30 p.m.: The suburbs are still shifting
The early story of the night has been about the suburbs. In Waukesha County, Tim Michels is not coming close to the margins Scott Walker reached there in 2018. In eastern Waukesha County and southern Ozaukee County, Evers is doing far better now than he did four years ago.
When I interviewed State Rep Evan Goyke for my piece on Democratic candidate LuAnn Bird, I asked about trends in the suburbs and he said something that seems relevant tonight.
He said this:
“For a decade, Scott Walker was the Republican Party of the state of Wisconsin. And I think he had a bit of outsized support in suburban Milwaukee from his time as county executive, and as a legislator in Wauwatosa. And so when the Walker machine was dismantled in favor of Tim Michels — or dismantled in ‘18 by Evers’ victory, and then re-dismantled when Republicans rebuked Rebecca Kleefisch — I think that the Republican Party of Wisconsin has lost on a lot of grassroots dedicated people that are in the Milwaukee suburbs.”
Update 10:25 p.m.:
Thank you to everyone who joined us on ELECTION NIGHT LIVE over on Instagram with yours truly and Kristin Brey of As Goes Wisconsin. You can watch the full thing here.
Update 8:35 p.m.: This is going to be a long night
Ann Jacobs, a Democratic-appointed commissioner on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, is sharing information that central count in Wauwatosa could take until 5 a.m.
Wauwatosa has been trending to the left in recent elections, and in 2020, the inner ring suburb shifted further in favor of Democrats than any municipality in the state. This will of course matter a great deal in statewide races, as well as in some of the most competitive legislative districts, which are in this area.
This is certainly something to watch here.
Update 8:15 p.m.: Gallagher and Grothman are re-elected
The polls are closed. We begin with the elections that were mere formalities.
Republican members of Congress Glenn Grothman (6th) and Mike Gallagher (8th) will win re-election.
For Gallagher, this will be his fourth term, and for Grothman, it will be his fifth.
It is, of course, unfortunate that these elections were not contested. There is honor in running in these extremely long-odds races, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for candidates to take the plunge and campaign for months in a likely losing effort.
As we said in previewing the 116 races on the ballot in the Wisconsin State Legislature, democracy is built from the ground up, and while there would have been little intrigue about the results in these races in very red districts, you have to wonder what not having candidates here to campaign and connect with voters might mean both for the top of the ticket in swingier areas in these districts like Green Bay and the Fox Valley, and for downballot races in the Senate and Assembly, where some of the most closely contested races in the state will be held.
It’s a Republican advantage year, no doubt, but every little bit counts in Wisconsin. In the future, it will be important for Democrats to field challenges to these – and every – congressional race in the state.
Update 8:00 p.m.:
Update 5:35 p.m.:
This is Peak Wisconsin.
Update 5:20 p.m.: The Recombobulation Area interviews Mandela Barnes
Earlier this afternoon, Mandela Barnes stopped by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus to meet with voters and supporters. There was energy and enthusiasm in the air as students lined up to take photos with the lieutenant governor.
I had the chance to talk briefly with Barnes, who has spent the day crisscrossing the city of Milwaukee for several campaign events. He’s spending Election Day in his hometown, starting at shift change at the Molson Coors plant at 6 a.m., ending tonight at his Election Night party downtown.
I asked him to reflect on Milwaukee’s role in this campaign, and about being the first Milwaukee resident in a decade to run for statewide office. Here’s what he had to say:
“Campaign or not, (Milwaukee) has an impact on me, an influence on me. This is my hometown. It’s where I was born and raised, where I still live. It’s important that we make sure our voice is heard. It’s important that I get a chance to go back to the place that gave me so much. To be able to represent the city, the state in the United States Senate, I think about the gravity of that quite often. And so it's only right that I come back here, bring it back home to finish strong.
I think about the challenges that cities like Milwaukee face. And honestly, going around the state during this campaign, you realize how many of those same issues, same challenges we have, we share in common with other parts of the state. And too many politicians have tried to divide us at the seams. And that's why nobody gets ahead, that's why everybody gets left behind by playing the politics of division.
But I will say, coming from Milwaukee, there's a sort of a unique experience that's not always represented in the US Senate…The majority of U.S. senators are millionaires, multimillionaires, and most people in the city of Milwaukee are working class folks. And that's a perspective that needs to be represented. That's a voice that needs to be heard in Washington.”
“(Ron Johnson) spent his entire campaign trying to vilify people here in the City of Milwaukee on whatever issue. To call into question votes from the City of Milwaukee is just like (when) Robin Vos said it said if you take Milwaukee and Madison out of the equation, Republicans would have won the election. It's a total disregard of the people who live here. It’s a total disregard of people's experiences. It's one Ron Johnson has never considered in the first place because he's only been in it for himself.”
Polls close in less than three hours.
Update 5:00 p.m.:
Join me and Kristin Brey of As Goes Wisconsin tonight at 9 p.m. on Instagram Live to react to the election results!
The Recombobulation Area is on Instagram at @therecombobulationarea. See you tonight!
Update 1:25 p.m.:
Plan accordingly: The goal (emphasis on *goal*) for election officials in Milwaukee is for central count to be finished before midnight.
Reminder that the Republican-controlled state legislature has repeatedly denied Milwaukee the ability to count absentee ballots before 8 p.m. on Election Day. Local leaders in Milwaukee have brought this up repeatedly, but alas.
Update 12:50 p.m.:
Since there is so much on the line when it comes to the future of elections in Wisconsin, it’s important to mention just how great Election Day is. It is wonderful to have the right to elect our leaders. Every single time I go to the polls, I think about how lucky I am to live in the United States of America in the 21st Century to have the right to vote, to be able to participate in this democracy. It is truly an honor.
We all need to vote today like our democracy depends on it. Because in Wisconsin, it does.
Update 8:25 a.m.: The Uncontested
The elections today are but a mere formality for dozens of candidates in the Wisconsin State Legislature. In total, there are 20 uncontested races in the Assembly and five in the Senate.
There are four open seats in the State Assembly where the elections were essentially decided in August during the partisan primaries. A few of these represent the most one-sided districts in the state.
Two of the winners will be democratic socialists from Milwaukee. Darrin Madison Jr. won a competitive primary in the 10th District, and Ryan Clancy, who currently serves on the Milwaukee County Board, ran unopposed for the 19th. They’ll both be headed to the Assembly next year, which is going to be pretty interesting.
There was also an open seat in the 59th District, after Timothy Ramthun opted against a bid for re-election when he ran for governor. Will Ramthun try to decertify the upcoming election and try to say that people’s votes don’t count, just as he did with the 2020 election? I guess we’ll have to find out! Republican Ty Bodden, the chairman of the Calumet County GOP, will be headed to the Assembly, after winning a competitive primary in August.
Another Republican headed to the Assembly will be Dave Maxey, a member of the New Berlin City Council, who is running in a district that was heavily gerrymandered by Republicans, going from a GOP+5.5 district to GOP+19 – basically going from a competitive seat to a noncompetitive seat. Even so, it is unfortunate not to see a Democrat running in this election. Perhaps next election cycle.
So, those are the newcomers in the Assembly. There are also 16 incumbents who are running for re-election unopposed. They are:
Democrats: (7): Sylvia Velez-Ortiz (8th), Dora Drake (11th), Kalan Haywood (16th), Evan Goyke (18th), Samba Baldeh (48th), Francesca Hong (76th), Shelia Stubbs (77th).
Republicans (9): Ron Tusler (3rd), Paul Tittl (25th), Barbara Dittrich (38th), Mark Born (39th), Alex Dallman (41st), Michael Schraa (53rd), Dave Armstrong (75th), John Spiros (86th), Scott Allen (97th)
In the State Senate, there are also several candidates running for re-election uncontested.
There is one uncontested open seat, where Republican Jesse James will make the move up from the Assembly to the Senate, replacing Kathleen Bernier, one of the lone voices of reason on election issues on the right, who is retiring at the end of her term.
There are also four Republicans running for re-election unopposed, including several members of leadership. They are Majority Leader Devin LaMahieu, Senate President Chris Kapenga, Majority Caucus Chair Van Wanggaard, and John Jagler.
So, with half of the senate not up this year and five Republicans running unopposed, the balance of the State Senate starts the day with a 15-6 GOP advantage. They need to get to 22 to gain a supermajority.
So, congratulations to these 25 members of the Wisconsin State Legislature who will be having a relatively low-key Election Day, with the results of their races already decided.
If you’re looking for even more election coverage from The Recombobulation Area, here’s a quick look back at some of our recent stories:
Our breakdown of the final pre-election Marquette University Law School Poll
Tim Michels and one-party rule in Wisconsin: Michels poses a unique danger to democracy in Wisconsin, both because of his extreme views on elections and due to the infrastructure Wisconsin Republicans have put in place for one-party rule. (Published in partnership with Heartland Signal)
From Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC): ‘Mandela Barnes shows grace and poise in the face of racist attack ads’
‘Bird on a Wire’: Inside LuAnn Bird’s remarkable and unconventional State Assembly campaign that might just save democracy in Wisconsin.
From Marquette professors Phil Rocco and Sam Harshner: ‘A flat tax would create pain for most Wisconsinites and a windfall for the state’s wealthiest’ (Plus: A follow-up)
‘Discombobulated Edition: 13 quick takes during the midterm election home stretch in Wisconsin’: The Bobby Newport-ification of Tim Michels, a State Senate candidate at the Capitol on Jan. 6, early voting rapidly approaching, and much more.
More Marquette poll breakdowns
The Recombobulation Area’s State Legislature Election Preview Series
‘2022 Wisconsin State Legislature Election Preview: The State Senate’: Republicans are very likely to win a supermajority in the State Senate. But a handful of key races could really change things.
‘2022 Wisconsin State Legislature Election Preview: The State Assembly’: We're previewing all 99 districts in the Wisconsin State Assembly. There are 10 key races that could determine whether or not Republicans gain a supermajority.
The Recombobulation Area’s Dan Shafer in The New York Times Opinion section:
See all of our archives here.
Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day…
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s also written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Heartland Signal, Belt Magazine, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He’s won 13 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.