The 2016 campaign season has begun and is setting-up to be extremely intense, if not turbulent, as the next six months are sure to deliver many twists and turns. In fact, the only safe predication in the current political environment is to expect the unexpected.
Of course, most of the political intrigue and uncertainty starts at the top of the ticket with the presidential race. As both parties candidates begin to immerge from a strenuous primary season, candidates on the state level are fearing the repercussions of a historic and divided general election. The impact of presidential politics on the campaign trail is more likely to be felt by Republicans. The following is a brief look at the key Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate races this November:
• 50th Assembly District: In 2012, both President Obama and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) convincingly won the district. However, incumbent Ed Brooks (R-Reedsburg), who was first elected in 2008, continues to hold to seat despite the political challenges that come with serving in a swing seat. Brooks will be one of the top targets for Democrats this fall, as they hope to capitalize on strong Democratic voter turnout in a presidential election year.
• 51st Assembly District: One of the top priorities for Democrats this fall is knocking off
freshman incumbent Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville). While Republicans have historically held the seat, Obama beat Mitt Romney in the district in 2012.
• 68th Assembly District: Although incumbent Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) has held the seat since 2010, she has faced a tough election in every cycle. The 68th is certainly considered a swing district, and the fact that both Obama and Tammy Baldwin won the district in 2012, has made Bernier a top target for Democrats.
• 70th Assembly District: Freshman incumbent Nancy VanderMeer (R-Tomah) won the historically Democratic seat with nearly 53% of the vote on 2014. However, in a presidential election year, Democrats feel they have a strong shot at recapturing the swing seat.
• 72nd Assembly District: Incumbent Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) has held this swing seat, which was previously held by Democrats for 40 years, since 2010. However, Krug has faced tough reelections since and especially in 2012 – the last presidential election cycle. Although Romney narrowly defeated Obama in this district in 2012, Tammy Baldwin won the 72nd. Needless to say, Krug is a top target for Democrats.
• 85th Assembly District: This is an open race, after the incumbent Dave Heaton (R-Wausau) announced he wasn’t seeking reelection. The seat historically leans Democrat, and Mandy Wright (D), who lost to Heaton in 2014, is running to recapture her old seat as the de facto incumbent.
• 10th Senate District: Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) has held this seat since 2001, and despite the general dissatisfaction with incumbents in the current political environment, she should retain the seat in November.
• 12th Senate District: Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazlehurst) is currently serving his first term in the Senate. However, he previously served in the state Assembly and is no stranger to hard fought elections. The 12th SD is not a “slam dunk” GOP seat, but Tiffany represents the district well and should be able to overcome the challenge from his Democratic opposition.
• 14th Senate District: This seat, held by veteran lawmaker Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), leans Republican, but only slightly. However, Olsen is a likeable incumbent that fits his district well, which should propel him to victory this fall.