The Recombobulation Area's 2020 State Legislative Election Preview: Part II, The State Assembly

Republicans running the State Legislature are failing the test of leadership in a time of crisis. Now, it's time to vote. A closer look at what's at stake and a breakdown of every race on the ballot.

The Recombobulation Area is a weekly opinion column by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.

CNalysis has forecasted every state legislative race on the ballot for the 2020 election. Using those projections, we take a look at how the balance of power will tip in the State Senate and State Assembly.


If you missed the introduction to this two-part preview, be sure to read Part I, which also breaks down the 16 races on the ballot for Wisconsin State Senate.  


All 99 seats are on the ballot in the Wisconsin State Assembly. As I wrote in Part I, not one legislative Republican deserves to keep their seat. Not after months of inaction in the face of genuine crisis.

The way leaders act in times of crisis simply matters more. It’s a test of leadership, and they have failed. It is someone else’s turn to lead. 

The GOP has controlled the Assembly for the better part of a generation. Republicans have held a majority of seats since 2008, and only twice since 1990 has the Assembly been in Democratic control (‘92-’94 and ‘08-’10). 

The State Assembly, more than any other governing body — perhaps in the entire country — is a victim of gerrymandering. In 2018, the Democratic candidates received 53 percent of all votes, but won only 36 percent of seats. Will things shake out differently this time?

Let’s break it down.

THE STATE ASSEMBLY

Current makeup: 
Republican: 63
Democrat: 34
Vacancies: 2

CNalysis projection (Sept. 21, when first published):
Republican: 61
Democrat: 37
Toss-up: 1

CNalysis projection (Current):
Republican: 60 (-1)
Democrat: 38 (+1)
Toss-up: 1 (-)

CNalysis has forecasted every legislative race on the ballot for the 2020 election in Wisconsin. Using those projections, the number of “Safe Republican” districts and GOP incumbents running unopposed add up to 47 seats — a majority. There are far more “Safe Republican” districts than “Safe Democratic” districts. There are far more Tilt/Lean/Likely Republican races than Tilt/Lean/Likely Democratic races. Among 99 seats, there is just one — one! — projected to be a toss-up in Wisconsin, perhaps the most evenly divided state on the electoral map. 

Gerrymandering: It’s real, folks. 

While Democrats are fighting an uphill battle, there are a number of races that bring cause for optimism. There are 12 races that favor Republicans, but are winnable for Democratic candidates. “Safe” Republicans like Ron Tusler and David Armstrong have come under fire for racist online behavior, and swing districts (northeast, southwest, Milwaukee suburbs) could be more competitive for Democrats if Joe Biden has a strong showing at the top of the ticket in Wisconsin.

Flipping the balance of power in the Assembly, however, is highly unlikely. Much like with the State Senate, CNalysis gives Democrats a 0 percent of a majority. Unlike the Senate, Republicans here also are given a 0 percent chance at a two-thirds supermajority. The most likely outcome appears to be that Democrats gain several seats, but remain firmly in the minority. The number of Democrats could top 40 and the number of Republicans could be under 60 for the first time in more than a decade, but it’s hard to see how it gets much closer than that. Making change in the Assembly is a long road, and it needs to be fought one election at a time. 

Balance of power aside, the new class of Democratic representatives promises to provide a much-needed shake-up to the Assembly. Francesca Hong, who won a competitive primary in the 76th District in Madison, is on track to be the first Asian American in the State Legislature (she’s also campaigning like crazy for Assembly candidates across the state). Samba Baldeh, an immigrant from Gambia who won a primary in the 48th District in Madison, is likely to be the first Muslim in the Assembly. Women like Lee Snodgrass, Dora Drake, Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, and Kristina Shelton are poised to bring fresh voices to the chamber, as they’re headed for likely victories in open seats. More women, like Deb Andraca, Kriss Marion, Sara Rodriguez, Emily Siegrist, Amanda White Eagle, Josefine Jaynes, and Sarah Yacoub, could join them in the Democratic caucus if they emerge victorious in tough races. Many of these likely legislators have already been organizing together on key issues. The 2021 freshmen class will surely be bringing a different energy to the Assembly, there’s no doubt about that, and I’m excited to see them in action.

In all likelihood, Democrats will once again win what equates to a popular vote in the Assembly, and that will again highlight the problematic gerrymandering that’s such a force in state politics.

When you cast your vote, though, that gerrymander doesn’t matter. All that matters is you and your ballot and your constitutional right to participate in this democracy. Your vote carries greater weight in state and local elections, and you can truly make a difference here. It’s not uncommon for Assembly races to be decided by less than 1,000 people.

Let’s get ready to vote.

FIND WHAT'S ON YOUR BALLOT

CNalysis projections of the 99 seats on the ballot in the State Assembly. Darkest red or blue means “Uncontested.” Races range from Safe Republican (dark red) to Safe Democratic (dark blue). Districts outlined in yellow are most likely to flip.

(Editor’s Note: In the candidate breakdowns below, each link on the District will go to the official map, and each candidate’s name is linked to their campaign website. All available Wisconsin Eye candidate interviews are linked, and all projections are based on CNalysis’ State Legislative Ratings. All races are listed in numerical order by district within each category. Once we get into the “Safe” categories, not every race has a write-up attached, but some of interest do. 

This preview is self-edited and there are obviously many moving parts, so apologies in advance if a link doesn’t open correctly or there is a typo on someone’s name, or there is some other copy-editing or digital production error. Please feel free to alert me on Twitter at @DanRShafer if there is anything that needs correcting.) 

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We’ll break this down in six categories: The Close Races with Democratic Favorites, The One Genuine Toss-Up, The Close Races with Republican Favorites, The Safe Republicans, The Safe Democrats, and The Uncontested.

The Close Races with Democratic Favorites (2)

14th District: Robyn Vining (D, incumbent) vs. Bonnie Lee (R)

CNalysis projection: Lean Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

This is among the most important Assembly races on the map. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said this week that he expects to take back the district, which Vining won by less than 0.5 percent in 2018. But, especially in Wauwatosa, the 14th is seeing a real shift to the left in the Trump years. And Robyn Vining is a strong candidate.

In her first term, Vining has been busy. She wrote and introduced a pandemic response bill that would have made a huge impact...but has unfortunately been ignored completely by Republican leadership. The “Healthcare Heroes Act” would provide hazard pay and fully paid sick leave for frontline healthcare workers, fund COVID-19 testing and treatment for the uninsured, and pay for all of it not with any new taxes, but by making the long-overdue decision to accept the federal Medicaid expansion (Wisconsin is now the only state in the Midwest and one of only 12 U.S. states to decline the expansion, despite the expansion having overwhelming majority support in the state). Even before the pandemic hit, Vining was leading an effort to keep the Legislature working as GOP leadership planned a “nine-month vacation.”

Her challenger, Bonnie Lee, is the Director of Outreach at Northwest Baptist Church and the co-founder and president of nonprofit organization Learn For Life Kenya. This would be her first time serving in elected office. 

23rd District: Deb Andraca (D) vs. Jim Ott (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Tilt Democratic (FLIP)

Wisconsin Eye interviews: Check back here

CNalysis projects this as the most likely seat for Democrats to flip. The north shore suburban communities that make up this district have increasingly moved away from Republicans, and Jim Ott won by a slim margin in 2018. 

Ott has served in the Assembly since 2007 and is the Chair of the Committee on Judiciary. He served on the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules for the better part of the last decade, but Vos removed him from the committee days before it set to be in the spotlight to rule on a “Safer-at-Home” replacement (which the chair of the committee eventually tossed outright, leading to our current predicament where there’s no plan).

Deb Andraca is a substitute teacher and an active member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, and has worked with a variety of community organizations while she was a stay-at-home mom (as a stay-at-home dad myself, I love to see people take pride in this). Andraca also has a Master’s Degree in Political Management and has worked on campaigns, but this would be her first time serving in elected office. 

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The One (1) Genuine Toss-Up

51st District: Kriss Marion (D) vs. Todd Novak (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Toss Up

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

The Wisconsin State Assembly Map is gerrymandered to produce a clear favorite in just about every district, but this is the one out of 99 races to be considered an actual toss-up.

Todd Novak has served as the representative from the southwestern Wisconsin district for five years. He is the Chair of the Committee on Local Government and chaired the Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality. He won in 2018 by an incredibly slim margin — just 332 votes made the difference. Before winning the seat in 2014 (by a 64-vote margin!), Novak was elected the mayor of Dodgeville, a job he still holds. He is also the first openly gay Republican elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature. 

Challenger Kriss Marion is in her third term as County Supervisor at the Lafayette County Board. She was the first woman elected to the board, and she was elected 2nd Vice Chair. She is also a small business owner, a farmer, worked as a Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commissioner, founded the Pecatonica Pride Watershed Association, led the “Soil Sisters” farm advocacy group, and won the “Whistleblower of the Year” award from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association in 2019 for sounding the alarm on a local resolution that would have threatened to “prosecute” reporters for not printing government press releases verbatim (which gained national attention). 

The Close Races with Republican Favorites (12)

4th District: Kathy Hinkfuss (D) vs. David Steffen (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Likely Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

David Steffen has served in the Assembly since 2015. He is currently the Chair of the Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight. Hinkfuss is the former CEO of the Greater Green Bay YWCA.

13th District: Sara Rodriguez (D) vs. Rob Hutton (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Tilt Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Like the 14th, this district includes parts of Brookfield and Wauwatosa, and with Republicans losing ground in Milwaukee County suburbs, it’s in play for Democrats. Rob Hutton won re-election in 2018 against now-Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride by less than 1,000 votes.

Hutton has served in the State Assembly since 2013. He is the Chair of the Committee on International Affairs and Commerce and the Co-Chair of the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties. Sara Rodriguez is a nurse and small business owner and has worked as a healthcare executive. She also served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC, which could be pretty important right about now. This would be her first time serving in elected office.

21st District: Erik Brooks (D) vs. Jessie Rodriguez (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Likely Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Jessie Rodriguez, who was born in El Salvador, is the only person of color among 63 Republican representatives in the State Assembly. She has served in her office since 2013 and is currently the Majority Caucus Secretary and the Chair of the Committee on Family Law. She also sits on the Committee on Health, which has not met since February. Brooks has served as the mayor of South Milwaukee since 2014 and has won re-election three times. He was first elected to the City Council in 2009 and is also a small business owner. 

Get used to hearing this one: Like many suburban areas within Milwaukee County, this is a district becoming more friendly to Democrats. 

24th District: Emily Siegrist  (D) vs. Dan Knodl (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Tilt Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: 

Dan Knodl has represented this district since 2009. He currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Information Policy and Technology. Knodl recently made waves by hosting a boat parade fundraiser on 9/11. Siegrist is a veteran of the Army National Guard, where she served as a medic for five years. She has also been a nurse practitioner and has taught nursing. 

The 24th is yet another district in the Milwaukee suburbs that’s coming into play for Democrats, and with this being a rematch from 2018 (Knodl won 54 percent to 46 percent), this will be a good test of how great that shift is. 

30th District: Sarah Yacoub (D) vs. Shannon Zimmerman (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Tilt Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: 

Shannon Zimmerman has served in the Assembly since 2017. He lost in a primary for State Senate in 2017 to then-state Rep. Adam Jarchow, who went on to lose to now-State Sen. Patty Schachtner. He currently serves in the Joint Finance Committee. He was recently in the news for claiming one house as a residence for tax purposes (which seems to be a primary residence, since it’s also his wife’s primary address), and the other for his voting address and political career. A complaint has been filed with the state Elections Commission.  

Sarah Yacoub is an attorney and has worked as a prosecutor in Los Angeles County. Since moving to Hudson, Wis., she started a nonprofit offering pro-bono legal representation for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. She ran unsuccessfully for St. Croix County district attorney in 2016. She is holding a fundraiser with Dr. Mary Trump, the niece of President Donald Trump, and the author of bestselling book, “Too Much and Never Enough.”

55th District: Daniel Schierl (D) vs. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R)

CNalysis projection: Likely Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Most open seats in the Assembly are in the “Safe” category for their respective parties (see: next category below). This one, however, is the only in the “Likely” group. Current representative, Republican Mike Rohrkaste, won by a 10-point margin in 2018 over Daniel Schierl. (Rohrkaste is not seeking re-election after six years in the seat.)

But this district is in the Fox Valley, which could be the most crucial swing region in the state for the presidential election. Winnebago and Outagamie counties will be two of the most closely-watched counties in the state once votes are counted. 

Schierl worked in manufacturing for four decades, and was active as a union representative. Cabral-Guevara, who defeated two other candidates in the primary by a large margin, is a nurse practitioner and runs her own practice. She also teaches at the UW-Oshkosh College of Nursing. Before winning the primary, Cabral-Guevara received multiple threatening letters from racist hate groups. For both candidates, it would be their first time serving in elected office. 

62nd District: August Edward Schutz (D) vs. Robert Wittke (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Likely Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Robert Wittke is in his first term serving in the State Assembly. Prior to his election for the open (previously Republican-held) seat in 2018, he was a representative on the Racine Board of Education. Schutz is a recent University of Minnesota graduate, and recently worked as an intern in the Minnesota State Senate. This would be his first time serving in elected office. 

82nd District: Jacob Malinowski (D) vs. Ken Skowronski (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Likely Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

This is a race to watch. It’s another suburban district in Milwaukee County, and Jacob Malinowski is running a compelling campaign, epitomizing the running-against-inaction thrust of this election, repeatedly calling on the Legislature to “Do your damn job.” 

Ken Skowronski has served in the State Assembly since 2014. He is the Chair of the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs. He is also on the Committee on Health, which has not yet met since February. He has not faced a Democratic challenger since he was elected in 2013. Malinowski, who defeated Paul McCreary in the primary (65%-35%), is a recent Yale graduate. This would be his first time holding elected office. 

This race also includes one of the widest age gaps you’ll ever see between candidates, with the 22-year-old Malinowski running to unseat the 82-year-old Skowronski. 

85th District: Jeff Johnson (D) vs. Patrick Snyder (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Likely Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Patrick Snyder has served in the State Assembly since 2017. He is the Chair of the Committee on Children and Families, and the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Jobs and the Economy, which has not met since February. Jeff Johnson won the primary, defeating Aaron LaFave (65%-35%). He is currently serving on the Marathon County Board. 

88th District: Kristin Lyerly (D) vs. John Macco (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Lean Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: Check back here

John Macco has served in the State Assembly since 2015. He is the Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means. In the Green Bay-area district, Macco won re-election by a seven-point margin in 2018 after winning by a 22-point margin in 2016. He lost in a bid to unseat State Senator Dave Hansen in 2012. Lyerly is an obstetrician/gynecologist and has a Masters’ Degree in Public Health. This would be her first time serving in elected office. 

92nd District: Amanda White Eagle (D) vs. Treig Pronschinske (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Lean Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: Check back here

Treig Pronschinske has served in the State Assembly since 2017. He is the Chair of the Committee on Consumer Protection. He previously served as the mayor of Mondovi from 2014 to 2018. White Eagle is a member of Ho-Chunk Nation and has worked in tribal government as Associate Judge, Interim Chief Judge, Attorney General, and Senior Tribal Counsel.

96th District: Josefine Jaynes (D) vs. Loren Oldenburg (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Lean Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Loren Oldenberg is serving in his first term in the State Assembly. He is the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Environment. Though the district was held by Republican Lee Nerison from 2004 to 2018, Oldenburg won in 2018 by less than 1,000 votes. 

Josefine Jaynes won the Democratic primary, defeating Tucker Gretebeck (56%-44%). She is 18 years old (!), and would be the youngest woman elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature. This would be her first time serving in elected office. 

The Open Seats Unlikely to Flip Parties (13)

8th District: Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D) vs. Angel Sanchez (R)

Replacing: JoCasta Zamarripa (D)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

11th District: Dora Drake (D) vs. Orlando Owens (R)

Replacing: Jason Fields (D)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

17th District: Supreme Moore Omokunde (D) vs. Abie Eisenbach (R)

Replacing: David Crowley (D) (seat currently vacated, Crowley was elected Milwaukee County Executive in April)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

29 District: John Calabrese (D) vs. Clint Moses (R)

Replacing: John Stafsholt (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

35th District: Tyler Ruprecht (D) vs. Calvin Callahan (R) 

Replacing: Mary Felzkowski (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: Check back here

41st District: Nate Zimdars (D) vs. Alex Dallman (R)

Replacing: Joan Ballweg (R) 

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

44th District: Sue Conley (D) vs. DuWayne Severson (R)

Replacing: Debra Kolste (D)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

48th District: Samba Baldeh (D) vs. Samuel Anderson (R)

Replacing: Melissa Sargent (D)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

57th District: Lee Snodgrass (D) vs. Eric Beach (R)

Replacing: Amanda Stuck (D)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

69th District: Brian Giles (D) vs. Donna Rozar (R)

Replacing: Bob Kulp (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

75th District: John Ellenson (D) vs. David Armstrong  (R)

Replacing: Romaine Quinn (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: Check back here

This race might move out of the “Safe” category. David Armstrong was revealed to have posted videos featuring KKK leaders, tweeted his support for the confederate flag several times, and has liked and shared QAnon content, telling the Associated Press he finds elements of the conspiracy theory credible. Yikes.

John Ellenson has worked in education as a public school counselor and was the Disabilities Support Service Advisor at UW-Superior. He also played for the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team from 1988 to 1991, and is the father of former Marquette star and Detroit Pistons first round pick Henry Ellenson. This would be his first time holding elected office.

76th District: Francesca Hong (D) vs. Patrick Hull (R)

Replacing: Chris Taylor (D) (seat currently vacated, Taylor was appointed to the Dane County Circuit Court, replacing now-State Supreme Court Justice Jill Karofsky)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

90th District: Kristina Shelton (D) vs. Drew Kirsteatter (R)

Replacing: Staush Gruszynski (D)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

While not a truly “open” seat, Kristina Shelton defeated incumbent Staush Gruszynski in the primary with 79 percent of the vote. Gruszynski lost the support of the Wisconsin Democratic Party after news that he sexually harassed a female staff member. Shelton is a teacher, nonprofit executive, and serves on the Green Bay Area Public School Board. 

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The Safe Republicans (32)

1st District: Kim Delorit Jensen (D) vs. Joel Kitchens (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews: Check back here

2nd District: Mark Kiley (D) vs. Shea Sortwell (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

3rd District: Emily Voight (D) vs. Ron Tusler (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Despite the projection, this one doesn’t seem as if it should be in the fully “Safe” category for Tusler. The second-term representative drew criticism for sharing racist posts on Facebook, and doubled-down with an apology that wasn’t really an apology. He currently chairs the Committee on Campaigns and Elections. 

Democratic challenger Emily Voight was elected to the Calumet Board of Supervisors in the April 2020 election. She previously worked as a teacher, and has been an activist and volunteer with organizations like the Fox Valley ACLU, Wisconsin Conservation Voters, and the Appleton Special Education PTA.

6th District: Richard Sarnwick (D) vs. Gary Tauchen (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

15th District: Jessica Katzenmeyer (D) vs. Joe Sanfileppo (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Joe Sanfileppo has served in the Wisconsin State Assembly since 2013. He is currently the Chair of the Committee on Health, which has not held a single public hearing or meeting since February, despite the ongoing pandemic. 

If elected, Jessica Katzenmeyer would be the first transgender person to serve in the Wisconsin State Assembly. She has worked in various union leadership roles, and this would be her first time serving in elected office.

22nd District: Aaron James Matteson (D) vs. Janel Brantjen (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Matteson

  • Brantjen

25th District: Kerry Trask (D) vs. Paul Tittl (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

26th District: Mary Lynne Donohue (D) vs. Terry Katsma (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Donohue

  • Katsma

28th District: Kim Ann Butler (D) vs. Gae Magnafici (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Butler

  • Magafici

31st District: Elizabeth Lochner-Abel (D) vs. Amy Loudenbeck (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

32nd District: Katherine Gaulke (D) vs. Tyler August (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

33rd District: Mason Becker (D) vs. Cody Horlacher (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Cody Horlacher has served in the State Assembly since 2015. He is the Chair of the Committee on Regulatory Licensing Reform. After Gov. Tony Evers issued his mask requirement, Horlacher issued one of the most absurd press releases of the past six months, calling the governor a “dictator,” saying “it is simply not the government’s role to tell you to wear a piece of fabric,” and sharing several falsehoods about the effectiveness of masks.  

Mason Becker has served for three terms on the Fort Atkinson City Council, and is currently in his third year as Council President. He is also a business owner and served on the church council of Bethany Lutheran for six years. 

34th District: Kirk Bangstad (D) vs. Rob Swearingen (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Bangstad

  • Swearingern

37th District: Abigail Lowery (D) vs. John Jagler (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

38th District: Melissa Winker (D) vs. Barbara Dittrich (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

39th District: Izzy Hassey Navarez (D) vs. Mark Born (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

40th District: Deb Silvers (D) vs. Kevin Petersen (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Silvers

  • Peterson

42nd District: Melisa Arndt (D) vs. Jon Plumer (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

49th District: Shaun Murphy-Lopez (D) vs. Travis Tranel (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

50th District: Mark Waldon (D) vs. Tony Kurtz (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

52nd District: Julie Schroeder (D) vs. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

53rd District: Joseph Connelly (Independent) vs. Michael Schraa (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

Michael Schraa has served in the State Assembly since 2013. He is the Chair of the Committee on Corrections. He has also emerged as among the foremost covid truthers in a Party full of them, and has claimed that masks are ineffective, sharing links from a disgraced former professor and an Infowars host to make his point.

Connelly is a veteran of the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He is also a teacher and small business owner. He is running as an independent, and this would be his first time serving in elected office.

56th District: Diana Lawrence (D) vs. Dave Murphy (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

63rd District: Joel Jacobsen (D) vs. Robin Vos (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Jacobson

  • Vos

If you’ve visited this site at all, you know where I stand on Robin Vos. The Assembly Speaker is a truly abhorrent politician. No legislative leader in Wisconsin is more responsible for the disastrous state our politics are in than Vos, who has held office since 2005. He led the charge to sue to get rid of the governor’s public health order, and replaced it with nothing. He led the charge not to delay the April 7 election, forcing people to choose between their health and their right to vote. He has presided over the months of unacceptable inaction at the Wisconsin State Legislature. When the families of essential workers who had died from covid-19 visited his house in Burlington, he called the Sheriff on them, and had them remove a wreath and photos laid in their honor, and later blamed “politics” for their being there. He nixed the governor’s $40 million lead pipe replacement plan because he said too much money would go to Milwaukee. The list of times he’s proven himself to be an unfit leader is endless.

Honestly, it still baffles me that it wasn’t the end for him as the leader of the Assembly when, in 2019, he accused state Rep. Jimmy Anderson, who is paralyzed from the chest down, of “political grandstanding” for requesting to call in to committee gatherings. In a just world, he should have resigned long ago. He does not deserve to hold elected office in the state of Wisconsin.

Democratic challenger in the district is Joel Jacobson. This is a rematch of the 2018 race when Jacobsen was defeated 61 percent to 39 percent. Jacobsen has served as an alderman in the city of Burlington, and ran unsuccessfully for Racine County Board in April. He has also worked in insurance, real estate and hospitality.

The initial challenger in the district, Robert Prailes, called off his campaign after a week, saying “my family has also been the target of some really ugly and personal attacks.” Racine County Democratic activist Susan Sheldon said “People don’t feel safe running against Vos.”

67th District: Chris Kapsner (D) vs. Rob Summerfield (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

68th District: Emily Berge (D) vs. Jesse James (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

70th District: John Baldus (D) vs. Nancy Lynn VanderMeer (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Baldus

  • VanderMeer

72nd District: Criste Greening (D) vs. Scott Krug (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

83rd District: Alan DeYoung (D) vs. Chuck Wichgers (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

87th District: Richard Pulcher (D) vs. James Edming (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

89th District: Karl Jaeger (D) vs. John Nygren (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

93rd District: Charlie Warner (D) vs. Warren Petryk (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

97th District: Aaron Perry (D) vs. Scott Allen (R, incumbent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Republican

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Perry

  • Allen

Scott Allen has served in the Assembly since 2015. He is the Chair of the Committee on Community Development. He made national news last year by putting forth a list of 10 people to honor for Black History Month, most of whom were white. (He later dropped the proposal after meeting with Black leaders.) He has run unopposed since winning the Republican primary in 2014 in the deeply conservative district.

His challenger is Aaron Perry, who recently switched parties. He said the decision to leave the Republican Party was partly tied to Donald Trump and the party’s unwillingness to stand up to him. Perry has served as an alderman on the Waukesha Common Council since 2013, including two years as Council President. 

The Safe Democrats (21)

9th District: Marisabel Cabrera (D, incumbent) vs. Veronica Diaz (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

12th District: LaKeshia Myers (D, incumbent) vs. Ozell Cox (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

16th District: Kalan Haywood (D, incumbent) vs. Dennis Walton (independent)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

19th District: Jonathan Brostoff (D, incumbent) vs. Helmut Fritz (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

43rd District: Don Vruwink (D, incumbent) vs. Beth Drew (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

45th District: Mark Spreitzer (D, incumbent) vs. Tawny Gustina (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

46th District: Gary Hebl (D, incumbent) vs. Terry Lyon (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

47th District: Jimmy Anderson (D, incumbent) vs. Phil Anderson (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

54th District: Gordon Hintz (D, incumbent) vs. Donny Herman (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

64th District: Tip McGuire (D, incumbent) vs. Ed Hibsch (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

65th District: Tod Ohnstad (D, incumbent) vs. Crystal Miller (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

66th District: Greta Neubauer (D, incumbent) vs. Will Leverson (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

71st District: Katrina Shankland (D, incumbent) vs. Scott Soik (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

73rd District: Nick Milroy (D, incumbent) vs. Keith Kern (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

74th District: Beth Meyers (D, incumbent) vs. James Bolen (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Meyers

  • Bolen

79th District: Dianne Hesselbein (D, incumbent) vs. Victoria Fueger (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Hesselbein

  • Fueger

80th District: Sondy Pope (D, incumbent) vs. Chase Binnie (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

81st District: Dave Considine (D, incumbent) vs. David Dahlke (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

91st District: Jodi Emerson (D, incumbent) vs. Charles Walker (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

94th District: Steve Doyle (D, incumbent) vs. Kevin Hoyer (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

95th District: Jill Billings (D, incumbent) vs. Jerome Gundersen (R)

CNalysis projection: Safe Democratic

Wisconsin Eye interviews:

  • Billings

  • Gunderson

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The Uncontested (17)

Seventeen Assembly representatives are running unopposed in the November election. 

That includes six Democrats and eleven Republicans. 

These representatives are:

Of these, the highest profile name on the list is Jim Steineke, the Assembly Majority Leader, who has been in office since 2011. As one of the people most responsible for the state’s lack of response to the coronavirus pandemic, it is a disappointment to see him run unopposed in this election. Recently, Steineke was hand-picked by Robin Vos to serve as the chair of a task force on racial inequality, and he began the process by lying to the press about the law enforcement reform bills that the governor had called for in a special session following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Early on in the pandemic, he bragged on Twitter about taking the time to pass their lone bill of the past six months “correctly,” but in reality, his and his party’s delay led to the state missing out on $25 million in federal financial relief for unemployed Wisconsinites. He should have to face more accountability. Days before the Legislature won control of the state’s coronavirus response, Steineke, in a pitch for a “regional reopening,” said “We shouldn’t have a Republican plan or a governor’s plan, we need a Wisconsin plan that the entire state can get behind.” He has since offered no plan whatsoever. It’s a real shame he’s not facing any accountability from voters for these actions. 

Also disappointing is the unopposed campaign being run by Robert Brooks, who defeated Chris Reimer in the primary, but faces no Democratic challenger. Brooks made racist and sexist remarks while drunk to three female state lawmakers in 2018, and then-Gov. Walker asked him to resign

Taking a look at the map and the big picture of the uncontested races, a trend emerges in that many of the Republican-held districts where incumbents are running unopposed are in the eastern half of the state, mostly in exurban or rural areas. Democrats are going to have to find new ways to compete in those regions. 

What is also clear when looking at the big picture is that gerrymandering is a real force in the state legislative elections in Wisconsin. The next maps to be drawn will need to be done so much, much differently, and that fight is set to unfold in the next legislative session — by the leaders you’ll chose in this election.

Choose wisely.


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 Daily Beast, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record.


Thank you for reading The Recombobulation Area and supporting independent journalism in Wisconsin.

Subscribe to The Recombobulation Area newsletter here and follow us on Facebook at @therecombobulationarea.

Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.

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