August 21, 2014

Legislative vacancies hit levels not seen in decades

The number of lawmakers leaving their seats in both chambers of the state Legislature has climbed to numbers not seen in decades.

So far, there are seven members of the state Senate and 22 members of the Assembly who have announced they will not seek reelection this fall. It’s been 32 years since the Assembly had so many vacancies and almost six decades since the Senate saw as much turnover. The majority of the members giving up their seats are leaving elected office entirely, although some are seeking other positions in state government or the state’s vacant 6th Congressional District seat.

Marquette University political science professor Charles Franklin says the exodus comes after a tumultuous four years for the Legislature and “it will be interesting to see if that changes any of the level conflict and animosity in the Legislature.”

The number of empty seats will likely create some heated primaries, and Mike McCabe with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says that could drive up spending this election season. McCabe says “open seats tend to be very expensive.”

Franklin notes that, because of redistricting, most the races will not be competitive during the November elections. Any fights for those seeking to fill the empty seats will likely come during partisan primaries, although he believes many of those disputes will be resolved before more than one name from a party gets on the ballot.

WHBY’s Mike Kemmeter contributed to this report.