Having President-elect Donald Trump on the ballot was at least partially responsible for Republicans adding to their majority in the state Assembly.
GOP leadership acknowledged that fact Wednesday, as they look to return to the Capitol in January with their largest majority since 1956. Republicans retained control of the seats they held during the last session, while also picking up the 92nd Assembly District after incumbent Democrat Chris Danou lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske. The victory gives the party a 64-35 edge over Democrats.
Unofficial returns show Republican votes increased in counties across the state, while most of Wisconsin’s Democratic strongholds saw a drop in turnout compared to the 2012 presidential race.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) believes a big reason behind why Republicans performed well statewide was because Trump brought out voters who normally don’t get involved. “I think there’s no question that President-elect Trump brought a whole group of new people into the process,” Steineke told reporters Wednesday.
The Kaukauna Republican said it’s something he noticed while knocking on doors during the campaign, when he would see Trump signs in the yards of people not on voter lists. “These are people that haven’t voted in years, if not decades, but Donald Trump was able to connect with them on a level that no other politician has been able to.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) agreed that Trump was a big help to Republicans on the ticket, but noted that the GOP also had a good record to run on in Wisconsin. He described many of the party’s candidates around the state state as “people who actually said they were going to do things, and then got them done.”
Many Wisconsin Republicans were slow to support Trump as the nominee, with Speaker Vos backing his candidacy only in the final months of the race. Steineke was a vocal critic of Trump during the campaign, but said Wednesday that he’s now “excited” about what’s in store. “He’s our president and I’m excited about our prospects moving forward…especially when you have a speaker like (U.S. Representative) Paul Ryan. I think we share a lot of similar ideals.”