A surprise win for the Democratic candidate in the 10th Senate District could have many Republicans rethinking their strategies heading into a crucial midterm election year.
St. Croix County Chief Medical Examiner Patty Schachtner defeated Republican state Representative Adam Jarchow in Tuesday’s special election, giving control of the seat to a Democrat for the first time since 2000. The district, located in western Wisconsin, has also favored Republican presidential candidates, with President Donald Trump winning there in 2016 by double digit margins.
UW-Madison political scientist Barry Burden says Republicans were expected to hold on to the district and spent a lot of money on the special election race, making the outcome a surprise for many. Burden says low turnout from Republicans may be partly to blame for the loss, although he also sees national influences at play.
The race is just the latest of several special elections nationwide where Republican candidates have faced defeat, as voters shift away from the GOP due to the unpopularity of President Trump. “I think this election is a mixture of both some local specific factors, but also these national trends…it ought to be an alarm bell for Republicans,” Burden says.
Governor Scott Walker is already seeing it that way, sending out several tweets calling the loss a wake-up call for Republicans and arguing that the GOP can’t presume voters know about they work they have been doing for the last several years. “We can’t presume that everyone knows about the positive things we’re getting done for the people of Wisconsin,” the governor wrote.
Burden says Republicans were already facing challenges heading into 2018, with the party of the president typically suffering losses in Congress during midterm election years. Also, due to Trump’s controversial nature and low approval ratings, it could rally more Democratic voters to show up at the polls in November. “I think there are a number of concerns Republicans are going to have to attend to, if they want to hold on,” he argues.