MADISON — The state Democratic Party has made major investments in incumbent Democrats hoping to hold off Republicans from securing a veto-proof majority in the Wisconsin Legislature this fall.
State campaign finance reports filed with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission show the Democratic Party of Wisconsin raised more than $7.5 million during the past three months, compared with about $728,000 raised by the state Republican Party.
The state Democratic Party, along with Democratic committees in the Senate and Assembly, contributed more than $220,000 to Democratic candidates in five of the six seats deemed vulnerable by state Republicans.
Four of those candidates are incumbent Democrats in what party officials on both sides of the aisle consider highly contested seats this fall. The fifth is Brad Pfaff, who served as Gov. Tony Evers’ secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection until being abruptly ousted in November by Senate Republicans.
“Looking at the maps and figuring out the best way to hold on to what we have right now and even pick up a couple of seats — that’s what’s paramount to the Democratic Party,” state party spokesman Phil Shulman said. “And making sure that Gov. Evers still has the power of the veto.”
Finance reports filed July 15 cover campaign donations and spending for the first six months of 2020.
Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, accused Democrats of relying on millions of out-of-state dollars — including $2.5 million from Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“Wisconsin Democrats are moving further away from the Midwestern values that Wisconsinites hold dear, and are cozying up to out-of-state liberals and their cash,” Hitt said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, Hitt responded to the Democrats’ second-quarter fundraising haul with a plea for donations.
Shulman, who dismissed Hitt’s comments, said the fundraising results show a growing momentum behind the Democratic Party. Shulman said the party has raised more than $10 million in the second quarter of 2020 between state and federal accounts.
“We raised a lot, and Republicans raised very little,” Shulman said. “I think the enthusiasm gap is remarkable, and people are continuing to be excited about electing Democrats. This clearly is showing signs that Republicans are in a pretty bad spot.”
Republicans would have to flip three seats in both the Assembly and Senate to achieve two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
Officials with the Republican Party of Wisconsin have said they have put up strong candidates in those highly contested districts, while the state Democratic party earlier this year launched a “Save the Veto” campaign with the goal of holding all their seats and preventing Republicans from reaching a supermajority.
Veto-proof majorities would give Republicans in the state Legislature a significant edge over Evers during next year’s redrawing of legislative district maps. Gerrymandered districts created by Republicans 10 years ago have contributed to the party’s decade-long majority in both chambers.
In the Assembly, Republicans look to take back the 14th District, which Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, won by less than a percentage point in 2018. Republicans also said the Assembly’s 74th and 94th districts provide other possible gains.
In the Senate, the seats of departing Democrats Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, and former Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, also provide opportunities to flip Republican this fall.
Schachtner raised nearly $80,000 for her re-election campaign in the Senate’s 10th District. The state Democratic Party donated $15,000 to her effort.State Rep. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond, is running to unseat Schachtner and raised more than $36,000.
In the Senate’s 30th District Democratic primary, Green Bay’s Sandra Ewald raised just shy of $900, compared with Hansen’s nephew and De Pere City Council member Jonathon Hansen, who raised more than $36,000 from individual donors and committees.
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