Wisconsin Races To Watch

*Update* Winners in bold and underlined

Nov. 7, 2022

For the casual observer, election day can be a confusing experience. You might know who you’re going to vote for, but you’d also like to know what it means in the big picture. This short guide will help you understand how everything fits together in today’s election, and what your vote could potentially help achieve. Every race is important, but here are the top races that we, at the MacIver Institute, will be paying particularly close attention to.


Top Statewide Races

Governor – Gov. Evers should be very vulnerable this year. He’s not only a Democrat, but his policies have been verifiably disastrous for the state. However, he’s done an excellent job of defining the race and his challenger, Tim Michels. Even with a supposed “red wave,” this is going to be a tough fight. That could explain why this is the most expensive governor’s race in Wisconsin history. Between the candidates, parties and special interest groups, total spending is right around $115 million.

Tony Evers (D)

Tim Michels (R)

Joan Ellis Beglinger (I) – Dropped out but is still on the ballot. She endorsed Michels.

Attorney General – Josh Kaul should also be very vulnerable this year. He’s a Democrat, and he’s the state’s top law enforcement official at a time when runaway crime throughout Wisconsin is a top concern for voters. However, this race is closely associated with the gubernatorial race. For the past twenty years, the party that won the gubernatorial race also won the attorney general’s race. That means Kaul still has a decent shot of pulling off a win, depending on how Evers does.

Josh Kaul (D)

Eric Toney (R)

US Senator – In years’ past, an over-the-top extreme liberal radical like Mandela Barnes would never have been taken seriously as a candidate in a statewide race. His own party most likely would have made sure he never got past the primary. Today, however, the left is completely unified behind such a candidate (including the mainstream media). Additionally, Ron Johnson is the Democrats’ number one target in the country. Johnson is way ahead in the polls, but Democrats are hoping to pull off a surprise.

Mandela Barnes (D)

Ron Johnson (R)

Top Assembly Races

Republicans are looking at the realistic possibility of a supermajority in the Assembly. That means they would be able to override the governor’s vetoes. They need to knock off at least 5 Democrats to make that happen. Republicans have plenty of opportunities to make that a reality. Here are some of the bell weather races we’ll be keeping an eye on. A few additional races will be on the radar as potential shifts but are more outside possibilities and will depend on whether this is a wave election, and if so, how strong the wave may be.

Assembly District 13 – This open seat is the top pickup opportunity for Republicans this cycle.   The seat was previously held by Republican Rob Hutton, who lost to Democrat Sara Rodriguez in 2020.  She is now running for Lieutenant Governor.  (Hutton is running for State Senate.)  This seat is likely to fall back to Republican hands.

Sarah Harrison (D)

Tom Michalski (R)

Assembly District 33 – Don Vruwink (D) is currently a representative for the area around Milton, but after redistricting, he’s now in a conservative-leaning district. That’s probably why Vruwink is trying to portray himself as a conservative who wants lower taxes in his campaign ads, indicating his tough position. This race is technically a hold for Republicans, which makes it unusual given that a currently serving Democrat representative is vying for the seat.

Don Vruwink (D)

Scott Johnson (R)

Assembly District 44 – During the last “Red Wave” in 2010, Republicans were very successful in Rock County, and even took the assembly seat in Janesville. Democrats soon took it back, but with another “Red Wave” supposedly on the way, the Janesville seat will be one to watch.

Sue Conley (D)

Spencer Zimmerman (R)

Assembly District 54 – This seat is in the Oshkosh area. It is currently held by former minority leader Gordon Hintz, suggesting it’s a safe district for the democrats. However, he is not on the ballot this time, and the Democrat Party is investing in the race more than you’d expect for a supposedly safe seat. In a Republican wave year, this might very well become a Republican pick up.

Lori Palmeri (D)

Donnie Herman (R)

Assembly District 64 – This seat is in Kenosha and is currently held by Democrat Tip McGuire. It’s usually a safe seat for Democrats but considering the amount of money they’re spending on the race, the party is worried. Perhaps the destruction of the city under the Democrats’ watch could be a factor in voters’ minds. After all, voters there did just elect a Republican county executive, something that seemed impossible not long ago.

Tip McGuire (D)

Ed Hibsch (R)

Assembly District 71 – This district is in Stevens Point, which has been solidly blue for a long time. However, Republicans believe the area’s politics is changing and think they might be able to pick off the Democrat incumbent.

Katrina Shankland (D)

Scott Soik (R)

Assembly District 74 – The seat containing Ashland and Park Falls, currently held by Democrat Beth Meyers, is another open seat where Republicans have a strong opportunity for a pickup.  The seat has been held by Democrats for many years, but the northern part of the state has been trending more conservative in recent years, and this seat is viewed as one of the most vulnerable seats currently held by Democrats.

John Adams (D)

Chanz Green (R)

Assembly District 84 – This is an open seat in Milwaukee County currently held by Mike Kuglitsch (R). The Republican candidate is Bob Donovan, who made a name for himself as a conservative on the Milwaukee County board. That’s also made him a big target for the left. This is a must-retain seat for the Republicans to achieve a super majority in the Assembly.

Lu Ann Bird (D)

Bob Donovan (R)

Assembly District 94 – This district is in La Crosse County and has been firmly held by Democrat Steve Doyle since 2012. He’s being challenged by Ryan Huebsch, son of former Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch. That’s helped Huebsch build a formidable campaign that might just take out one of the Democrat’s “safe seats.” Democrats sent substantial amounts of early money to support Doyle, but observers see the seat as one of the top pickup opportunities for Republicans.

Steve Doyle (D)

Ryan Huebsch (R)

Top State Senate Races

Senate Republicans are already within a hair’s breadth of gaining a supermajority. With 33 total seats in the Senate, they need to win 22. They already have 21. Here are the races that could make that achievement possible.

State Senate District 5 – Dale Kooyenga (R) currently holds this seat but decided not to run again. The area is becoming increasingly liberal. Rob Hutton was previously an assemblyman from Brookfield but lost that seat in 2020. Katzenmeyer ran and lost against Republican Joe Sanfelippo in 2020.

Jessica Katzenmeyer (D)

Rob Hutton (R)

State Senate District 25 – This seat is way up north and includes the City of Ashland, which is very liberal. It is currently held by Janet Bewley, who is retiring. Bewley also recently involved in a fatal car accident that killed a mother and her 5-year-old daughter. Bewley pulled into traffic while on the phone with a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter, forcing one of the vehicles involved to swerve into oncoming traffic. Local law enforcement won’t charge Bewley, which only helps Republicans’ argument that the left has created a two-tier justice system. Romaine Quinn is currently in the assembly and thinks this is his chance to step up into the Senate.

Kelly Westlund (D)

Romaine Quinn (R)

State Senate District 31 – Jeff Smith (D) currently holds this seat, but he is considered very vulnerable. This seat frequently goes back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats have been pumping money into this seat to shore up Smith, a sign they’re concerned about holding seats, not picking up seats.

Jeff Smith (D)

David Estenson (R)

Local Referendums

In addition to the political races, there are also 88 school referendums that will be on the ballot in communities around the state. Three are above $100 million, with the top one falling just shy of $200 million.

La Crosse – $194.7 million to build a new high school and other renovations.

Waunakee – $175 million to build a new elementary school and a new middle school.

Appleton – $129.8 million to build a new school and for facility improvements. Appleton also wants an extra $5 million a year (recurring) for staffing and maintenance.