Joe Strohl
Joseph Strohl
Government Relations

Wisconsin Election Results
November 11, 2008

The November 4th General Election was a major victory for the Wisconsin Association for Justice and the newly created Justice Fund (WAJ’s conduit). Our primary goal was to elect a pro-consumer majority in the State Assembly and retain a pro-consumer majority in the State Senate and we were successful. The funds raised by the Justice Fund were an important factor in this success. This will mean that WAJ’s pro-consumer agenda on auto insurance, the Family Justice bill and other important issues WAJ members and the clients we represent seek to change will enjoy a level of support among the newly elected representatives.

Wisconsin of course went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. Obama only lost 13 out of 72 Wisconsin counties. By comparison, John Kerry lost forty-three counties. (See for county breakdown map.) In addition, the only contested Congressional District race was in the Green Bay area where Rep. Steve Kagen (D) was reelected with 52% of the vote against his 2006 opponent former Assembly Speaker John Gard (R). Following the defeat Gard indicated he may be back again in two years.

It was a good night for the Legislative Democrats. They took the majority in the State Assembly and kept the majority in the State Senate. Below is a rundown of what happened.

Wisconsin Senate – There was no change to the partisan makeup with Democrats retaining their 18-15 margin. There had been hope by Senate Democrats that they might be able to pick up a couple seats in that house. However, they came up short in those races. One race is heading to a recount, where Democrat Jessica King came up only 181 votes short in the 18th district.

Wisconsin Assembly – Democrats actually picked up five seats to take over the majority with the margin now being 52-46-1. No Democratic incumbent lost. Democrats won the open seats with Penny Bernard Schaber in Appleton and Mark Radcliffe in Black River Falls. Democrats beat Republican incumbents Terry Moulton in Eau Claire, J.A. “Doc” Hines in Oxford and Frank Lasee in Bellevue. However they came very close to picking up even more. There were a total of five more districts in which they lost by less than 700 votes. At least one race will have a recount, the 47th District that Democrat Trish O’Neil lost by 28 votes to Republican Keith Ripp.

The breakdown of the contested races in the State Legislature is as follows:


8TH District – Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) survived a close race with Rep. Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee). Darling won with a 3,000 vote margin out of nearly 100,000 votes cast. That is a margin of 52% to 48%.

10th District – Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) defeated Democrat Allison Page by over 13,000 votes.

12th District – This is the open Democratic seat in northeastern Wisconsin that had been represented by Sen. Roger Breske (D-Eland). Democratic candidate Jim Holperin (Eagle River) and a former State Representative defeated Republican candidate Tom Tiffany by 2,000 votes. This is the only race where the Republicans thought they might pick up a Democratic seat.

18th District – This open Republican seat in the Oshkosh-Fond du Lac area was represented by Sen. Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh). GOP candidate Randy Hopper won the race by 181 votes over Dem candidate Jessica King. A recount is likely.

32nd District – Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-LaCrosse) was reelected by about 3,000 votes over Democratic challenger Tara Johnson.

Early in the election season the GOP thought they might have a shot at Democratic incumbents in Green Bay (Dave Hansen) and in Kenosha (Bob Wirch). Both Democrats easily won with each getting about 2/3rds of the vote. For full election results, go to


There were 11 open seats. In three seats where Democrats retired the primary decided the race since there was no Republican opponent in the general election: Peter Barca (Kenosha), Kelda Helen Roy (Madison) and Nick Milroy (Superior). Two additional Democrats retired and Democrats held onto those seats:

22nd District – Sandy Pasch defeated Yash Wadhwa to retain the seat held by Sheldon Wasserman in Milwaukee.

91st District – This seat was vacated by Rep. Barb Gronemus (Whitehall). Democrats held the seat with Chris Danou winning by 3,000 votes.

Six Republicans retired and the Democrats were able to pick up two of those seats:

57th District – This is the Appleton district held by Steve Wieckert (R). It was won by Democrat Penny Bernard Schaber by almost 4,000 votes.

92nd District – This seat was vacated by Rep Terry Musser (Black River Falls). Democrat Mark Radcliffe won by about 1,500 votes.

The Republicans held the remaining four open seats, although one is heading for a recount:

24th District – Republican Suzanne Jeskewitz (Menominee Falls) retired and Republican Dan Knodl beat Democrat Charlene Brady.

47th District – This seat was vacated by Rep. Eugene Hahn (R- Cambria). GOP candidate Keith Ripp defeated Trish O’Neil by 28 votes. There will be a recount.

50th District – Sheryl Albers retired and Ed Brooks retained the seat for Republicans beating Democrat Tom Crofton (Reedsburg area).

53rd District – Republican Richard Spanbauer defeated Democrat Jeff Mann to hold onto the Carol Owens seat (Oshkosh).

Democrats defeated three additional Republican incumbents.

2nd District – GOP incumbent Frank Lasee (Bellevue) was defeated by Ted Zigmunt by 1,400 votes.

42nd District – GOP incumbent J.A. “Doc” Hines (Oxford) was defeated by Fred Clark by over 450 votes.

68th District – GOP incumbent Terry Moulton (Eau Claire) was defeated by Kristen Dexter by 200 votes.

The GOP targeted six Democratic incumbents who had won by small margins in 2006 and all six retained their seats. These were:

37th District – Democrat Andy Jorgenson (Jefferson) won by over 5,000 votes.

43rd District – Democrat Kim Hixson (Whitewater) defeated former Rep. Debbie Towns by almost 300 votes. Hixson won last time by about 40 votes.

49th District – Democrat Phil Garthwaite (Platteville) won by about 2,000 votes.

51st District – Democrat Steve Hilgenberg (Dodgeville) won by almost 4,000 votes.

88th District – Democrat Jim Soletski (Green Bay) won by almost 3,000 votes.

93rd District – Democrat Jeff Smith (Eau Claire) won by over 6,000 votes.

There was one Independent Seat

67th District – Rep. Jeff Wood was the GOP representative from Chippewa Falls. He switched to become an Independent in July right before the filing deadline. The GOP found a candidate, Don Moga, who mounted a successful write-in campaign during the primary, so his name did appear on the ballot. Wood won by about 150 votes. A recount is likely.

Other interesting races were:

30th District – GOP Chair of the Finance Committee Kitty Rhodes (River Falls) won by 3,000 votes.

34th District – GOP incumbent Dan Meyer (Eagle River) barely won over his Democratic opponent by about 160 votes. No one had targeted this race.

55th District – Former GOP Chair of Finance Committee Dean Kaufert (Neenah) won by about 2,000 votes. He barely won last time.

94th District – GOP Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (West Salem) won by less than 3,000 votes. Huebsch has announced that he will not be seeking any leadership position in the upcoming session.

For a full listing of Assembly results, go to:

Assembly Leadership

The current Democratic leader in the Assembly, Rep. Jim Kreuser, was elected Kenosha County Executive last April. He did not seek reelection to the Assembly so there will be a race for the Assembly Speaker position. Four Democrats have sent letters to colleagues asking for their support: Reps. Pedro Colon, Fred Kessler, Jon Richards, all of Milwaukee and Mike Sheridan of Janesville. Democrats in the Assembly are meeting on Wednesday to determine leadership roles.

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If you have any questions, contact the WAJ office at

Wisconsin Association for Justice
44 East Mifflin Street, Suite 402, Madison, WI 53703
tel: (608) 257-5741 • fax: (608) 255-9285

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