Democrats tar­get solid GOP seats with $1 mil­lion in hope of a wave

An­other group fo­cuses on pos­i­tive ad­ver­tis­ing

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Pa­trick Mar­ley

MADI­SON - A Demo­cratic group new to Wis­con­sin says it plans to spend $1 mil­lion in heav­ily Repub­li­can dis­tricts that have been on no one else’s radar.

Democrats are wel­com­ing the spend­ing against Repub­li­cans, but many of them are ques­tion­ing whether the ef­fort is a waste of money that could be bet­ter spent on more vi­able tar­gets.

Among those the group For­ward Ma­jor­ity is go­ing af­ter is Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Scott Fitzger­ald (R-Juneau). He won his last election, in 2014, with 63% of the vote.

Wis­con­sin Democrats for months have been fo­cused on races where the num­bers are much bet­ter in the hope of tak­ing over the Se­nate. For­ward Ma­jor­ity is play­ing by a dif­fer­ent set of rules.

“Our goal and mis­sion as an or­ga­ni­za­tion is to come in and ex­pand the map,” said Ben Wexler-Waite, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based group. “We see it as im­por­tant that some­one come in and give these Democrats a fight­ing chance.”

Alec Zim­mer­man, a spokesman for the state Repub­li­can Party, said the ef­fort shows Democrats are com­mit­ted to spend­ing as much as they can to try to get con­trol of state gov­ern­ment.

“This just con­firms what Repub­li­cans have been say­ing all along — out­side money from lib­eral spe­cial in­ter­ests is pour­ing into Wis­con­sin to undo Repub­li­can re­forms and take Wis­con­sin back­ward,” he said by email.

Some Wis­con­sin Democrats are skep­ti­cal of For­ward Ma­jor­ity’s plans.

“I wish they were spend­ing their money in races that could be won,” said one Demo­cratic ac­tivist who asked not to be named.

But an­other called the ef­fort a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment, even if all the ads do is give the Repub­li­can leader a scare that could dis­tract him.

Repub­li­cans con­trol the Se­nate, 1815. Democrats would need to net two seats to take con­trol of the cham­ber.

For­ward Ma­jor­ity was formed in 2017 and fo­cused on state leg­isla­tive races in Vir­ginia that year.

In ad­di­tion to Fitzger­ald, the group’s Wis­con­sin tar­gets are Sens. Devin LeMahieu of Oost­burg, Jerry Petrowski of Marathon and Van Wang­gaard of Racine. For­ward Ma­jor­ity is also run­ning pos­i­tive spots about their op­po­nents.

The four Repub­li­cans won their 2014 races with 60 per­cent of the vote or more.

“I feel pretty good,” LeMahieu said of his race this time.

More tar­gets could be added be­fore the Nov. 6 election as part of the group’s $1 mil­lion ef­fort in Wis­con­sin, said Wexler-Waite.

The dig­i­tal ad fo­cused on Fitzger­ald crit­i­cizes him for at­tempt­ing to block a vote in 2014 on a broadly pop­u­lar bill to re­quire in­sur­ers to cover oral chemo­ther­apy. The ads against the oth­ers ham­mer them for their sup­port for a $4 bil­lion in­cen­tive pack­age for Fox­conn Tech­nol­ogy Group.

An­other group, Acro­nym, is tar­get­ing more tra­di­tional races with $800,000 in spots tout­ing six Democrats run­ning for the Se­nate. The de­ci­sion to run pos­i­tive spots about Democrats — rather than neg­a­tive ones at­tack­ing Repub­li­cans — was de­lib­er­ate, said Tara McGowan, the

group’s founder.

“One rea­son peo­ple don’t vote full bal­lots is be­cause they don’t know who (the can­di­dates) are,” she said. “We would love to en­cour­age more peo­ple to vote their full bal­lots and arm them with the in­for­ma­tion they need.”

Among the can­di­dates the group is pro­mot­ing are Julie Hen­szey, who is run­ning against state Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brook­field) for a seat in the Se­nate; Lee Sn­od­grass, who is chal­leng­ing Se­nate Pres­i­dent Roger Roth (R-Ap­ple­ton); and Kriss Mar­ion, who is tak­ing on Sen. Howard Marklein (RSpring Green).

Like For­ward Ma­jor­ity, Acro­nym was formed af­ter the 2016 election and first fo­cused on the 2017 elec­tions in Vir­ginia. The group is ded­i­cated to putting leg­isla­tive cham­bers in the hands of Democrats ahead of 2021, when law­mak­ers in most states will be re­spon­si­ble for draw­ing new leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sional dis­tricts.

While the two groups are tak­ing dif­fer­ent strate­gies, McGowan said she ap­pre­ci­ated that For­ward Ma­jor­ity was try­ing to make more races com­pet­i­tive.

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