Democrats score major upset in state Senate race
In a major upset for Wisconsin Republicans, Democrat Patty Schachtner bested Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow in a special election in a conservative district.
Jarchow was thought to have had the race in the bag. After all, Barack Obama lost Senate District 10 by 6 points in 2012, and Hillary Clinton lost it to Donald Trump by 17 percentage points in 2016.
Every county in the northwest district voted for Trump in 2016, and Jarchow, who is in his third term representing part of the area in the Assembly, had a strong base of support.
In addition, the right-wing corporate group Americans for Prosperity and the Republican State Leadership Committee each ran pro-Jarchow ads and Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir — a darling of the religious right who is running for the U.S. Senate — campaigned for Jarchow.
So Schachtner, the St. Croix County medical examiner and a Somerset school-board member, was clearly the race’s underdog.
Democrats view the victory, the latest in a nationwide string of Democratic upsets, as evidence that a backlash is building against Trump, one that augurs well for them in this year’s all-important midterm elections. Perhaps Gov. Scott Walker also will be surprised in November.
In another special election Jan. 16, Republican Rick Gundrum of Slinger defeated Democrat Dennis Degenhardt for an open seat in eastern Wisconsin’s 58th Assembly District.
But Degenhardt garnered a surprising 43 percent of the vote in the district, which is so red that Democrats have not fielded a candidate there in a decade. Hillary Clinton received just 28 percent of the vote in 2016.
The balance of power in Wisconsin’s Senate is unchanged, with Republicans maintaining an 18-14 majority.