Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. Donna Seidel of the 85th Assembly District appears set to launch a run for the 29th Senate District seat held for the past year by GOP Sen. Pam Galloway. The all-but-certain announcement will be made at a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. Seidel is well known in the most densely populated part the district, having served for 16 years in the elected position of Marathon County Clerk of Courts prior to being elected to the Assembly, where she is now in her fourth term.
More than 21,000 signatures were filed earlier this month to force the recall election for Galloway. While there were other potential candidates, including Marathon County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Johnson, Seidel’s entry into this race is a game-changer and she is likely to become the consensus candidate for the Democrats. We’ll have to wait to see if the GOP still has sham candidates as part of its recall strategy in this go-around, but just eyeballing it, the election should occur sometime between late May and mid-June.
The 29th Senate District is no cakewalk for a Democrat, although Russ Decker held it for 20 years prior to being upset by Galloway in the Republican wave of November 2010. There was significant spending by outside groups to support Galloway’s bid. (Decker upset long-time GOP Sen. Walter John Chilsen to take the seat in 1990.) Of the three Assembly seats in the 29th, the GOP holds two of them. Seidel’s seat has been a safe one for Democrats for a very long time and it’s likely to remain that way, even as an open seat election and with or without the redistricting alterations encompassed by Act 43. Jerry Petrowski’s 86th Assembly District seat may really be more about being safe for Jerry than it is about being safe for Republicans, in general. It has swung between parties at times, but Petrowski has held it solidly since 1998.
Republicans picked up four Wisconsin Senate seats to control the majority 19-14 after the 2010 elections, but they lost two seats in 2011 recalls, leaving them with a precarious 17-16 advantage in the chamber. If the Democrats can pick up any of the four seats being contested in this round of recalls, it will tip the balance over to the Democrats for the remainder of this session. Beyond the recall elections in late spring to early summer, general elections will be taking place in November for even-numbered Senate seats.
Other Senate seats up for recall include Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, along with Sen. Van Wanggaard of the Racine area and Sen. Terry Moulton of the Chippewa Falls area. Van Wanggaard’s district is grossly altered by Wisconsin Act 43 to carve out the City of Racine. But even if that interesting reconfiguration withstands challenges, it won’t be in time to help him with the recall and he’s looking at a very competitive scenario involving a lot of voters that he’s probably never going to be seeing again (one way or another.) Wanggaard has the dubious honor of being the Senator with the most petition signatures for his recall; more than 24,000.
Like Galloway, all GOP senators up for recall except for Fitzgerald have only a year in the Senate under their belts, although Moulton served two terms in the Assembly from 2005 to 2009. Moulton is all but certain to face former Assembly Rep. Kristen Dexter, who was elected in 2008, serving one term in the same district Moulton represented before losing in 2010. Dexter also has a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. Odd piece of trivia: though some have been here for a long time, none of the four Republican senators up for recall are Wisconsin natives and neither is Scott Walker. (It’s no big deal. Neither were Jim Doyle or Bill Proxmire.)
Cap Times: Looks like Dems will win control of Wisconsin Senate: