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State legislature races heat up as primary elections near

July 11,2016 13:15

While Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders control the headlines, 2016 is also an important year for state-level elections. Wisconsin's state primary elections are Aug. 9, and the general elections are Nov. 8; here are four storylines to ...and more »

While Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders control the headlines, 2016 is also an important year for state-level elections. Wisconsin’s state primary elections are Aug. 9, and the general elections are Nov. 8; here are four storylines to keep an eye on.1. Swinging the Senate?

When state Sen. Richard Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, announced he would not be seeking reelection in 2016, it was immediately seen as an opportunity to help state Democrats regain control of the state senate. Republicans currently hold a 19-14 seat advantage over Democrats in the senate, but Democrats are targeting seats like Gudex’s in an effort to take control.

Gudex represents the 18th Senate District in Wisconsin, an area that has a split partisan composition. When Gudex was first elected in 2012, with more than 85,000 votes cast, he beat Democratic challenger Jessica King by just 600 votes, according to Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board.There are currently three candidates running for the seat. The two Republican candidates, former Fond du Lac County Republican Party Chairman Dan Feyen and business-owner Mark Elliott, will face off in the August primary. The victor of that primary will face Democratic candidate Mark Harris, the current Winnebago County Executive, in the general election.2. Democrats battle over Milwaukee

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, has served three terms as a state senator in Wisconsin, and has been elected by huge margins each time. That consistency has not deterred state Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, however, from challenging her in the August primary election.

Barnes who currently represents the 11th Assembly District, says it is time for new leadership in the 4th Senate District.“It was time for transformative leadership in the 4th Senate District, which has quite frankly been ignored,” Barnes said.Barnes has highlighted three areas he thinks he will be able to improve: education, community safety and economic growth. He has attacked many of Taylor’s decisions, including voting against capping housing interest rates and supporting concealed carry.“I’m very confident with my time in the legislature,” Barnes said. “With the Senator, there has to be a lot of explaining with her votes.”Taylor could not be reached for comment. 3. Know your legislatorsIncumbent state legislators from the UW-Madison campus area are expected to have fairly uneventful paths to re-election in 2016. Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, represents most of Madison and all of the campus area. Risser, an 89-year-old lawyer, was first elected to the Senate in 1962, and is the longest serving legislator in state history. He will not face an opponent in the 2016 election.Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, has represented downtown Madison, the Southeast neighborhood of campus and a number of student residential areas since 2012. Before her election, she served as public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. She is running unopposed in the Democratic primary, but faces three opponents in the general election: Republican Jon Rygiewicz, Libertarian Abram Smith and independent David Aguayo. However, she is expected to win easily in the very liberal 76th district.Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, represents most of the UW campus, including the Lakeshore dorms and Chadbourne, as well as the near West side of Madison. Berceau, a Green Bay native, was first elected to the Assembly in 1998 after serving four terms on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. She is running for re-election unopposed.Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, has represented Madison’s East side since 2013. Sargent, a small business-owner who has become well-known for championing the legalization of marijuana, is also unopposed.Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, who represents most of Madison’s West side, faces a primary challenge from Jacob Wischmeier, described on his campaign’s Facebook page as a “Bernie Sanders Democrat.” Subeck, the former director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, is currently serving her first term in the Assembly after being elected in 2014. Her relative name recognition in the area is expected to propel her to victory over Wischmeier and her general election opponent, independent Chris Fisher.4. Sanders supports Milwaukee RepresentativeIn May, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his support for eight candidates running for state legislature seats around the country, including Wisconsin Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee. Sanders encouraged his supporters to donate to Bowen’s campaign, although he is running for re-election unopposed.“Bernie believes that the path toward bold change requires leaders to take back control of state capitols around the country and ensure fair redistricting in 2020,” Sanders’ campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a press release. “The leaders we’re raising money for today are the members of Congress, senators and presidential candidates of tomorrow.”Sanders’ website touts Bowen’s commitment to Milwaukee workers, highlighting his work toward establishing a living wage in the city.In April, Bowen became the first Wisconsin superdelegate to support Sanders’ presidential campaign.

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