Democrats surprise Republicans in battleground Wisconsin

Nov 9, 2022, 3:02 PM | Updated: 4:14 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers walks on stage Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, in Madison, Wis to make his accep...

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers walks on stage Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, in Madison, Wis to make his acceptance speech after beating businessman Tim Michels in Tuesday's governorship election. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

(AP Photo/Andy Manis)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats outperformed expectations during the midterm elections in battleground Wisconsin, leaving Republicans shocked at the narrower than expected win by two-term incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson and a further eroding of support in reliably conservative Milwaukee suburbs.

The biggest win for Democrats came with Gov. Tony Evers beating back a challenge by Republican Tim Michels to win another term, tripling the margin of his first win four years ago in a race that polls had shown for months to be about even.

“I think there was some genuine surprise the red wave didn’t show up in some races where they thought it would,” said Republican strategist Brandon Scholz. “There was a surprise that things tightened up because everyone got caught up in that wind tunnel of ‘We’re going to win this, we’re going to win that,’ and it just didn’t happen.”

There were gains by Republicans, although none were unexpected.

Derrick Van Orden, a Republican, won an open congressional seat in western Wisconsin in a district that has been trending more conservative. And while Republicans picked up seats in the Legislature, they appeared to have fallen short of their goal of reaching veto-proof supermajorities.

“Wisconsin remains the nation’s premier battleground state,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler.

He was already looking ahead to the next election on April 4, where a race for Wisconsin Supreme Court will determine whether conservative or liberal justices control the court ahead of the 2024 presidential race. President Joe Biden narrowly won Wisconsin in 2020 and former President Donald Trump carried it by a nearly identical margin in 2016.

“If Gov. Evers had fallen, or Republicans had gained supermajorities, the legitimacy and successful running of elections in a tipping point state would have faced mortal peril,” Wikler said. “Instead, this is a state where Democrats can compete and win and it raises the stakes for April 4 and 2024 alike.”

Scholz said the election results showed that Trump’s hold on Wisconsin Republicans has waned. Trump endorsed Michels in the primary, but was absent in the general election.

“I’m not finding or hearing from a whole lot of people who want to hitch their political future to Donald Trump anymore,” he said. “In terms of him leading the Republican Party, it’s a stretch.”

Democrats had prepared for much worse heading into Tuesday’s midterm and were girding for the possibility of either losing the governor’s race or seats in the Legislature to give Republicans veto override power, if not both. Instead, Evers won by a wider margin than he did four years ago, a win that Wikler said “defied the expectations of seasoned political pros and political scientists alike.”

Democrats were also poised to just barely win enough seats to deny a legislative supermajority.

“Our margins are impressive given the midterm environment,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer. She credited the issue of abortion rights, which polls have consistently shown a majority of voters supporting, as being a major factor.

“When 50% of the population loses a concrete right it motivates them to show up to the polls and make their voices heard,” she said.

Even Johnson’s 1-point win, just outside the margin that would allow for a recount, was far narrower than either of his two previous victories in 2010 and 2016 where he won by 5 points, and 3 points.

“I’m surprised in Wisconsin my race was this close, I am,” Johnson said Wednesday on WISN-AM.

In other races, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul won his bid for a second term and longtime Secretary of State Doug La Follette held a slim lead over his Republican challenger Amy Loudenbeck. She had wanted the office, now devoid of any significant duties, to take on some election responsibilities. But with Evers’ victory, the office is certain to remain as is, stuck in the Capitol basement with no power.

Urban parts of the state, particularly the liberal capital city of Madison, were even more Democratic in this election while rural areas went even more strongly for Republicans. But Michels did worse in suburban Milwaukee, home to the largest number of Republican voters, than former Gov. Scott Walker did four years ago against Evers.

Michels won conservative Waukesha County by 29,000 fewer votes than Walker did in 2018, a margin that he couldn’t make up in more rural parts of the state. On top of that, Evers won Dane County, home to Madison, by 23,000 more votes than in 2018.

“It is pretty clear, given our lack of success at the top of the ticket in the last two cycles, that the path for Republicans in the modern Republican era right now is pretty narrow statewide,” said longtime Republican strategist Stephan Thompson, who ran Walker’s 2014 reelection campaign. “You pretty much need an inside straight if you want to win statewide.”


Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

15 hours ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

2 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

9 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

10 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

12 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Democrats surprise Republicans in battleground Wisconsin