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Democrat Patty Schachtner's Upset WI Victory

Thirty-Four and Counting—Congratulations Badger State Patty Schachtner! January 23, 2018

“All politics is local.” Remember that saying, attributed to the late legendary Democratic Speaker of the House, MA’s Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (harpers.org/archive, 2/2012)? In the age of “Trumpasaurus Rex,” it’s time to amend that statement to read, “All politics is national as well as local.”

On 1/16/2018, “Team Blue” totally shocked the state and national political world. In a special election race in WI’s 10th Senate District, Democratic St. Croix medical examiner Patty Schachtner clobbered GOP WI State Assembly member Adam Jarchow 54.6%-44.2%, a 10.4% margin (DeFour, host.madison.com). Schachtner’s win flipped this district “Blue.” This special election was held to fill the vacancy left by GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s 11/2017 appointment of Republican State Senator Sheila Harsdorf as agriculture secretary (AP, Richmond, 1/16/17, host.madison.com, DeFour). Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for the WI Democratic Party, stated, “Everything is in play now. This is a district that has been a very red district for a long time, and the numbers last night were very blue (NY Times, Bosman, 1/17/18).” GOP Koch Bros. stalwart Gov. Walker, who is running for re-election on the “Red” ticket in 2018, tweeted on Twitter, “Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin (NY Times, Bosman).” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told reporters, “Typically, we’ve held this seat, and we lost this seat last night. So, yeah, I think we should pay more attention to it (NY Times, Bosman, 1/17/18).” The NY Daily News called Schachtner’s win an “astonishing upset” that could signal the turning tide against Trump in the upcoming 11/2018 midterms (dailynews.com, Chia, 1/17/18). Let’s look at the Schachtner-Jarchow race and what it means for Campaign 2018.

The Wisconsin 10th State Senate District (SD) is located in northwestern WI. The Badger 10th is composed of parts of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, Pierce, and Dunn Counties. St. Croix County, the most populous part of the district, is partly a suburb of MN’s Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. However, most of the 10th remains dominated by rural towns and has become more conservative over time. The 10th WI Sen. District contains three State Assembly Districts, all represented by GOPers. The southern part of the WI 10th SD is located within WI’s 3rd Congressional District, represented by Dem. Ron Kind. The northern part of the 10th is within WI’s 7th Congressional District, represented by GOPer Sean Duffy (maps.legis.wisconsin.gov, Kos, lufthase, 1/16/18, DeFour, host.madison.com). The GOP has held the WI 10th since 2001. In 2012, Romney beat Obama here by 6 percentage points, 52%-46%. In 2016, Trump hammered Hillary in the 10th by a 17% margin, 55%-38%, key numbers that helped him carry WI by .7%. Every county in the WI 10th SD voted for Donald (DeFour, host.madison.com, NY Times, 8/01/17, AP, Richmond, 1/16/18). Some of these counties that voted for Trump had previously voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, part of the group of 206 so-called “Pivot Counties” that were key to Donald’s surprise victory.

How did Dem. Schachtner triumph? Schachtner was well-known in the most populous part of the WI 10th, St. Croix, where she was the County Medical Examiner. She is also a member of the Somerset School Board. She had previously served as an emergency medical technician. In 2006, she had appeared in an episode of the reality TV show “Wife Swap.” She serves on the board of her local food pantry and on “Turning Point Wisconsin,” a center for victims of sexual and domestic violence (racesdlcc.org, 1/16/18, Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,1/17/18,DeFour, host.madison.com). Her name recognition with 10th SD voters helped her take on her GOP opponent, WI 28th Assembly District two-term incumbent Adam Jarchow who had built up a strong base (AP, Richmond, 1/16/18). Peggy Schachtner’s family is well-known in this area. In 2014, when Jarchow won his first election to the WI State Assembly, he defeated Travis Schachtner, Peggy’s son (Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/17/18).

Schachtner ran on a platform of “investing in people and revitalizing our area.” She stressed making sure that “every Wisconsinite has access to affordable health care, funding for our public schools, technical colleges and UW (University of WI) campuses, or investing in good-paying jobs right here in Western Wisconsin (huffingtonpost.com, Terkel, 1/16/18).” Health care, education, and jobs are local and national issues that Democrats should run on. GOPer Jarchow angered voters by sponsoring bills that reduced environmental protections, while Schachtner took pro-environmental stands. Members of the WI League of Conservation voters were motivated to defeat Jarchow because of his anti-conservation background. Jeff Smith, an organizer for the liberal group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said that efforts to clean up the Red Cedar Watershed were hampered by bills Jarchow sponsored limiting local zoning control. Constituents were upset over his pro-corporate stances (DeFour, host.madison.com).

Sensing vulnerability in the normally “Red” WI 10th SD, the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Wisconsin endorsed Jarchow. This was the first time that this WI group had endorsed a candidate (DeFour, host.madison.com). The AFP spent at least $50,000 on ads for Jarchow, while the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce combined to spend $80,000. The Democratic Greater Wisconsin spent $30,000 and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee contributed $10,000 (Terkel, huffingtonpost.com, 1/17/18). Although heavily outspent, the Democratic sums of money in this local race helped to level the playing field. Democratic grass roots along with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) turned out Democratic voters. Democrats knocked on 23,000 doors in sub-zero weather for Schachtner. DLCC executive director Jessica Post praised Schachtner’s winning campaign strategy of standing for health care, education, and jobs while emphasizing her lifelong connection to this district (Terkel, huffingtonpost.com, DLCC newsletter).

And, of course, what about the “T”-Trump effect, or “politics being national?” Jarchow supported Demagogue Donald in 2016, now a very unpopular fellow (See DeFour, host.madison.com). Many analysts attribute Schachtner’s win to fierce anti-Trump Democratic opposition (DeFour, host.madison.com). Schachnter herself did not directly say whether the opposition to Trump had helped her campaign. She stated her victory “could certainly be a bad sign for Republicans elsewhere in her state (NY Daily News, Chia, 1/17/18).” She didn’t need to say anything about Donald. It’s obvious. According to the latest USC/LA Times Poll, conducted online from 12/15/2017-1/15/2018, only 32% of those sampled now approve of Donald v. 55% who disapprove, a significant decline from its last 4/2017 poll where Donald only had a 7% deficit (The USC/LA Times Poll was one of the few to predict Donald’s 2016 win). Democratic opposition is far stronger and more enthusiastic than that of Trump’s supporters. In 11 swing states, such as WI, Trump has a similar 33%- 54% approval/disapproval rating. If congressional elections were being held today, voters prefer Dems to GOPers by 11 points. Trump has lost 1/8 of the voters who approved of him in 4/2017. GOP consultant Mike Murphy believes voters may (in 2018) be “ready to potentially punish the president (Lauter, LA Times, 1/19/18).”

Since Trump took office, Democrats have now flipped 34 “Red” legislative seats “Blue” in states all over the country, including in swing VA, and “Ruby Red” AL and OK (huffigntonpost.com, Terkel, 1/16/18). And unlike AL, where GOPer Roy Moore was an extremely ethically and morally flawed candidate, GOPers with more credible resumes, including Jarchow, have also gone down.

Thirty-four “Red” to “Blue” flips do not yet make a “Blue” tsunami. We have political lifetimes to go until the 11/06/2018 midterm election. The GOP has built-in advantages. Nationally, it has a trifecta--the White House, House, and Senate. It controls the majority of governorships and state legislatures. It also has a “noise machine” led by FOX NEWS along with numerous talk show wannabes that endlessly churn out propaganda talking points. Republicans are backed by numerous millionaires and billionaires willing to spend oodles to maintain their business/anti-consumer majorities. However, with Trump’s election and nearly complete “Red” control, the country is beginning to understand how reactionary this gang is. WI conservative author/talk show host Charlie Sykes tweeted after Schachtner’s win, “We (GOP) are losing independent and educated women in droves (@SykesCharlie, 9:10 PM-Jan 16, 2018).” Sykes states the obvious. We all saw that in VA, AL, and, now WI. Such losses do not bode well for the GOP’s future. The GOP still holds an 18-14 WI State Senate majority, but both parties know, with Schachtner’s victory, that the Badger State GOP Senate majority is “definitely in play” come 11/2018 (See DeFour, host. madison.com)

All the marches on the anniversary of Trump’s inauguration mean nothing. The Democrats have one equalizer, as Bill Clinton often said—the vote. One of the signs in a women’s march on 1/20/2018 put it well. It read—“Grab’Em (the GOP) by the Midterms.” Exactly. Come out in droves on 11/06/2018 and take back the House, possibly the Senate, and the majority of governorships and state legislatures. There are more of us than them. Send Donald and his gang a message. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS vote. The GOP runs the country now because, as Obama noted, we have “fallen asleep” during too many midterms. We can not do that again. Congratulations, Patty Schachtner! It’s 34 and counting.