Republicans win big in special elections

Jessie Rodriguez will be the first Republican Latina member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, and only the second Latina lawmaker in Wisconsin history; she joins roofing company owner Bob Kulp as the victors in Tuesday’s pair of special elections to replace outgoing GOP representatives.

Jessie Rodriguez
Jessie Rodriguez

In the 21st Assembly district, which encompasses much of south Milwaukee County centered around Oak Creek, Republican Jessie Rodriguez has cruised to a big win. She won 4,546 votes (56%) to Ms. Coppola’s 3,520 votes (44%).

The City of Oak Creek tweeted the ward-by-ward results during the night; Ms. Rodriguez won 60-40 in those districts, taking all wards in Oak Creek.

In South Milwaukee Ms. Rodriguez won by 42 votes, not a small victory in the heavily left-leaning city. A friend of mine, a legislative staffer and political veteran who I’ll call The Guru, predicted a 55-57% finish for J-Rod.

In Oak Creek Ms. Rodriguez took a similar share of the vote as retiring Rep. Mark Honadel – Honadel got 60.7% in 2012, and this election saw a quarter the turnout of that presidential election, according to The Guru.

This was a trouncing for Democrat Elizabeth Coppola, who attended a school that trains Democrat women to run for office and whose financial problems made news earlier this month. Mitt Romney only won the 21st by two points in 2012.

Ms. Rodriguez won an Oct. 22 GOP primary with 1,512 votes, almost more than all four opponents combined.

This special election was called to replace retiring Rep. Mark Honadel, a Republican, who gave up the job for a private sector career.

Bob Kulp trounces Democrat challenger(s) in 69th

Bob Kulp
Bob Kulp

In the 69th Assembly district, spanning parts of Clark, Marathon, and Wood Counties in west-central Wisconsin, Republican Bob Kulp has trounced two opponents: Democrat Kenneth Slezak and Tim Swiggum.

Mr. Kulp has 67.3% to Mr. Slezak’s 24% and Mr. Swiggum’s 8.7% with all precincts now reporting, the unofficial canvas and our from-the-hip spreadsheeting show.

In Marathon County Mr. Kulp won 74.7% of the vote, in Clark County he won 64.7% and in Wood County he took 63.9%.

Mr. Swiggum isn’t just an independent, he ran against former 69th Representative Scott Suder as a Democrat, but he ran this time as a member of the Putting People Ahead of Politics party – if there is such a thing – in this go-around. He may have split Democrat votes from Mr. Slezak. But only 607.

Mr. Kulp in the primary defeated two Republican opponents: Alanna Feddick, who was supported with $45K in pro-school choice money; and Scott Noble, who built name recognition in his campaign for State Senate in 2012 and who represents the tea party-oriented wing of the GOP.

The seat was vacated by Republican Scott Suder, who took a job with the Wisconsin Paper Council.

Self-aggrandizing footnote: We believe we were the first outlet to call both races last night. Pretty cool for a blog that’s only been around six weeks!

Quote of the Day

“Voting today reminded me of how grateful I am for the opportunities we have in this country – including the opportunity to run for office.”

-Jessie Rodriguez, Assemblywoman-elect (WI-21)

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About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.