Candidates, Wisconsin Statewide and Federal Elections

Updated

The race for Wisconsin governor is getting more crowded on the Democratic side. So far, five have officially entered the Democratic primary, and two other possible contenders have set up campaign committees.

Here’s an updated list of announced candidates for statewide and federal elections in Wisconsin in 2018. While formal announcements by incumbents from governor to Congress are so far few and far between, it’s generally expected that most incumbents will run for re-election. We will update this list as formal announcements start rolling in.

Governor

  • Bob Harlow (D) – 25-year-old Stanford graduate who last ran for Congress in California in 2016 formally announced in May
  • Andy Gronik (D) – Milwaukee businessman told the AP he will be running in June
  • Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) announced he’s running on Aug. 7
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers (D) announced he’s running on Aug. 23
  • State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D) announced she’s running on Sept. 25
  • Former DPW chairman Matt Flynn (D), a 70-year-old former attorney, announced he’s running on Oct. 10
  • Mike McCabe, a progressive operative who runs Blue Jeans Nation, has announced.
  • Governor Scott Walker (R) has not yet formally announced he’ll run for re-election, but is widely expected to announce upon completion of the state budget.
  • Former state Sen. Tim Cullen, Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Dane County exec Joe Parisi, and Milwaukee County exec Chris Abele have all declined to run.
  • Other possible Democrat contenders are Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, former Rep. Brett Hulsey, and firefighters union president Mahlon Mitchell. Hulsey has set up a gubernatorial campaign committee.
  • In all, there are 18 active campaign committees for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Lt. Governor

  • No formal announcements yet
  • Lt Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R), incumbent

Attorney General

  • Josh Kaul (D) – A 36-year-old Madison lawyer and son of former Wisconsin AG Peg Lautenschlager, who recently resigned as head of the state Ethics Commission.
  • AG Brad Schimel (R), incumbent

U.S. Senate

  • Marine Corps veteran and businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) formally announced in late July
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), incumbent
  • State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) formally announced her candidacy on Sept. 7
  • Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde is a possible candidate, but talk of his running has dimmed
  • Nicole Schneider of the Schneider Trucking family decided against running
  • Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald won’t run; he’s endorsing Vukmir

Wisconsin Supreme Court

  • Incumbent Justice Michael Gableman announced he won’t seek re-election
  • Michael Skrenock, conservative Sauk County Circuit Court judge
  • Liberal Madison attorney Tim Burns
  • Liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet

Congress, 1st District

  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R), incumbent
  • Paul Nehlen (R), reprising his failed primary challenge of 2016 against Ryan
  • Randy Bryce (D), union activist who bills himself as an iron worker
  • Cathy Myers (D), teacher and Janesville School Board member
  • David Yankovich (D), Ohio resident who moved to the district this spring
  • Ryan Solen (D) has an active campaign committee

Congress, 2nd District

  • *Rep. Mark Pocan (D), incumbent
  • Dan Theron (R) has an active campaign committee

Congress, 3rd District

  • *Rep. Ron Kind (D), incumbent
  • Retired Army Colonel Steve Toft is rumored to be a potential Republican challenger

Congress, 4th District

  • *Rep. Gwen Moore (D), incumbent
  • Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski, a moderate Democrat, is considering challenging Moore in the Dem primary

Congress, 5th District

  • *Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R), incumbent

Congress, 6th District

  • *Rep. Glenn Grothmann (R), incumbent
  • Dan Kohl (D), nephew of former Senator Herb Kohl and Bucks executive has announced
  • Scott Olmer (D), a marketing consultant, has also announced
  • Jeffrey Dahlke (I) has an active campaign committee
  • Sarah Lloyd (D) also has an active campaign committee

Congress, 7th District

  • *Rep. Sean Duffy (R), incumbent

Congress, 8th District

  • *Rep. Mike Gallagher (R), incumbent
  • Tom Nelson (D) maintains an active committee

State Races

By throwing her hat in the ring for U.S. Senate, Sen. Leah Vukmir will give up her seat representing the 5th Senate District. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) has announced his candidate to replace Vukmir. Barring a surprisingly strong primary challenger, the good money is on Kooyenga taking the 5th S.D.

That leaves Kooyenga’s 14th Assembly District seat up for grabs. No one has announced their candidacy for it yet, but possible candidates are current state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, whose family owns property in the district; Johnny Koremenos, who runs communications for the Attorney General’s office; and Luis O. Cardona, who served in the U.S. Army with Kooyenga and currently works for Rep. Shannon Zimmerman.

On the other side of the state, Mel Pittman has officially reprised his 2014 bid for the 31st Senate District. His announcement came days before Vinehout’s announcement in Black River Falls that she’d run for governor. It’s worth noting that Vinehout only defeated Pittman in 2014 with 52.4 percent of the vote, the 31st went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016, and the only incumbent Democrat to lose their seat in 2016 was Chris Danou, whose district is within the S.D. 31.

With Pittman the heir apparent in S.D. 31, it’s unclear who the Democrats could put up in Vinehout’s stead. The notoriously party-blind region of the state could go either way despite its lurch toward Trump, but the highest-profile elected Democrat in the district with Danou out is Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), who is also running for governor.

Rumors are also circulating that Sen. Sheila Harsdorf might be under consideration to run the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). If that happens, her senate district (S.D. 10) would be an open seat. An early potential contender is Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), but freshman Rep. Shannon Zimmerman – a successful businessman who could potentially finance a senate race in that expensive media market – is another possibility. Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) rounds out representatives in S.D. 10.

Some in the media may try and portray Harsdorf’s district as a possible pick-up for Democrats, but that’s unlikely. In her last election in 2016, Harsdorf annihilated her Democratic opponent, Diane Odeen, with 63.22 percent of the vote.

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.