MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats are looking to do something Tuesday that they haven't accomplished in six years: take control of the state Senate and finally stop the state GOP agenda.
Except for four months at the end of 2012 when Democrats used recall elections to briefly take control of the Senate, Republicans have run both legislative houses and the governor's office since 2011. The GOP has used its majorities to reshape Wisconsin politics, stripping public workers of union rights, approving concealed weapons, relaxing environmental regulations and redrawing legislative district boundaries to consolidate their power.
Democrats think that run is over. Republicans hold a 64-35 advantage in the state Assembly, putting that chamber all but out of reach. But the GOP has just an 18-15 edge in the Senate. Democrats hope voter anger toward President Donald Trump will put them over the top; the party flipped two GOP seats in special elections earlier this year.
Thirteen Senate seats are up for grabs, including eight Republican spots. Democrats need to hold five seats they already control and flip two others to win a 17-16 majority. That would allow them to block proposals from Scott Walker if he wins a third term as governor. It would also put Democrats in a good spot entering the 2020 elections, which will determine which party draws legislative district boundaries that will be in place for another decade.
Democrats are pinning their hopes on three female candidates — Kriss Marion, Lee Snodgrass and Julie Henszey. Marion is looking to unseat first-term incumbent Republican Howard Marklein in southwestern Wisconsin's rural 17th Senate District. Snodgrass is taking on Senate President Roger Roth in the 19th Senate District, which includes most of the Fox Cities. Henszey, a self-described adventure guide, is competing with Republican state Rep. Dale Kooyenga for an open seat in suburban Milwaukee's 5th Senate District.
If money is any indication, the challengers face an uphill fight. Marklein raised $254,000 between January and the end of August compared with Marion's $135,570. Roth collected $168,500 compared with Snodgrass' $66,700 and Kooyenga generated $132,700 compared with Henszey's $123,000.