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Primary Races to Watch on August 12

Mid-summer election will have some drama

Jul. 2, 2014
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All eyes—and the media—will be focused on the gubernatorial race this fall. But before voters determine whether Gov. Scott Walker deserves a second term on Nov. 4, the partisan primaries to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 12, which will select the nominee for each party.

Remember: Voters can cast ballots in only one party’s primary. No crossover voting is allowed.

Here are some of the campaigns you need to know:


Statewide Primary Races

Scott Walker is getting a free pass from his fellow Republicans this fall and is running unopposed for his party’s nomination. But Democrats have a choice between former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke and Brett Hulsey, a state representative who is making a long-shot bid for governor. Polls show that Burke is running neck and neck with Walker, who’s facing questions from the local and national press—and prosecutors—about his alleged campaign fundraising coordination with independent special-interest groups. The candidates are locked in for this fall’s elections, which means that even if the news gets even worse for Walker, he will remain on the ballot as a Republican candidate for governor.

Like Walker, Rebecca Kleefisch isn’t facing a Republican primary to secure her place on the ticket as lieutenant governor. Democrats can choose between John Lehman of Racine, who’s giving up his state Senate seat for this run, and Madison activist Mary Jo Walters.

Yet another Republican will run unopposed for a statewide position—this time, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, vying for state attorney general. And, once again, Democrats have a choice: Susan Happ is district attorney for Jefferson County, Ismael Ozanne is Dane County district attorney, and attorney Jon Richards is a longtime Milwaukee Assembly representative. This is an open seat, since Republican AG J.B. Van Hollen decided not to run for re-election.

Other statewide offices on the August ballot are secretary of state, where Republicans Garey Bies and Julian Bradley are vying for the chance to face off against incumbent Democrat Doug La Follette in the fall, and state treasurer, where Dave Leeper and David Sartori are seeking the Democratic nomination and Matt Adamczyk and Randall Melchert are the Republican candidates.


Milwaukee County’s Races

In addition to the main statewide races, the most action will be in Milwaukee County, where a slew of candidates will be on the August ballot.

Sheriff: The biggest countywide race is between Sheriff David Clarke and Milwaukee Police Department Lieutenant Chris Moews for the Democratic nomination for Milwaukee County sheriff. These two men faced off four years ago, but much has changed since then. Clarke was always a darling of conservatives and has openly identified with Republicans, even though he runs as a Democrat to win elections in Milwaukee County. But since his last election, Clarke has veered totally to the extreme far-right wing. His campaign isn’t really about his duties as sheriff; it’s to establish himself as a gun-friendly media personality who will say or do anything to generate headlines and even more media attention. Republicans may cross over to vote in this primary to show their support, but then again his comments about guns may turn off moderate Republicans who believe he has crossed the line one too many times. The winner will face Angela Walker, an independent candidate, on Nov. 4.

County Treasurer: Longtime treasurer Dan Diliberti has decided to retire, so this open position is on the August ballot. Two candidates, Milwaukee County Supervisor David Cullen and Dawn Marie Sass, are on the Democratic ballot. No Republicans have stepped forward.

Assembly Races: A number of Milwaukee Assembly seats are being contested in August and they are pitting progressive Democrats against school voucher-friendly Democrats and conservative Democrats who are backed by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

In Assembly District 8, on the near South Side, incumbent JoCasta Zamarripa will once again face Laura Manriquez in the Democratic primary; the winner will challenge Republican Vincent Synowicz in November.

Assembly District 10 is an open seat, since state Rep. Sandy Pasch decided not to run for re-election. Four Democrats are running: Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen, Bria Grant, Sara Lee Johann and Abele campaign aide Tia Torhorst. There is no Republican in this race.

In Assembly District 16, activist Tracey Dent will face incumbent Leon Young in the Democratic primary. No Republicans are running.

Assembly District 19 runs along the East Side from UW-Milwaukee to Bay View and has been represented by Jon Richards for the past 16 years. He is now running for attorney general, so this seat is wide open. Four Democratic candidates are on the ballot: Dan Adams, Jonathan Brostoff, Milwaukee County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic and Sara Geenen. Adams is backed by Abele, while the others are viewed as the progressives in this campaign. Look for tons of money to flood this race from labor, voucher supporters, business, the 1% and women’s groups. No Republican is on this ballot; the winner will face Joseph T. Klein of the Wisconsin Pirate Party in November.

Incumbent Christine Sinicki is running unopposed in the District 20 Democratic primary, but she will face the winner of the Republican primary—either Molly McGartland, Justin Moralez or Mike Pierce—in November.



Also on the ballot are a number of races for Congress in our region. In the First District, Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is facing an insurgent challenger, Jeremy Ryan, while Amar Kaleka of Franklin and Rob Zerban of Kenosha are vying for the Democratic nomination. District 4, covering Milwaukee, finds Gwen Moore defending her seat against former state Sen. Gary George in the Democratic primary, while David King and Dan Sebring are on the Republican ballot. In District 6, where moderate Republican Tom Petri has declined to run for re-election, there are four Republican challengers: tech college instructor Tom Denow, state Sen. Glenn Grothman, state Sen. Joe Liebham and state Rep. Duey Stroebel. The winner will face Democrat Mark Harris, the Winnebago County executive, in November.


State Senate

Thanks to the Republican-led redistricting effort, the GOP has a slim majority in the state Senate. But Democrats may have a difficult time flipping this house, because that same GOP gerrymandering effort reduced the number of truly competitive swing districts. That said, a few interesting partisan contests around the state will be on the ballot in August, thanks to a slew of incumbents’ desire to leave office.

Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen of District 15 is giving up his solidly Democratic seat in Janesville, allowing his fellow Democrats Janis Ringhand, Austin Scieszinski and Mike Sheridan to fight for their party’s nomination; the winner will face Republican Brian Fitzgerald in the general election. Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz’s retirement from District 17 in the southwestern part of the state provides an opening for Democrats Pat Bomhack and Ernie Wittwer since this district leans Democratic; Republican candidate Howard Marklein is running unopposed. In southeastern Wisconsin, Republicans redrew Racine’s map to make the District 21 Senate district a safe Republican district, which likely led Democrat John Lehman to decide to run for lieutenant governor. Republicans Jonathan Steitz and former state Sen. Van Wanggaard are competing for the Republican nomination to face off against Democrat Randy Bryce in November. In northwestern Wisconsin’s District 25, the seat long held by retiring Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch is being sought by Democrats Janet Bewley, a state representative, Gary Kauther and Thomas Ratzlaff, the Park Falls mayor. The winner will face Republican Dane Deutsch in the fall. This is a very safe Democratic Senate seat. Longtime Neenah state Sen. Mike Ellis has decided against running for re-election. There is no primary for this district, but Democratic state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber and former Republican state Rep. Roger Roth will be on the November ballot in what will likely be a competitive race.


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