In January, a Democratic candidate won a state Senate special election in a district that Donald Trump won by 17 points, defeating a Republican who enjoyed considerable support from the party and its far-right allies. Three months later, a liberal judge easily won a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time in 23 years.
Against this backdrop, when two state legislative seats became vacant in the Badger State, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) came up with a plan to prevent his party from suffering more setbacks: he simply didn’t schedule special elections.
Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee filed suit, and a judge ruled in March that the Republican governor had to allow voters to fill the vacancies.
We now know Walker was right to worry. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported overnight:
Wisconsin Democrats came one step closer to gaining control of the state Senate by picking up a seat held by Republicans for more than 40 years, while the GOP held on to an Assembly seat in a pair of special elections Tuesday.
Caleb Frostman topped Rep. Andre Jacque in the 1st Senate District and Jon Plumer defeated Ann Groves Lloyd in the 42nd Assembly District.
Frostman will be the first Democrat to represent the northeast Wisconsin district since the 1970s – a win Democrats are hailing as more evidence of a so-called blue wave ready to flip more Republican-held seats in elections later this year.
The Democratic victory came in a district Donald Trump won by 17 points during his successful presidential bid.
Or as Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, put it a few months ago, Democrats are “winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be.”
This is the 43rd state legislative seat Democrats have flipped from “red” to “blue” since Trump’s inauguration.
As we last discussed in February, the typical response from GOP partisans is to focus on the congressional special elections, where Republican candidates have had more success.
It’s a fair point, but I’m still inclined to disagree. There have been six U.S. House special elections in the Trump era, and Republicans have won four of them. In one of the six, the president campaigned in support of the Republican in a district Trump carried in 2016, and the GOP hopeful still lost.
As for the four GOP victories, in each of these contests, Democrats ran first-time candidates in ruby-red districts, exceeded expectations and, forced Republicans to scramble to secure narrow victories.
And then, of course, there was a certain U.S. Senate special election in Alabama, which didn’t exactly go Republicans’ way.
Add this to the 43 state legislative seats in the Trump era that Democrats have flipped from red to blue, and the emerging picture is one that should leave GOP officials feeling pretty anxious.