2012 elections preview: Wisconsin voters to select winners in congressional, legislative primaries

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August 13, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

Wisconsin holds its primary on Tuesday August 14, 2012. Wisconsin has an open primary system, where any registered voter can choose which party primary to vote in, regardless of party membership.

Here is a preview of what will take place in Wisconsin tomorrow, where the polls will be open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM Central Time.[1]

Contested Primaries in Wisconsin -- August 14, 2012
U.S. House
(8 seats)
State Legislature
(115 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 1 (12.5%) 29 (25.21%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 1 (12.5%) 21 (18.26%)


Wisconsin will hold elections for both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate this November.

U.S. Senate

See also: United States Senate elections in Wisconsin, 2012

Incumbent Democrat Herb Kohl is not running for re-election in November, leading to a hotly contested Senate race. Representative Tammy Baldwin is running uncontested in the Democratic primary. The Republican primary candidates include former WI governor Tommy Thompson, former Representative Mark Neumann, State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and Eric Hovde. A recent poll shows Hovde leading Tommy Thompson and Mark Neumann by two points and 16 points respectively, due to a barrage of TV ads.[2] If the Republicans win the seat in November, it could give them control of the Senate.[3] This would also essentially turn Wisconsin into a red state, with Republican Governor Scott Walker and Republican Senator Ron Johnson, assuming incumbents retain their House seats. According to Cook Political Report, the race is seen as a toss-up.[4]

U.S. House

See also: United States House of Representatives elections in Wisconsin, 2012

Wisconsin has 8 U.S. House seats up for election in November, however only two are contested. Perhaps the most interesting development has been in the 1st district, where incumbent Republican Paul Ryan was recently picked to be Mitt Romney's running mate for Vice-President.[5] Wisconsin law allows Ryan to run for both offices. If he wins his seat and is elected Vice-President, he would resign his congressional position and a special election would be held. If he loses the Vice-Presidency but wins his congressional seat, he may remain in Congress.[6] He is running unopposed in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Democrat Rob Zerban is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.[7]

The 2nd district will be contested. Incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin is running for the U.S. Senate. In the Democratic primary, Kelda Helen Roys, a state representative, faces fellow representative Mark Pocan. Matt Silverman and Dennis Hall round out the rest of the Democratic field. Chad Lee is running unopposed in the Republican primary.[8]

The 6th district has a contested Republican primary. Incumbent Tom Petri is opposed by Lauren Stephens. Joe Kallas is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.[9]

State Legislature

See also: Wisconsin State Assembly elections, 2012 and Wisconsin State Senate elections, 2012

There are a total of 115 legislative seats with elections in 2012 -- 99 Assembly seats 16 Senate seats.

There are 29 (25.21%) contested Democratic primaries and 21 (18.26%) contested Republican primaries between the two chambers, meaning 50 races containing more than one candidate will appear on the ballot tomorrow.


In the State Assembly, 81 incumbents are seeking re-election this year, 14 of whom face primary challenges: 9 Democratic and 5 Republican. Out of 99 seats up for election, there are 23 for which no Republicans filed, and 3 seats without a single Democratic contender.

The following is a selection of some notable Assembly contests:

Democratic Party District 10: District 22 incumbent Sandy Pasch, who first assumed office in 2009, faces two primary challengers, Millie Coby and Ieshuh Griffin. There was a third challenger in the race, Harriet Callier, up until the week before the election, when Callier withdrew her candidacy in order to consolidate support for her former opponent, Coby.[10]
Democratic Party District 18: Incumbent Tamara Grigsby's retirement attracted eight aspiring successors, making it the largest primary field of the election. Lisa Brown, James Dieter,Jarett Fields, Michael Glabere, Evan Goyke, Ty Jackson, Andrew Parker, and Lashawndra Vernon will vie for the Democratic nomination tomorrow. Since no Republican candidates filed for the seat, the winner will have only nominal opposition in the general election from Libertarian Melba Morris-Page.
Republican Party District 3: Incumbent Al Ott, who was first elected to the assembly in 1986, is opposed by pro-life activist Brandi Lefeber in the 2012 primary. Lefeber has received endorsements from several conservative organizations, including the Wisconsin Liberty PAC.[11]
Republican Party District 22: Incumbent Don Pridemore will square off with Washington County Republican Party former Vice-Chair Nick Oliver. Pridemore has served as the assemblyman for District 99 since 2005[12]
Independent District 34: There is one contested third party primary on the ballot -- Independent candidates Todd Albano and Kevin Fitzpatrick are competing for the open District 34 seat, whose current occupant, Republican Dan Meyer, did not seek re-election in 2012.

Wisconsin State Assembly
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 39 39
     Republican Party 58 60
     Independent 1 0
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 99 99


Out of 14 incumbents running for re-election to the State Senate in 2012, only one attracted a primary challenger, District 14 Republican Luther Olsen. There are no Republicans running in 4 races, and 2 races without any Democratic presence.

Notable Senate races include:

Republican Party District 14: Republican incumbent Luther Olsen of District 14 will have to defend his post against Markesan School Board member David Wayne Eiler.[13]
Democratic Party District 6: Democratic incumbent Spencer Coggs did not seek re-election this year, and because no Republicans filed for the election, the winner of the five-candidate Democratic primary - Elizabeth Coggs, Nikiya Harris, Michael Mayo, Allyn Monroe Swan, or Delta Triplett - will secure the seat without further contest. One of the Democratic hopefuls, Elizabeth Coggs, is the incumbent for District 10 of the State Assembly, as well as Spencer Coggs' cousin. She was endorsed by the outgoing state senator in her bid to take over his District 6 seat in 2012.[14]

Wisconsin State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 17 15
     Republican Party 15 18
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 33 33

See also