Three Races to Watch

I’ll have snacks and beer ready to go by 7PM (8 eastern) tonight and I’ll be mentally prepared for a drubbing. Kind of like settling in for a Packer game, now that I think about it.

Here’s what we know for sure. Democrats will lose the House and it’ll probably be by somewhere in the neighborhood of two dozen seats, which would be the historic average loss for the party in power in a midterm election. We also know that a bunch of election deniers will get elected to state and local offices, boding ill for what might happen in 2024.

But beyond that, it’s still possible that Democrats could hold the Senate and the Wisconsin Governor’s Office, though the trend is against them in both cases. And if Tony Evers wins, there’s a good chance that Attorney General Josh Kaul and Secretary of State Doug La Follette will be pulled along with him. While we know that the Republicans will pick up at least one seat in the State Senate to secure a veto proof majority there, the five seats they need in the Assembly are harder. Look for them to get two, maybe three, for sure.

To be clear, beyond the House majority and the State Senate pick up for the GOP, I’m making no other predictions, just trying to give the lay of the land here.

For those of us who like to go to bed early, let me offer three races to watch.

The first is the New Hampshire Senate race. Democrat Maggie Hassan was supposed to cruise, but the race has tightened in the closing weeks. Her opponent, Doug Bolduc, is a retired general and an election denier (though he changed his mind about that recently) and the kind of extremist Democrats wanted so much that they actually spent money in his primary trying to win him the nomination. When he did, Mitch McConnell’s PAC gave him up for dead. But as Bolduc scratched his way back they changed their minds and have now been spending money again in New Hampshire. If Bolduc wins look for a red wave. If he comes close, a wave might still be in play, but it’s less certain. If Hassan wins comfortably maybe it’s time to call off the storm warnings. But if Bolduc does pull it off expect big time blood letting in the Democratic Party over the questionable strategy of trying to help extremists win Republican primaries.

Next is Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District. According to CNN’s Chris Cillizza: “Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes has held the western Connecticut seat since 2018 and was reelected in 2020 with 55% of the vote as Joe Biden was carrying the district in the presidential race with roughly the same vote share. Republicans, however, have been bullish for a while about their nominee, George Logan. The former state senator is vying to become the first Republican to represent the district in about 16 years.” If Hayes loses in blue Connecticut, look out.  

Brad Pfaff is a perfect Democrat for his district, but can he overcome his party’s trashed image in rural America?

And finally, to give us a sense of what’s going on closer to home, there’s the Third Congressional District here in Wisconsin. This is the southwestern Wisconsin seat held for two decades by moderate Democrat Ron Kind. But Kind’s margins have been slipping and last time he edged out Republican and election denier Derrick Van Orden by only a couple of points. Donald Trump won here twice by about five points each time. Van Orden is running again and he faces State Sen. Brad Pfaff, who is tailor made for the district. He grew up on a dairy farm, was state Secretary of Agriculture and holds down a State Senate district that covers a third of the congressional district. But his party’s brand is trashed in rural America and the national party has abandoned him. It’s really just a question here of Van Orden’s margin of victory. If it’s over five points, look for Evers and Kaul to go down along with Mandela Barnes. If Pfaff can keep it under five points, the statewide Dems might still have a chance.

Let me close with a little pep talk for Democrats. There are four things that might stem the tide. The first is that early voting has been strong. I’m no fan of it myself, but early voters tend to be Democrats. So, if the mix leans stronger toward early voters, that could be a good sign. Second, the Democratic Party, much to my chagrin, has become the party of the college educated, and more educated voters tend to show up in midterm elections. That has become a built-in advantage for Democrats. Third, we have strong partisanship. People are just locked into their party. So, while inflation may be the overriding concern right now, that doesn’t necessarily translate into votes for Republicans in every case. And last, there’s abortion. That is looking like a bust of an issue for Democrats, but it’s still out there. We could be surprised.

So, my fellow Democrats, keep the faith, but certainly keep cocktail ingredients close at hand. You may need to deaden some pain tonight.

A longer list of bellwether races can be found here.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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