Not A Lot of Surprises

We wake up this morning to election results that really don’t contain many surprises.

Supreme Court. As expected Janet Protasiewicz won an easy victory over Dan Kelly. The only surprising thing was Kelly’s concession speech. It was curious to hear a guy lament the loss of dignity on the court as he called his opponent a liar. In truth the whole race was pretty awful, but Kelly gave as good as he got, so we’ll put him down as a classless whiner. We’re no big fans of Protasiewicz either, but without a choice of someone with the temperament to be a justice, we’re glad we got our hack instead of their hack. Probably by this fall we’ll see abortion rights restored and more fair legislative maps imposed. But don’t expect that to lead directly to Democratic majorities because Democrats are too clustered in cities. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

Republican Dan Knodl

State Senate. There was every reason to think that the special election for State Sen. Alberta Darling’s seat in the Milwaukee suburbs would come down to the wire and it sure did. Republican Dan Knodl edged out Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin, giving the Republicans back the two-thirds majority they held briefly before Darling resigned. They’re still two votes shy of a veto proof majority in the Assembly, but Knodl raised the spectrum of voting to impeach Protasiewicz before she’s able to overturn the abortion law and the gerrymandered maps. That sounds crazy and I think it’s unlikely, but on the other hand, the maps are existential to Republicans because it’s how they guarantee that they stay in power. Maybe Kelly’s rant was part of a plan to set that up. Nah, he’s just an obnoxious guy.


Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway was reelected as expected, but while her ten point margin was comfortable, her 55% was smaller than the 60% she got in the primary. Credit challenger Gloria Reyes with running a decent campaign and doing better than expected.

Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich won by six points, a relatively comfortable victory in a hotly contested race.

Racine Mayor Cory Mason won by 15 points, which begs the question of why the state Democratic Party thought they needed to dump an astounding $400,000 into his race. I guess they had to spend it someplace.

The Chicago mayoral race went to hard-left candidate Brandon Johnson, a former teachers union official. That surprised me a bit as the recent trend in big, liberal cities has been to reject the hard-left. Paul Vallas seemed like the much better choice to me. We’ll see what happens, but this does not bode well for either better schools or lower crime in the Windy City.

Madison School Board. As expected, MTI-backed candidate Blair Mosner beat our YSDA-backed candidate Badri Lankella, proving that the teachers union is more powerful than we are. (Get the word out.) But the margin was 56% – 44% and we felt that anything over 40% for a guy who had no organized support going up against a union-backed candidate, who was endorsed by both newspapers, would be pretty good. So, 44% indicates some level of concern among Madisonians about the direction of their schools. If someone could put some infrastructure behind a center-left movement candidates like Lankella could start winning.

Referenda. Again, no surprises here as the state constitutional amendment that allows judges to take a defendant’s violent history into account when setting bail, passed two-to-one. The phony statewide advisory referendum asking about work requirements for welfare recipients won with almost 80%, while the Dane County bogus advisory questions on gerrymandering and abortion passed with 85%. There were similar abortion questions on the ballot in other communities with similar results. Both sides tried to use referenda to run up their numbers for the Supreme Court race, but with those candidates and third parties spending about $45 million, voters were voting directly on that race and the referenda had no impact on turnout or the outcome.

What’s the takeaway? Well, Democrats should feel pretty good, but they shouldn’t be over-confident. Protasiewicz won big, but so did the conservative referenda questions on welfare and bail. And, as mentioned above, even when they get better maps their work will still be cut out for them if they want to win back the legislature. Majorities should get back in reach now, but they still need to move to the center.


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

One thought on “Not A Lot of Surprises

  1. Somewhat counterintuitively, Lankella’s strongest concentration of support was actually the UW student wards. He also won a few scattered wards on the south central, southwest, and northeast sides of Madison.


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