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WI Primary Roundup: Incumbents Sail, with One Notable Exception

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Official results will not be released by the Wisconsin State Elections Board until September 26th, but it is unlikely any statewide or district incumbents broke a sweat last Tuesday night…with the exception of Peg Lautenschlager in her bid to remain the state's Attorney General.

All three incumbent state senators were victorious, winning approximately three-quarters of the vote each:

District 7: Jeff Plale (Democrat), 74%.
District 23: David Allen Zien (Republican), 73%.
District 25: Robert Dauch (Democrat), 77%.

All ten incumbents from the State Assembly moved ahead to the general election as well, with only one near-competitive race among the bunch (District 53, decided by nine points).

District 16: Leon D. Young (Democrat), 80%.
District 24: Suzanne Jeskewitz (Republcan), 61%.
District 25: Bob Ziegelbauer (Democrat), 62%.
District 49: Gabe Loeffelholz (Republican), 60%.
District 50: Sherly K. Albers (Republican), 77%.
District 53: Carol Owens (Republican), 54%.
District 73: Frank Boyle (Democrat), 66%.
District 81: Dave Travis (Democrat), 58%.
District 83: Scott L. Gunderson (Republican), 81%.
District 91: Barbara Gronemus (Democrat), 81%.

The statewide race for Attorney General received the most attention in the run-up to the primary—and the results did not disappoint those wanting a close finish. Beleaguered 1-term Democratic incumbent Peg Lautenschlager was ultimately defeated 53-47 by County Executive Kathleen M. Falk in a race that cannot rightly be characterized as a true upset—as Lautenschlager had been fighting for her political life ever since her 2004 arrest on drunk driving charges.

The most interesting horserace of the evening proved to be in the Democratic primary in US House District #1 in which 2004 nominee Jeffrey Chapman Thomas narrowly bested a crowded field of five candidates (winning by three points with a 25% plurality). Thomas will have to knock on a lot of doors in the next few months to gain ground on four-term GOP incumbent Paul Ryan (who beat Thomas with 65% of the vote in 2004).

Now that the primary season is over, all eyes in Wisconsin will turn to the state's marquee match-ups: Jim Doyle vs. Mark Green in the race for Governor and physician Steven Kagan vs. State Assembly Speaker John Gard in the open 8th US congressional district. While political upsets seem to be a rare commodity these days, Smart Politics has the sneaking suspicion one of these two seats will switch parties. Will it occur in Madison with a not too popular democratic incumbent governor, or up in the Northeast in an open GOP-controlled, US House district?

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Political Crumbs

Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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