MADISON (AP) — More than 30 Wisconsin legislators have filed paperwork with state elections officials declaring they won't run for re-election this fall, including more than a dozen who plan to run in new districts and 15 others who say they're done with state government completely.
All 99 seats in the Assembly and 16 in the Senate are up for election in November. The Senate is currently split 16-16, with one vacancy, and four recall elections on June 5 will determine which party controls it heading into November. Republicans hold a 59-38-1 advantage in the Assembly.
Republicans who controlled the Legislature during the last session redrew state voting district boundaries, an exercise the Legislature undertakes every 10 years to account for population shifts. The Republicans drew the new boundaries in secret, fortifying Republican incumbents' hold on their areas and weakened Democrats.
The new maps left some incumbents, Democratic and Republican alike, living outside districts they've represented for years. Some Democratic incumbents ended up in the same district, forcing them to decide who would run.
Rep. Mark Radcliffe of Black River Falls, for example, decided to retire after he learned he would be in the same district as his colleague, Rep. Chris Danou of Trempealeau, said Joel Gratz, executive director of the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee. Rep. Bob Turner of Racine made the same choice after ending up in the same district as colleague Cory Mason, also of Racine, Gratz said.
Incumbents had until the end of the day Friday to file paperwork with the state Government Accountability Board to declare that they're not seeking re-election this fall.
Nine Assembly Democrats and five Assembly Republicans who filed declarations also have filed campaign finance documents indicating they'll run in a new district.
The Democrats include Danou; Mason; Terese Berceau of Madison; Sandy Pasch of Whitefish Bay; Andy Jorgenson of Fort Atkinson; Chris Taylor of Madison; John Steinbrink of Pleasant Prairie; Sondy Pope-Roberts of Middleton and Janis Ringhand of Evansville. The Republicans are Stephen Nass of Whitewater; Chris Kapenga of Delafield; Keith Ripp of Lodi; Samantha Kerkman of the Town of Randall; and Don Pridemore of Hartford.
Berceau said incumbents running in new districts face plenty of confused voters who don't realize Republicans have redrawn the maps.
"They're not exactly sure why they lost the representative they had," Berceau said. "Even in Madison, I've run into people who have said, 'Oh, I'm sorry to be losing you as my rep. ... The issue is going to be 'I don't get it. Explain why so-and-so's not around anymore and you are.'"
The past legislative session was one of the ugliest in Wisconsin history as Republicans pushed through GOP Gov. Scott Walker's contentious law stripping most public workers of nearly all their union rights.
Tens of thousands of people converged on the state Capitol to demonstrate against the measure non-stop for three weeks. Minority Democrats in the Senate fled the state in a vain attempt to block a vote in that chamber and Assembly Democrats forced Republicans to endure a 61-hour filibuster before they approved the plan. For months after the plan passed, protesters disrupted committee meetings and chased Republican lawmakers around the Capitol, calling them names.
Democrats removed two Republican state senators in recall elections last summer and have forced Walker, Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three more Republican senators into another round of recalls on June 5, creating a toxic atmosphere around the Capitol.
Fifteen lawmakers who had filed declarations of non-candidacy as of Friday evening planned to leave the Legislature altogether.
Five Assembly Democrats, four Assembly Republicans, independent Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc and Democratic state Sen. Jim Holperin of Conover plan to retire outright.
One Assembly Democrat, Mark Pocan of Madison, is running for Congress, and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, a Horicon Republican, is running for U.S. Senate. Democratic state Sen. Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee is leaving to serve as Milwaukee County treasurer and Assembly Democratic Louis Molepske is running for Portage County district attorney.
Two Assembly Democrats, Elizabeth Coggs of Milwaukee and Donna Seidel of Wausau, are running for spots in the state Senate. Two Assembly Republicans, Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst and Jerry Petrowski of Marathon, also are running for Senate positions. Petrowski, in fact, is set to square off against Seidel in a June 5 recall election for an open seat.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Did you like this article? Vote it up or down! And don't forget to add your comments below!