One of the six Republican Wisconsin state senators facing a recall election in August, Dan Kapanke, will start a television ad tomorrow that asks voters to continue to support him so he can stay and finish the job.
“You sent me to Madison with a job to do. We’re not there yet, but we’re making real progress. We’ve helped create 25,000 new jobs, improved the bond rating, and balanced the budget,” Kapanke says in the ad. “I intend to finish what we started, and I ask for your support.”
Of the six Republican state senators facing recall elections, Kapanke is thought to be the most vulnerable.
In 2008, he faced a tough reelection campaign, beating his opponent with just 51 percent of the vote.
Professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Charles Franklin explained that most observers are assessing vulnerability based on how these districts voted in the 2008 presidential election, the 2010 gubernatorial race, and the most recent state supreme court election.
President Barack Obama carried Kapanke’s district with 61 percent of the vote in 2008, which was five points better than the president did statewide. In the 2010 gubernatorial race, sitting Republican Gov. Scott Walker won by a smaller margin in Kapanke’s distict than he did statewide. Earlier this year, the district also went for JoAnne Kloppenburg, the candidate seen as the pro-union or anti-Walker candidate for technically non-partisan supreme court race.
Wisconsin’s senatorial districts are comprised of state assembly districts. Two of the assembly districts in Kapanke’s senate district – the 94th and the 95th – currently have Democratic representatives. That means that fully two-thirds of Kapanke’s district voted for a Democrat.
Kapanke’s opponent is Jennifer Shilling, currently the state assemblywoman for the 95th district, and Joseph Heim, a professor of political science at UW LaCrosse, says that Shilling has a “solid base” in that district.
The 94th district, Heim explained, “has historically been Republican,” but in a special election in May of this year, Steve Doyle, a Democrat, “flipped” the district.
The third assembly district in Kapanke’s senate district, the 96th, is represented by a Republican, but has recently been trending Democratic, Heim said.
The recall elections, following the fight over collective bargaining laws earlier this year, are widely seen as symbolic. Outside groups are already pouring in money.
The conservative Club for Growth Wisconsin has already begun running television ads attacking Kapanke’s opponent, Shilling. Liberal group Emily’s List has announced that they will endorse Shilling, along with the four other Democratic women running against Republican incumbents. Tea Party Express has also said they will get involved, and the union groups are also expected to make a strong play.
Shilling faces a primary challenge from James D. Smith, a Republican who is running in the Democratic primary as part of a GOP strategy being employed in all six races where a Republican is being recalled. In order to give the incumbent more time to campaign, Republicans are running a ‘fake’ Democratic candidate to force a primary and push the general election date back a month.
The primary is currently set for July 12. The general election will be held on August 9.