Changes in the Wisconsin Legislature

Republicans regained control of the State Senate Tuesday, winning an open seat in northern Wisconsin and retaking a seat it lost in the June recall elections. The State Assembly remains in Republican control, giving Governor Scott Walker a friendly and cooperative legislature in the two years ahead. This was the first election after redistricting and Republicans benefited from the boundaries they drew themselves last year.

Tom Tiffany, a Republican from Little Rice, defeated Susan Sommer to represent Wisconsin’s 12th District. The district had been represented by Democrat Jim Holperin since 2008, but Holperin chose to not run for re-election. Rick Gudex, a Republican from Fond du Lac, appears to have defeated Senator Jessica King. King defeated Republican Senator Randy Hopper in an August 2011 recall election. Gudex is leading King by just 591 votes, and King has not yet conceded. She has said she will consider a recount after the results of a canvass. One senate seat remains open. Republican Rich Zipperer stepped down in August to become Governor Walker’s chief of staff, leaving his seat open. State Representative Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) defeated State Representative Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) Tuesday to be on the December 4 special election ballot. The election is a formality — Farrow faces no opposition.

Should Gudex defeat King, Republicans will enjoy a 18-15 margin in the next session. Democrats and Republicans are expected to caucus next week to choose their leaders. State Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona) announced yesterday that would resign as Democratic leader. Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) have expressed interest in the position. Republicans are expected to rename Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) as their leader today.

Control of the State Assembly remained largely the same. Two races are considered too close to call and recounts are possible. Should the margins hold, the assembly will be split 58-38 with a large Republican majority. State Representative Robin Vos (R-Burlington) is expected to be elected speaker when the Republicans caucus next week. He replaces Jeff Fitzgerald who gave up his seat to run for in the Republican primary for United States Senator. State Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) is expected to run again for minority leader when the Democrats caucus next week.