MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans were hoping to ride the national tide of discontent to big wins in Tuesday’s election, while Democrats counted on their traditionally strong history of getting voters to the polls to give them the edge.
Top on the Republicans’ list was knocking off 18-year incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and capturing the governor’s office for the first time in eight years.
Political newcomer Ron Johnson of Oshkosh poured nearly $7 million of his own money into the race against Feingold. Polls leading up to the election showed Johnson with a narrow lead.
Republican Scott Walker was also leading in polls over Democrat Tom Barrett in the governor’s race. The seat is open for the first time in 28 years after Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle decided against seeking a third term.
Mike Friedman, 60, a tax consultant from the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, said he voted for Feingold because “he’s done a great job. He’s someone who’s willing to go across party lines and do what’s right,” and “to stick his neck out” on tough issues.
In the governor’s race, Friedman voted for Barrett.
“He’s done a better job creating jobs, he’s more open-minded, and he’s brighter” than Walker, Friedman said.
In Sun Prairie, Steve Villand, a 67-year-old retiree, said he went with Walker and Johnson. Villand said he likes their conservative positions, especially Walker’s promise to stop a proposed passenger rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. The federal government has committed $810 million to the state for the project.
It’s a “complete waste of money,” Villand said.
Turnout on Tuesday was predicted to be 50 percent of the voting-age population, roughly the same as in 2006 when Doyle won re-election and Democrats captured majority control of the state Senate. Two years later, Democrats took control of the Assembly as President Barack Obama carried the state by 14-points.
Democrats were largely on the defensive this year, trying to maintain the seats they already control. Five of the eight congressional districts were held by Democrats, but Republicans were targeting the open seat in central Wisconsin’s 7th District and the 8th District seat held by U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen. Also in play was western Wisconsin’s 3rd District seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind.
All 99 of the seats in the state Assembly were to be decided, 17 state Senate seats and lower-profile races for attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.