MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Despite lackluster fundraising and an absence of support from some of his party’s leaders, one of the main proponents of prevailing-wage repeal won the Republican primary for an open state Senate seat on Tuesday.
State Rep. Andre Jacque, a Republican from De Pere, defeated the businessman Alex Renard in a contest to win the Republican nomination for Wisconsin’s 1st Senate District, which stretches from the Fox Cities to the tip of the Door peninsula. Jacque will now face the Democrat Caleb Frostman in the general election scheduled for June 12.
Jacque got crossways with some Republican leaders in the state Assembly in 2015 when he decided to hold a hearing on a bill calling for the repeal of the state’s prevailing-wage laws. Various Republican officials, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, had expressed skepticism that the proposal would win enough support to pass and were instead pushing an alternative plan that would have left the pay requirements intact although significantly rolled back.
Jacques’ hearing was then widely perceived as giving the push for repeal new momentum. Although the bill his committee heard was never officially adopted, it set the stage for the Legislature’s total elimination of prevailing wages last year.
Renard never explicitly drew a contrast between him and Jacque on the issue of prevailing wages. About the closest he came to expressing support for prevailing-wage laws came during an interview with the news organization WisPolitics.
Alluding to some state lawmakers’ recent decision to increase their take-home pay, Renard said: “As a legislator, I won’t take a massive increase in my daily per diem, and I’m not going to take a legislative salary hike and then, on the other hand, cut the pay of blue-collar employees.”
Whatever influence the candidates’ positions on prevailing wage might have had on the behind-the-scenes politics, Jacque said on Wednesday that other matters were likely at the front of voters’ minds.
“The larger issue was the independence it showed for me in the past standing on principle,” he said. “Although certainl,y there were individuals or personalities that were involved because of that issue.”
Beyond the lack of support from some in his party, Jacque was also burdened by a fundraising disadvantage. He raised $50,184 and spent $28,261 between late February and the end of April. Renard, meanwhile, raised $146,560 and spent $112,770 during the same period.
With his victory on Tuesday, Jacque was quickly winning back support from Republican officials who had backed his opponent in the primary. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted his congratulations to Jacque, saying “Time to circle the wagons.” And John Nygren, a chairman of the Legislature’s powerful budget committee, said in a telephone interview he supported Renard because he thought he was best positioned to win the primary but he said will now support Jacque because the voters picked him.
Jacque’s election was not the only one that was decided on Tuesday. Republican voters also went to the polls to choose their party’s nomination to represent the the state’s 42nd Assembly District, which encompasses an area just north of Madison.
In that contest, Jon Plumer, the owner of a karate school from Lodi, defeated Colleen Locke-Murphy, Darren Schroeder and Spencer Zimmerman. Plumer will now face the Democrat Ann Groves Lloyd in the general election on June 12.
The two seats that Jacque and Plumber won the GOP nomination for have stood vacant since December, when Gov. Scott Walker appointed the Republican incumbents, Sen. Frank Lasee and Rep. Keith Ripp, to positions in his administration.
The governor had refused for months to schedule special elections in the districts, even though he was required to by state law. It took a court order in March to force him to call the contests.
Walker’s stance fueled speculation he’s afraid Democrats could make gains in the state Legislature by rallying voters who are angry with Donald Trump’s presidency. Already this year, the Democrat Patty Schachtner managed to win a state Senate seat that usually goes to Republicans. And the liberal-leaning judge Rebecca Dallet won a spot on the state Supreme Court.
But even if Democrats managed to win elections to the two seats that were on the ballot on Tuesday, that outcome wouldn’t change the balance of power in either state Legislature’s chambers. Republicans control the Senate 18-14 and the Assembly 63-35.
– The Associated Press contributed to this articleFollow @TDR_WLJDan