Glad someone else picked up on the fact that the “Republican” candidate in Manitowoc County’s 25th Assembly District was an AFSCME ringer.
Now, Andrew Wisniewski has been officially removed from the ballot in that race. I’m glad, because I’ve always liked Bob Ziegelbauer.
I’m also glad because Assembly Democrats must be feeling a little bit of Jeff Wood deja vu in reverse.
Ziegelbauer’s departure from the Democratic Party, like Wood’s from the GOP in 2008, could prove to be the deciding factor in the disappearance of the Democratic Assembly majority this year. It means that Republicans need only to pick up two seats in order to force a 49-49 tie in the Assembly, with conservative Ziegelbauer holding the keys to the majority.
Considering the fact that he was essentially run out of the party that he’s been loyal to for his entire life, I like the chances of Ziegelbauer voting Republican for Speaker in 2011.
The Assembly GOP road to a majority looked nearly impossible a year ago. Even as national sentiment began to shift against Barack Obama and Democrats in general, no one really gave Jeff Fitzgerald much of a shot at picking up enough seats to win a majority.
But the whole dynamic has been flipped on its head, and any objective analysis has to give the Assembly GOP an even shot at winning back the majority – especially with a now-guaranteed Ziegelbauer win.
As I said before, Republicans really only need to pick up two seats. But first, they should write off the Brett Davis seat in Dane/Green County and not bother wasting the time and resources to retain a seat where Obama won something like 60 percent. That means they have to find three seats somewhere else.
In November 2009, I laid out a series of seats in that the GOP needed to target in its efforts to rewrite their Assembly map. Two of those seats will now be open and should be golden pickup opportunities (with 2006 Van Hollen district %):
Tom Nelson (Kaukauna) – 53.4%
Mary Hubler (Rice Lake) – 47.9%
In a wave year where Democratic turnout in Wisconsin may be catastrophically depressed, Republicans should be favored to win both seats, leaving one more pickup needed. The next best candidates are a handful of incumbents occupying GOP territory:
Ted Zigmunt (Two Rivers) – 55.5%
Amy Sue Vruwink (Milladore) – 52.5%
Andy Jorgensen (Fort Atkinson) – 52.3%
Tony Staskunas (West Allis) – 51.9%
Peggy Krusick (Milwaukee) – 51.5%
Marlin Schneider (Wisconsin Rapids) – 51.3%
Phil Garthwaite (Dickeyville) – 51.0%
In this group, it is difficult to see how Zigmunt survives, even though he will likely be paired against a weak GOP candidate. Heck, even Mark Green won this district with 52.7%, although I concede that AD-2 was within Green’s Green Bay home base.
Aside from Zigmunt, my sources in Marshfield claim that Vruwink is in trouble, although I need to see some polling data to believe that. I do not expect a strong challenge against Andy Jorgensen although, as a child of the 2006-08 Democratic wave, he’s never truly been tested. His well-connected challenger, Vicki Milbrath, could be one of those unexpected winners on Election Day if 2010 proves to be truly catastrophic for Democrats. Besides, this district has a strong (although fading) GOP tradition.
I believe Tony Staskunas could be in for a surprise. With a probable Scott Walker general election candidacy, I am expecting higher GOP numbers in this district, which neighbors Walker’s Wauwatosa power base. That is a big problem for Staskunas.
I also expect Marlin Schneider to have an extremely difficult race, and Travis Tranel will be far more formidable on a playing field tilted in his favor against Phil Garthwaite – another 2006er who’s never been fire-tested.
And there are still more that must be considered extremely vulnerable at this particular epoch of time:
Fred Clark (Baraboo) – 49.8%
Penny Bernard Schaber (Appleton) – 48.8%
Mark Radcliffe (Black River Falls) – 48.7%
Steve Hilgenberg (Dodgeville) – 48.4% – OPEN
Terry Van Akkeren (Sheboygan) – 48.1% (desperately wounded and vulnerable)
Kim Hixson (Whitewater) – 44.3%
Each of these districts have at least one Republican challenger approaching tier 1 – or a grievously wounded incumbent, such as is the case with Van Akkeren. It is plausible that 1-2 of these will flip, too.
There is little doubt that Assembly Republicans will pick up seats (the ones they’re defending, except for Davis, are much less competitive than those being defended by the Democrats). At the end of the day, the Manitowoc Effect may have no impact, but I believe there is at least a 20% chance that Bob Ziegelbauer will pick the next Assembly Speaker, and that is something that deserves some discussion.