MADISON, Wis. - Top Democratic leaders in Wisconsin want to keep the momentum going from Tuesday night's special election.
Democrat Patty Schachtner beat Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow to become the first Democrat to represent the 10th Senate District in at least 16 years. Schachtner will replace Republican Sheila Harsdorf, who resigned to serve as state agriculture secretary for Gov. Scott Walker.
Marquette Law School professor Charles Franklin called the win a "striking shift" for Democrats, who hope to carry their momentum through to November's gubernatorial race.
"Whether these results are indicative of November, whether they're the beginning of the wave, or the peak of the wave, we don't know," Franklin said. "But it certainly is consistent with other indications that the Democrats have a building advantage going into November."
His advice for Democrats: "Recruit good candidates even in districts that you've lost pretty badly in the past." As for Republicans, he said, past performance doesn't necessarily indicate what's in store for the future.
The governor called the special election a "wake up call" for Republicans.
"Certainly to me and to folks who work with me, it's a wake up call that we can't just assume that everyone knows about the positive things we're getting done for the people of Wisconsin. Gotta spell it out," Walker said Wednesday.
Wisconsin Republican Party Spokesperson Alec Zimmerman released a statement to News 3 saying, in part, "The stakes are too high to sit on the sidelines and Wisconsin Republicans will be redoubling our efforts to engage supporters and take our message of results directly to voters across the state."
And U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said, "Typically, we've held this seat, and we lost the seat last night. So yeah, I think we should pay attention to it."
But as Republicans are re-evaluating, Democrats are rejoicing.
“I'd attribute this win to a great candidate, a robust field program we ran, and Patty's message resonating with voters who are dissatisfied with the Republican agenda," said minority leader Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
Martha Laning, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said it's a win, not just for Schachtner, but for all Democrats. She called the feeling "euphoric."
"We knew we had phenomenal candidates," Laning said.
Shilling and Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, released a joint statement Wednesday urging the governor to call special elections in the 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District.
Sen. Frank Lasee and Rep. Keith Ripp were both appointed to positions in the Walker administration in December, leaving both of their seats open as of Jan. 1.
Tom Evenson, communications director for the governor, tweeted a response to Shilling and Hintz's request, saying, "If you hold specials, these seats wouldn't be filled until after the Legislature adjourns for 2018, so it would be a waste (of) taxpayer money."
While the results of Tuesday night's special election won't affect control of the state Senate, where Republicans hold an 18-13 advantage, Democrats hope this could be the beginning of a blue shift in Wisconsin politics.
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