Wisconsin Democrats lost what is likely an unprecedented number of legislative seats tonight, as the GOP took back control of the State Senate and the Assembly by decisive margins.
As of midnight, a Democratic source has predicted an Assembly that has switched from 53-46 Democratic to 60-39 Republican. All over the state, Democrats who were thought to be safe lost, including Marlin Schneider, the longest-serving member of the Assembly in history, and of course, Mike Sheridan, the Assembly speaker, who represents a district centered on Janesville that typically favors Democrats by large margins.
The Democrats lost their majority as well as their leader in the Senate as well. Russ Decker was not recognized as a vulnerable incumbent until recently, and the Wispolitics ratings of the races assessed his district as "Advantage Dem" at the end of September. But he went down too, prompting one lobbyist at the Old Fashioned to ask when the last time the speaker and majority leader of the Senate went down in the same election.
"We lost safe seats. I mean safe seats," said one union activist. "I am floored," said one Democratic legislator.
However, the results in individual races suggest that the losses were not due entirely to an anti-Democratic wave. Vulnerable Dems like Penny Bernard-Schaber (D-Appleton) and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout either won or ran competitively (still developing), whereas supposedly safer Dems like Roger Anclam, Schneider and Sheridan lost. In the district formerly represented by Brett Davis, a Democrat, Janice Ringhand won election.
Were these Dems out doing doors like they were supposed to? The Wisconsin Democratic Party has some explaining to do.