Blue wave didn’t land here

(First published in the November 8, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Despite the statewide results, Marathon County stayed decidedly red


State Rep. Patrick Snyder addresses supporters Tuesday night at the Hilton Garden Inn as he and other Republicans await results from election Tuesday night. Snyder defeated his Democratic opponent Alyson Leahy by a ten-point margin.

Republican state reps in Marathon County comfortably held their seats, even as Democrats retook the governor seat and other top state positions in last Tuesday’s election.

Assemblyman Patrick Snyder held off challenger Alyson Leahy by a 10-point margin to secure his second term in office in the 85th district; John Spiros kept his seat in the 86th District, defeating Nancy Stencil in a landslide, and Sen. Jerry Petrowski held off challenger Richard Pulcher in similar fashion to keep his District 29 state senate seat.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy also easily fended off Margaret Engebretson for the 7th Congressional District.

That contrasts with statewide results:

Though Tony Evers defeated Scott Walker to reclaim the governor’s seat for Democrats, Evers got only 39% of the vote in Marathon County, compared to Walker’s 59%.

Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin easily held off a challenge from Leah Vukmir, winning by 10.8 points — the widest margin in any major statewide contest since at least 2010. But Vukmir carried Marathon County with 53% of the vote compared to Baldwin’s 47%. In additional Wausau, Baldwin also won a few towns, including Bevent, plus the cities of Colby and Schofield.

Marathon County as a whole voted red. Evers didn’t carry a single ward outside of Wausau (though he won all but one Wausau ward), and most of those were close. Walker carried most town and village wards by a wide margin, often with nearly or more than double Evers’ votes.

The countywide results looked similar to the 2016 November election, in which Donald Trump took nearly every non-Wausau ward in the county, and even seven Wausau wards.

Snyder defeated Leahy by a wider margin than he defeated his Democratic challenger, Mandy Wright, in 2016; Snyder won that race by a seven-point margin. Wright has held the position as a Democrat in the past, making it less than a guaranteed seat for Republicans. In 2016 Snyder won by less than 2,000 votes. On Tuesday, Snyder won by a more-than 2,600 margin.

Leahy won by tight margins in most Wausau wards, but was trounced in most villages and towns in the eastern portion of the county the Assembly district covers. She didn’t carry a single town, village, or city outside of Wausau; that includes Schofield, where Baldwin won. And Snyder won some Wausau wards too.

Those results look drastically and predictably different in Portage County, where Evers defeated Walker by more than 2,000 votes.

Medical marijuana and campaign finance reform: People want ‘em.

Marathon County joined counties across the state in overwhelmingly saying yes to the adoption of medical marijuana.

More than 81% of Marathon County voters said yes Tuesday on an advisory referendum about Wisconsin allowing the use of medical marijuana. The vote seems to demonstrate that the issue is far from a partisan one, at least among voters. With the county overwhelmingly supporting Republican candidates this year, it’s clear that voters both Republican and Democrat support medical marijuana’s adoption. A similar percentage in Portage County and Lincoln County agreed.

The question received the same agreement in referenda statewide on election day; and questions about recreational marijuana also were overwhelmingly positive. In Milwaukee County, more than 2:1 favored legalizing recreational marijuana and in Rock County nearly 70% said yes. Not a single referendum on marijuana was defeated in the entire state. None are binding, but the results will send a strong message to state lawmakers.

A similarly strong message was sent by the results of the “Citizens United” campaign finance reform referendums presented on ballots across the state, including two locally.

Residents in Rib Mountain and the village of Weston overwhelmingly supported a referendum that asks for a U.S. constitutional amendment clarifying that only humans (nor corporations) should be considered citizens and that money is not speech.

Wausau and Merrill passed similar referendums in 2014 and 2017 respectively. On Tuesday, nine communities across the state approved the referendum question, bringing the total to 142 that have passed either a resolution or referendum on the subject.

The referendum refers to the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, in which justices faced a choice of regulating election-related speech or opening the doors to corporate money in elections. The Supreme Court decided on the latter, which many saw as diluting the electoral process.