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Down-ballot races getting attention from groups on both sides

Posted at 4:37 PM, Oct 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-02 17:49:58-04

Wisconsin voters have big decisions to make on Election Day and it's not just the US Senate and Governor's races at the top of the ticket.

There is also a down-ballot battle brewing that may not be on your radar yet.

Early voting is already underway in Milwaukee - and John Miceli has just finished voting for his candidates up and down the ballot.

"Obviously you want your candidates winning at every level," said Miceli. "And the importance of that down ballot as you say the state Assembly and stuff like that is critical."

Wisconsin Republicans have been winning at every level since voters elected Scott Walker governor in 2010. They control the state Senate and Assembly.

That historic victory gave Republicans the ability to pass sweeping legislation on public and private school funding - cutting taxes, restricting public employees collective bargaining rights and redrawing the senate and assembly districts.

"We focus on down ballot state legislative races that most folks don't pay a lot attention too," said Ben Wexler-Waite with Forward Majority

Forward Majorityis a group founded and staffed by former President Obama advisers. The group plans to drop $1 million on six state Senate races to help defeat Republicans including Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald.

"What we are trying to do is respond to the lobbyists and the Koch brothers outside money who have been time and time again pouring money into these campaigns," said Wexler-Waite.

The Koch brothers are conservative billionaires. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign lists their Americans For Prosperity, or AFP as number seven on its list of Interest Group Spenders with nearly $6 million since 2010 to help Republicans statewide.

"We are making sure voters know the truth about their records," said Wexler-Waite. "Making sure that they know these are people who will happily give a billion dollars in tax breaks to a foreign corporation but time and time again have voted to gut hundreds of millions of dollars from Wisconsin public schools."

AFP Wisconsin opposed the governor's billion dollar tax incentives for Foxconn saying taxpayer handouts are unnecessary. But there's no doubt about their long-term support for Walker.

"We been able to work with Gov. Walker and his administration on reforming our tax code advancing some of the best regulatory reforms the nation has seen in the last several years," said Eric Bott with Americans for Prosperity - Wisconsin.

Bott says they're just as committed as taking on what they see as corporate special interests

"Because of the pro-growth policies, we have worked with Gov. Walker to enact have created surplus revenues in the state and that both allows tax cuts and increase historical investment in K-12 education," Bott said. 

The biggest spenders in the state according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Greater Wisconsin Committee spent nearly $32 million to help Democrats get elected and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce dropping nearly $20 million for conservative candidates since 2010.

Caught in the middle of these epic political battles are voters like Miceli, "really frustrated with the way that both parties are just dividing and building walls."