Winning Wisconsin in 2020

The Wisconsin Republican Party is one of the most detestable political institutions in this country. After their takeover of the state in 2010, Wisconsin Republicans enacted one of the cruelest gerrymanders in the country—the GOP held onto a supermajority in 2012 despite Democrats winning the majority of the popular vote. They have undermined public education and refused to expand Medicaid, while giving away billions in corporate welfare to Foxconn. And in April they, led by GOP Speaker Robin Vos, sent hundreds of thousands of voters into harm’s way during a global pandemic in the hopes of retaining a State Supreme Court seat (they didn’t and Democrats flipped the seat).

After the 2016 election, Democrats have rebuilt their apparatus in the state, gaining the governorship and preparing to win statewide in the presidential election. The Party launched an aggressive field operation, and organizations like BLOC are leading innovative community-based approaches to encourage turnout and build long-term organizing among Milwaukee’s sizable African American communities. However, the polling in Wisconsin remains tight and few are focused on how we can make major gains in the Wisconsin Assembly, the lower house in the state. With the newfound focus on Wisconsin, it’s time to take action to help Democrats make gains in the state legislature. At EveryDistrict, we have a plan to make a major impact in Wisconsin in 2020. Here’s how.

Growing out from Milwaukee

The left shows state legislative districts won in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. The right shows state legislative districts won in the 2018 U.S. Senate election.

As throughout the country, suburban districts are beginning to tilt heavily toward Democrats. In Wisconsin, we’ve seen some of the same trends outside of Milwaukee, at tremendous speed. Districts that went to Republicans by double digits less than a decade ago are now competitive for Democrats. Below, we compare the results in the 2012 Presidential election and the 2018 U.S. Senate race, where Tammy Baldwin was re-elected. She won four GOP-held Assembly seats in suburban Milwaukee: ADs 13, 15, 21, and 23.

The West is how Wisconsin is Won

The labeled districts are all held by Republicans. The districts in light blue were one by one of Clinton, Evers, or Baldwin. Medium blue was won by 2 of 3. Dark blue (District 51) was won by all three.

While it is a popular online political meme to discuss crucial Waukesha County, we’re paying more attention to western Wisconsin, considered the “swingiest” region in the country. If we look at the 2016 presidential and 2018 senate and governor’s races, the path comes into focus for how Democrats win back the Wisconsin Assembly. These are the places we’re emphasizing in our work in the state.

In close: Be like Tammy

If Democrats are able to capitalize on the sort of magic that makes Senator Tammy Baldwin, or Congressman Ron Kind, for that matter, so popular in Western Wisconsin, we can pair those gains with continued growth in the Milwaukee suburbs. And that would give us a path to a majority in Madison. In 2018, Senator Baldwin won in 55 (of 99) districts across the state. While this sweep came in a 10-point victory in a good year, what it symbolizes should not be forgotten: a progressive, female, LGBT senator was able to win in the sort of rural, white districts that Democrats need to win to regain power in the Wisconsin state legislature. Strong candidates with authentic connections to their district can win across the state in 2020.

ADLDIRankingStatewide Wins
5113R-Lean D3
494R-Lean D2
963R-Lean D1
850R-Lean R1
92-1R-Lean R1
88-2R-Lean R1
21-2R-Lean R1
4-3R-Lean R1
30-3R-Lean R1
50-4R-Lean R1
68-4R-Lean R1
42-4R-Lean R1
23-5R-Favor R2
13-5R-Favor R1
55-5R-Favor R1
24-6R-Favor R1
29-6R-Favor R1
15-6R-Favor R1
1-7R-Favor R1

But ultimately, how many seats Democrats will be able to win will depend on the ability to recruit and financially support candidates across the state. There are already a number of exciting candidates running in some of these districts, and with Wisconsin’s filing deadline for state legislative candidates not until June, there’s still a lot of time for recruitment. EveryDistrict will announce our first endorsements closer to the filing deadline.

JUNE UPDATE: Following Wisconsin’s filing deadline, EveryDistrict is endorsing an initial 12 candidates. After vetting these candidates and their campaigns, we feel confident that they are running competitive campaigns that can flip these red districts blue. We’re also keeping a close eye on two districts (ADs 85 and 96) with competitive primaries. Learn more about our endorsed candidates here.

You can help flip the Wisconsin Assembly by making a donation. 100% of what you give will go directly to our 12 Wisconsin endorsees to help them run strong campaigns that can win in November.

For more information, visit Visit our Wisconsin page to learn more about competitive Wisconsin districts on our interactive map, and sign up for our email list to be the first to know when we make endorsements in Wisconsin.