Primary Election: August 8th, 2018
General Election: November 6th, 2018
Republican Scott Walker will seek a third term as Wisconsin Governor in the 2018 election. This is Walker’s fourth statewide election in eight years (a recall election occurred in 2012, but was unsuccessful). Walker was first elected in 2010 as a conservative Republican who opposed same sex marriage and promised to limit government spending. Walker’s collective bargaining reforms for public employees, as well as his funding cuts for public schools, created controversy in 2011. As a result, voters garnered more than 900,000 signatures requesting a recall election in 2012. After spending more than $30 million, Walker defeated Democratic candidate Tom Barrett, a former Milwaukee Mayor and U.S. Congressman that he had previously defeated in 2010. In 2014, Walker defeated Mary Burke, a corporate executive and former Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce.
Walker’s divisive policies continue to fuel a backlash among voters. According to a February 2018 poll from Morning Consult, Walker’s approval rating has remained at 43 percent for the past year, while his disapproval rating sits at 50 percent. In lieu of disappointing numbers, Walker has raised more than $3.7 million in the second half of 2017 and entered 2018 with roughly $4.2 million. Despite staying true to his base, two other Republicans are in the running with hopes of claiming the primary nomination: businessman Robert Meyer and anti-abortion activist Ryan Cason.
Meanwhile, seventeen Wisconsin Democrats have registered for the gubernatorial primary, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Many candidates have used Walker and Trump’s divisive nature as a rallying cry, but a clear party favorite has not emerged.
Major Democratic candidates include State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, State Representative Dana Wachs, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin President and 2012 lieutenant governor candidate Mahlon Mitchell, former state Party Chair Matthew Flynn, former non-profit director Mike McCabe, and businessman Andy Gronik. The field raised a combined $2 million in the last quarter of 2017 and began 2018 with roughly $1 million on hand – $3.2 million less than Walker’s campaign. With roughly six months to go until the primary and a lack of polling, it does not appear the field will decrease soon.
During a special election in January 2018, a rural state Senate seat held by Republicans since 2000 (it also went for Trump in 2016) was won by a Democrat. While the “Blue Wave” looms large in Wisconsin, a fragmented Democratic party with a small funding apparatus has improved Walker’s chances of winning a third term. As a result, the Cook Political Report has the race “leaning Republican,” while Inside Elections has the race as “likely Republican.”
Stephen O’Brion Contributed To This Report