|Knilans, Kolste set to battle for 44th Assembly seat|
|Knilans, Kolste set to battle for 44th Assembly seat|
|Written by RIck West/Janesville Messenger|
|Thursday, 16 August 2012 08:54|
JANESVILLE — With Wisconsin’s earlier-than-usual August primary in the rearview mirror, the state’s political attention shifts to the Nov. 6 general election for those successful in Tuesday’s balloting. It also gives candidates who avoided primary challenges the opportunity to begin campaigning in earnest against now-identified opponents.
One of the closest races in the Wisconsin legislative primary was a four-way Democratic race for Wisconsin’s 44th Assembly District. Debra Kolste, a three-term representative on the Janesville School Board, prevailed in a close race to beat eight-year Janesville School Board member Kevin Murray. Candidates Yuri Rashkin and Sam Liebert finished a distant third and fourth, respectively.
Kolste now begins her general election campaign against Republican incumbent Joe Knilans of Janesville. Knilans was elected in 2010 to the seat previously held by three-term Democratic legislator and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan. Like Kolste, Knilans prevailed in a four-way primary race two years ago prior to facing Sheridan head on in the general election.
In one of the few races in the region that featured more than one candidate in both party primaries, Democrat Janis Ringhand of Evansville and Republican Beth Schmidt of Orfordville prevailed in their primary races for Wisconsin’s 45th Assembly District. Ringhand defeated Beloit city councilwoman Sheila De Forest in the Democratic primary, while Schmidt bettered Russell Rucker in a race between two Orfordville Village Board trustees in the Republican primary.
In those races where candidates ran unopposed in both parties, the races now move into high gear for November.
In Wisconsin’s 31st Assembly District, Republican Amy Loudenbeck of Clinton Township will face Democratic challenger Ryan Schroeder of Delavan. Loudenbeck has been a state legislator since 2010, serving in the 45th District until redistricting shifted her residence into District 31.
In the 43rd District, Democrat Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson faces incumbent Republican Evan Wynn of Whitewater on the Nov. 6 ballot. Jorgensen has served in the Assembly since 2006, previously representing the 37th District.
The primary race that, without question, generated the most discussion and the most campaign advertising dollars, was the four-way Republican primary in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race; the only statewide race on Tuesday’s ballot.
Even though he’s been absent from the political arena for more than 10 years, former Gov. Tommy Thompson proved he still has his campaign savvy. Thompson, 70, won Tuesday’s primary race over challengers Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.
All three of the defeated Republican Senate candidates endorsed Thompson in his bid to keep Democrat Tammy Baldwin from making a shift from the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate.
“Voters in Wisconsin will have a clear choice between an extreme liberal from Madison or a proven reformer who can get us working again,” Republican Gov. Scott Walker said in a news release following Thompson’s primary victory.
Even before voters went to the polls Tuesday, Baldwin had challenged the Republican winner to three debates prior to the Nov. 6 election.
“This election is a choice, and providing the people of Wisconsin with an honest debate of the issues is what they deserve,” Baldwin said in a release. “There are clear differences in this election and voters deserve to have myself and my opponent meet face-to-face to debate the issues. I look forward to the Republican nominee joining me at these three statewide debates.”
The debates Baldwin agreed to are a Wisconsin Public Television debate in Wausau on Oct. 18, a Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation general election debate and a debate on WISN TV’s “UpFront With Mike Gousha” in partnership with Marquette University Law School.
At press time, it’s not known if Thompson had agreed to the debates.
In the race for Baldwin’s former seat in Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, Democrat Mark Pocan, a state representative from Madison, prevailed in a four-way primary race on Tuesday against fellow Madison Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, Matt Silverman and Dennis Hall.
Pocan, a small business owner, has served in the state Legislature for 14 years and will now face Chad Lee in the Nov. 6 election. Lee, who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican primary, ran unsuccessfully against Baldwin in the 2010 congressional election.
The Wisconsin candidate who has the most unusual campaign ahead for the Nov. 6 general election is Democrat Rob Zerban, a Kenosha County supervisor, who ran unopposed in the partisan primary for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional seat held by incumbent Paul Ryan. That race now takes on a new aura as Ryan’s attention has shifted to a national focus after being named last week as vice presidential running mate in Mitt Romney’s quest for the White House.
If Ryan is elected Nov. 6 as both vice president and representative, his election to Congress would be voided, according to Wisconsin statutes. Walker would then call a special election to fill the 1st Congressional seat, giving Zerban another shot at a seat on Capitol Hill.
According to the Rock County clerk’s office, 24 percent of the 91,200 voters in the county cast votes in Tuesday’s primary, with 52 percent indicating a Republican preference and 47 percent a Democratic preference.