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Wisconsin activist mom becomes 34th Democrat to flip a red seat since inauguration

Patty Schachtner is the first Democrat to win Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District in nearly two decades.

By Matthew Chapman - January 17, 2018
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Wisconsin's newest state Sen. Patty Schachtner

On Tuesday night, Democrats added another entry to their column of special election upsets in heavy Trump territory — this time in Wisconsin.

Democrat Patty Schachtner, a local school board member and former EMT, pulled off a victory against GOP state Rep. Adam Jarchow in the race for Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District.

This is the first state legislative seat to flip in 2018, and the 34th since Trump took office. It reduces the GOP’s majority in the state senate to 18-14.

The district, which encompasses a rural part of the Minnesota border, was vacated by Sheila Harsdorf, who took a position in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration in November. It is extremely conservative — Republicans have held it since 2001, even before the state was aggressively gerrymandered, and Trump won it by 17 points. The GOP put up a furious and well-funded fight to hold on to the seat, with the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity sinking $50,000 into the race.

But Schachtner claimed a double-digit victory, thanks in part to her pitch to improve mental health and addiction treatment in Western Wisconsin, and to a campaign that maintained a disciplined, positive tone.

“My message has always been be kind, be considerate and we need to help people when they’re down,” Schachtner told the Associated Press. “We just need to be kind to people who are less fortunate and just help.”

The loss of a deep red district was not lost on Walker, who tweeted that the election result is “a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.”

The special election was one of four held on Tuesday night for open Republican seats in Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Carolina. And while Republicans managed to hold the other three, Democrats overperformed by double digits in every single race:

Heading into the midterms this year, Democrats have an overwhelming edge among voters nationally — and that is even before a potential government shutdown over restoring full protection for young immigrants, which battleground state polls show voters would decisively blame on Republicans.

It is evident Americans want a sea change in politics. Even in overwhelmingly red districts, many voters are now beginning to question the status quo — and vote for something new.


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