Fewer legislators face challenges
Of 115 state legislative seats up for election this year, 41, or 35 percent, feature only one candidate, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. By house, six of 16 senate districts and 35 of 99 assembly districts offer...
Of 115 state legislative seats up for election this year, 41, or 35 percent, feature only one candidate, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. By house, six of 16 senate districts and 35 of 99 assembly districts offer voters no choice; by party, 20 Democratic and 21 Republican candidates are unopposed.
“The news is more discouraging,” WISTAX President Todd A. Berry says, “when districts are included that have only token (independent or third-party) or no opposition after the August primary.” In about half - 8 of 16 in the senate and 48 of 99 in the assembly - one party is “virtually assured victory.” Put another way, of 115 districts, voters in only 59 (eight senate, 51 assembly) have a choice this fall between major-party candidates.
WISTAX also noted the total number of legislative candidates running this year - 224 - is the lowest since at least 2000. Over the nine most recent election cycles, the number of candidates was highest in 2010 (314) and 2012 (246) and lowest in 2000 (238).
Neither party is immune from the decline. Republicans are at a historic low (96 candidates); the previous low (111) was 2008, also a presidential year. Democrats are fielding 124 legislative candidates this year vs. 104 in 2014; however, they generally field more candidates in presidential years. A more telling comparison is with the two most recent presidential years, as the party’s total this year is off from both 2012 (164) and 2008 (146). The total number of third-party or independent candidates in 2016 (four) is also down. The high for 2000-16 was 26 candidates in 2010, followed by 20 in both 2002 and 2004.
The approaching partisan contests in Wisconsin raise a troubling question for WISTAX’s Berry who asks: “If voters nationally have been engaged so far this year, why did relatively few run for our legislature, even though, compared to Congress, state campaigns are cheaper and less vitriolic, and state service is more likely to yield results? Is government the problem, or do we citizens share blame due to inattentiveness, apathy or laziness?”
The WISTAX report, “They’re Off: State Legislative Candidates Set for August Primary, Fall General,” is available by visiting www.wistax.org; emailing email@example.com ; calling 608-241-9789; or writing WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033.