It’s primary election day: Here’s who and what are on the ballot

By: - August 9, 2022 6:44 am

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Primary elections to choose challengers to incumbent officials top the list of elections around Wisconsin today. Which Republicans will run against Gov. Tony Evers and Atty. Gen. Josh Kaul, both Democrats, in November? Which Democrat will challenge Republican Sen. Ron Johnson?

Democrats in Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District also will choose a candidate to run for the seat being vacated at the end of this year with the retirement of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind. The winner of the primary will face Republican Derrick Van Orden, who narrowly lost to Kind in 2020.

In addition, there are partisan primaries for other races, including seats in the state Legislature, where an unusually large number of incumbents decided not to run for reelection. 

Of the legislative primaries, the one that has drawn the most attention is in the Assembly’s 63rd District in Southeastern Wisconsin. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), the single most powerful Republican officeholder in state government, is being challenged by Adam Steen.

Steen ran for office once before in 2018, coming in fourth in a GOP primary contest to succeed Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District. 

In completing a 2022 candidate questionnaire for Ballotpedia, Steen answered in generalities about his reasons for running and his top issues. But campaigning he has attacked Vos for not backing attempts to decertify Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election after Democrat Joe Biden won over President Donald Trump.

At a rally in Waukesha Friday for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim Michels, Trump welcomed Steen as well as Michael Gableman, the former state Supreme Court justice hired by Vos in 2021 to conduct a partisan review of the 2020 election.

Gableman has publicly argued for decertifying the 2020 election despite recounts and outside reviews that confirmed Biden won and there was no massive voter fraud — and despite the fact that there’s no provision in Wisconsin law empowering the state Legislature to take such an action. 

WisPolitics.com reported Monday that Gableman had recorded a robocall urging voters to pick Steen and claiming that Vos never really supported his investigation. 

“Justice Gableman knows overturning the election is both unconstitutional and impossible,” Vos told WisPolitics.com. “His attempts to lie to voters and gain favor with Adam Steen are sad and show how desperate he is to remain relevant.”

Here’s a round-up of what will be on primary ballots for statewide offices as well as the one Congressional primary in Wisconsin. 

Neither Evers nor Kaul has a Democratic primary challenger.

Governor: Republican primary — to select a challenger to Democratic incumbent Gov. Tony Evers. 

  • Rebecca Kleefisch, the former lieutenant governor to Scott Walker during his tenure as governor from 2011-2018; Walker has endorsed her.
  • Tim Michels, a construction company owner endorsed by former President Donald Trump. 
  • Tim Ramthun, a state representative whose principal campaign pledge in the governor’s race has been to pursue the legally impossible decertification of Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential vote.

Two other candidates are listed on the ballot:

  • Adam Fischer, who maintains a campaign website but has not participated in official debates among the other GOP primary candidates.
  • Kevin Nicholson, who has suspended his campaign.

Lt. Governor: Democratic primary — to select a running mate for Evers, whose current lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, opted not to run again and instead to run for the U.S. Senate.

  • Peng Her, founder and CEO of the Hmong Institute and member of Evers’ 2018 transition team.
  • Sara Rodriguez, a Democratic state representative elected in 2020 who decided to forgo a reelection bid to the Waukesha County district that she flipped when she defeated the Republican incumbent.

Lt. Governor: Republican primary — to select a running mate for the winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary

  • David King, a Milwaukee pastor who has previously run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly and state Senate as well as Congress.
  • Will Martin, an investment firm CEO and former state executive under Walker and Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.
  • Roger Roth, a Republican state senator from Appleton since 2014.
  • Patrick Testin, a Republican state senator from Stevens Point since 2016.
  • David Varnam, a former alderman and mayor of Lancaster.
  • Cindy Werner, a state ambassador for the conservative Frederick Douglass Foundation. Werner sued five Wisconsin cities for accepting private grants to help cover the costs of election administration during the 2020 election.
  • Jonathan Wichmann, a small business owner who initially explored running for governor before deciding to run for the No. 2 post.
  • Kyle Yudes, an Eau Claire insurance agent who has said he was inspired to run in opposition to COVID-19 public health protections instituted in 2020.

Attorney General: Republican primary — to select a challenger to Democratic incumbent Josh Kaul

  • Adam Jarchow, a former state representative from 2015 to 2019. 
  • Karen Mueller, an attorney who has pursued legal claims to require ivermectin be given to people with COVID-19 and who lost a suit to overturn the 2020 Wisconsin presidential election.
  • Eric Toney, Fond du Lac County district attorney since 2013.

Secretary of State: Democratic primary

  • Doug La Follette, Wisconsin secretary of state from 1975 to 1979 and then since 1983.
  • Alexia Sabor, chair of the Dane County Democratic Party.

Secretary of State: Republican primary

  • Amy Loudenbeck, a state representative from Clinton since 2011.
  • Justin Schmidtka, a truck driver.
  • Jay Schroeder, who ran for secretary of state in 2018 and lost to La Follette. He has previously run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly.

State Treasurer: Democratic primary — to select a candidate after Democratic incumbent Sarah Godlewski chose not to run for a second term.

  • Gillian Battino, a radiologist from Wausau.
  • Aaron Richardson, mayor of Fitchburg.
  • Angelito Tenorio, a nonprofit development manager and West Allis alder.

State Treasurer: Republican primary

  • John Leiber, an attorney from Cottage Grove.
  • Orlando Owens, of Milwaukee, southeast regional director for Sen. Ron Johnson.

U.S. Senate: Democratic primary — to select a challenger to Republican incumbent Ron Johnson. Three of the leading primary candidates have ended their campaigns and endorsed Mandela Barnes, but their names remain on the ballot.

  • Mandela Barnes, currently the lieutenant governor and a former state representative.
  • Sarah Godlewski, currently Wisconsin state treasurer (withdrawn).
  • Alex Lasry, a Milwaukee Bucks executive (withdrawn).
  • Kou Lee, a Fox Valley restaurateur.
  • Tom Nelson, Outagamie County executive and a former state representative (withdrawn).
  • Steven Olikara, organizer of the Millennial Action Project, a nonpartisan group of young lawmakers.
  • Peter Peckarsky, a Milwaukee lawyer.
  • Darrell Williams, former administrator of the Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management.

3rd Congressional District: Democratic Primary — to selected a candidate who will run against Republican Derrick Van Orden, the only GOP declared candidate for the open seat.

  • Rebecca Cooke, a business owner and Evers appointee to the Wisconsin Economic Development Commission.
  • Deb McGrath, a former Army officer and the daughter of Al Baldus, the District’s last Democratic member of Congress before Kind (1975-1981).
  • Mark A. Neumann, a physician who lost to Kind in the 2020 primary election.
  • Brad Pfaff, a state senator and previously Evers’ first nominee as secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; the state Senate’s Republican majority ultimately rejected his nomination after a political dust-up over the release of state funds to address suicide prevention among farmers.

Other congressional districts

There are Republican primaries in the 2nd and 4th congressional districts to choose challengers to the Democratic incumbents in those districts. There are also Republican primaries targeting the GOP incumbents in the 6th, 7th and 8th districts.

There are no other Democratic congressional primaries.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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