Taking control of the state senate is the ultimate prize, and would be a huge victory for Democrats.
Most observers see the defeat of Dan Kapanke, from a district that is increasingly Democratic, as a near-certainty. The next-most vulnerable Republican is Randy Hopper, who has been trailing in most polls, though it’s still a toss-up: a Democratic poll yesterday had him up by one point, and a Republican poll had him trailing by a point. Luther Olsen’s seat is also considered a toss-up.
Robert Cowles is considered safe by most, leaving two races as the most critical to watch: Alberta Darling and Sheila Harsdorf. If they have a hope of taking control of the senate, Democrats need to win at least one of them. “The signals have been so mixed here,” says Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, though he says both races probably tilt slightly Republican.
If Democrats somehow manage to win four seats, they don’t have to worry about the outcome next week, when two Democratic senators face recalls. They would gain decisive control of the state senate, giving them the power to block future initiatives from Governor Walker and the Republican-controlled state Assembly.
“This is a very important power issue between both parties for control,” says Professor Franklin. Though with Republicans still control of two of the three branches, he adds, “it does not mean Democrats get to put things back the way they were.”