"Wake-up call" for Republicans as Democrats win Wisconsin state seat in a heavy GOP district

Democrats won an upset in a deep red Wisconsin Senate district during a campaign described as "mean"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 17, 2018 9:41AM (EST)

 (Getty/Jewel Samad)
(Getty/Jewel Samad)

2018 is not looking like it will be a good year for Republicans.

A month after deep-red Alabama voted for a Democratic senator, a deep-red Wisconsin district rejected a Republican candidate for a state Senate seat.

Patty Schachtner picked up 55 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Rep. Adam Jarchow. She credited the win to her message: "Be kind, be considerate and we need to help people when they're down," she told the Associated Press. She said that "negative mailings" against her from third-party groups likely influenced voters to rally around her.

Schachtner's win is sending alarm bells off in Republican circles, as the district has traditionally been a Republican stronghold. It was carried by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election — even though he lost Wisconsin overall, as well as by Donald Trump (by a 55-38 margin) during the 2016 presidential election. Even John McCain came close to winning the district during the 2008 presidential election, though Barack Obama managed to win Wisconsin without difficulty.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the loss "a wake-up call for Republicans."

Schachtner — once the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County and someone who appeared on the reality TV show "Wife Swap" — was not willing to openly attribute her victory to public dissatisfaction with Trump.

"I’m just worried about western Wisconsin right now. Right now, in western Wisconsin, Wisconsin values is what keeps us going," Schachtner told the Journal Sentinel.

Schachtner's upset victory is without question an ominous sign for Republicans in the state, as Wisconsin columnist Christian Schneider noted:

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Patty Schachtner Rep. Adam Jarchow Wisconsin Wisconsin Senate Election