"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"

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 professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain ("All My Children"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Patty Schachtner Rep. Adam Jarchow Wisconsin Wisconsin Senate Election