MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republicans probably won't be able to achieve a veto-proof majority in November's legislative elections, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Wednesday.
The GOP is heading into the elections with comfortable majorities in the Assembly and Senate. Republican leaders want to flip three seats in each chamber, which would give them two-thirds majorities in both and enable them to override any veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and pass anything they want.
Evers has made a “Save the Veto” campaign a focus of Democratic fundraising effort this year and supporters have responded in a big way. The state Democratic Party in July reported raising a record $10 million over the second quarter of the year. The state Republican Party raised about $860,000 over the same period, campaign finance reports show.
Vos said during a WisPolitics.com video conference alongside Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz that he believes the GOP has only a 30% chance of achieving a veto-proof majority given that Democrats have raised so much money.
“I don't think it's likely, only because of the environment that we're in," Vos said. “We're probably going to be outspent.”
Hintz said the national political climate and dissatisfaction with how President Donald Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic have given Democratic legislative candidates a boost.
“What we're seeing is the ... disdain for Trump coming down to the local level,” he said.
Wisconsin figures to be a key battleground in the presidential race after Trump won the state by only 22,000 votes in 2016.
Vos and Hintz said the pandemic is the top issue on voters' minds with the election approaching. State health officials reported 1,408 newly confirmed infections on Wednesday, bringing Wisconsin's total to 92,712 since the start of the pandemic. Eight more people died, bringing the death toll to 1,228. The University of Wisconsin-Madison reported its first student COVID-19 hospitalization. According to the university, 2,176 students and 33 employees had contracted the virus as of Wednesday.
Hintz called Trump's response to the virus “incoherent” and said Wisconsin's economy continues to struggle even though Republicans pushed the conservative state Supreme Court to strike down Evers' stay-at-home order in May.
Vos countered that Wisconsin hospitals have not been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, then quickly pivoted to attacking Democrats who want to defund police after multiple instances of white officers killing Black suspects. The push has gained momentum in the state after a white Kenosha officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back seven times last month. Blake survived but the shooting sparked demonstrations that sometimes turned violent.
Vos said legislators and local leaders shouldn't paint all police as racists. Hintz accused Vos of distorting the issue, saying police should be both respected and held to high standards. He acknowledged that the discussion needs a “better title” than defunding, however.
Vos said he still believes Republicans will emerge from the elections with a “strong” majority and should emerge from the elections with more than 60 of the Assembly's 99 seats. He said the GOP is targeting Democratic incumbents Nick Milroy of South Range; Steve Doyle of La Crosse; and Robyn Vining of Wauwatosa.
Hintz, for his part, said he believes Democrats can defeat Republican incumbents Jim Ott of Mequon; John Macco of De Pere; and Rob Hutton of Brookfield. Those districts lean heavily conservative but Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's momentum should carry down the ballot, he said.
“If it's a good year for Biden, we think the opportunity is there,” Hintz said. “I do think we can come back with more seats. The national political climate is volatile. If you said a year ago this the position you'll be in, I'd have been happy with that. The reality is we're motivated.”
AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter: https://twitter.com/trichmond1