Democrats Won A Local Election In Wisconsin & Here's Why It's A Big Deal

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On Tuesday, Jan. 16, a Democratic challenger won an election that flipped a seat in Wisconsin's state Senate from red to blue, and it's quietly making headlines nationally. Compared to the last special election that received national attention — Doug Jones' win over Roy Moore in Alabama — Tuesday's race was of less consequence, particularly since it wasn't an election for a seat in Congress. Yet, the result is still being treated like a big deal, specifically because the Democrats' win in the Wisconsin Senate is considered by some notable conservatives to be a big warning sign for the Republican party.

One of those conservatives is Wisconsin's own GOP governor, former Republican primary candidate Scott Walker. On Wednesday, the morning after the election — which was won by Democrat Patty Schachtner in Wisconsin's 10th Senate district — Gov. Walker devoted eight tweets to reacting to the special election loss for his party.

"Senate District 10 special election win by a Democrat is a wake up call for Republicans in Wisconsin," Walker wrote in one tweet. In another, Walker said, "WAKE UP CALL: Can’t presume that voters know we are getting positive things done in Wisconsin. Help us share the good news."

What Others Are Saying About The Election

Christian Schneider, a conservative columnist for USA Today and The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, shared some insight before the election about why the Senate district up for grabs is so important. "Some inside stuff on #SD10 — You know how everyone always talks about GOP dominance in Waukesha County? Well, St. Croix County is the Waukesha County of the Twin Cities. If Rs lose it, it's catastrophic," Schneider tweeted on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday morning, after the election results were reported by the Journal-Sentinel, Schneider added, "Enthusiasm gap, bad messaging and Trumpism are all suspects ... Low-turnout special elections are notoriously hard to gauge, but at the very least, it looks like the Dems are holding a good hand before the 2018 flop."

Schneider was just one amongst a number of conservatives who reacted similarly.

What Exactly Is The Big Deal?

Tuesday's election win for Patty Schachtner in Wisconsin's 10th Senate district results in the flip of a seat that has been Republican-held for over 15 years. During the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump won the district by 17 points. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney won the district despite losing the state to former President Barack Obama.

Long story short, "SD10" was a reliable district for Republicans. Recent history dictates that losing reliable districts and states is a sign of worse things to come for a party.

During Obama's tenure in office, Democrats lost over 1,000 seats of power nationwide, from governorships, to Congressional seats, to seats in state legislatures (like the one up for grabs in Wisconsin on Tuesday night). While the result of the 2016 presidential election came as a shock for most, including Trump himself, it was quietly foreshadowed by dozens of elections over years that went Republicans' way.

The bottomline? What happened nationwide during Obama's time in office has informed us that local elections are one way in which voters show their resentment towards sitting presidents and their party, which is the reason why Schneider listed "Trumpism" as one of the reasons that could have contributed to the Democratic win on Tuesday.

That's also the reason why statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey last November were such a big deal and why — even if very quietly — some people are making a big deal out of the state Senate race in Wisconsin. The result is now being treated as a warning sign for Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.