Number of Unopposed Candidates Skyrockets in Legislative Races
51 of 116 Races to be Uncontested in November
July 10, 2002
Madison - Runaway fundraising by incumbents who were able to use the state budget as an auction block and a lack of campaign finance reform have combined to make the legislature an easy job to get or keep for more than four dozen candidates this fall, a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows.
In addition to races in November for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and other statewide constitutional offices, there are 17 races in the Senate and 99 in the Assembly for a total of 116 legislative contests.
A preliminary review of legislative ballot candidates shows that 51 candidates in 116 races for the Senate and Assembly face no competition in the November election. That is a dramatic surge on a trend over the past three elections where the number of unopposed candidates has increased, from 37 in 1994, 26 in 1996, 41 in 1998 and 42 in 2000.
Breakdown of Unopposed Incumbents in General Elections
In addition to those who face no competition in November, nine of the remaining 65 Democratic and Republican candidates face only minor party challengers in the general election. The 56 candidates who face major party opposition is also a significant change from the previous elections when the number of candidates who faced major party opposition totaled 68 in 2000, 67 in 1998, 80 in 1996 and 68 in 1994.
The lack of contested races is likely due to the $4.3 million legislators had in their campaign war chests at the beginning of this year. That is 124 percent more than the $1.9 million they entered the comparable 1998 election year with and 44 percent more than the $3 million they had going into the 2000 election year.
"If there was ever a year when current office holders ought to be vulnerable, this is it," WDC executive director Mike McCabe said. "The lack of challengers speaks volumes about the need for campaign finance reform. Even with the budget mess and the political corruption scandal, prospective challengers look at the huge war chests amassed by the incumbents and figure it’s not worth trying."
The total number of legislative candidates on the general election ballot - 192 - hit a low from previous elections when there were 193 in 2000, 202 in 1998, 222 in 1996 and 201 in 1994.
The ballot status of some candidates who did not appear to qualify for the ballot because of inadequate or improper signatures on their nomination papers may still change in the event they successfully appeal their case to the Elections Board in the next several days.
This election year will see an increase in the number of open seats and candidates in the primary. Those two trends would generally be viewed as positive signs in most election years, however, this time around they are the product of legislative redistricting, which created new Assembly and Senate districts.
There were 19 open seats in the Legislature created by redistricting, however, five incumbents have chosen to move and run for those open seats because those districts more closely resemble the political makeup of their old districts. In previous elections, there were 10 open seats in 2000, 20 in 1998, eight in 1996 and nine in 1994.
The total number of legislative primary candidates in 2002 - 249 - was in the middle of the range from the previous four elections when there were between 235 to 263 legislative primary candidates.
In addition to legislative candidates, there are 12 candidates who are on the ballot for governor, including four Democrats, three Republicans, three Independents, a Libertarian and a Green Party candidate. There will be no primary for attorney general where one Democrat and one Republican will advance on to the general election.
|JP Drengler or John Ainsworth*||A06||R|
|Emmanuel Mamalakis or Josh Zepnick*||A09||D|
|Leon Young or Walter Lanier*||A16||D|
|Christine Sinicki or Chris Pawlak*||A20||D|
|Jean Hundertmark or Gary Hill*||A40||R|
|Sheryl Albers or Craig L. Buswell*||A50||R|
|Carol Owens or Chuck Dinkel or Eric Aaron Navis*||A53||R|
|Paul Melotik or Mark Gottlieb or Ben Pliskie*||A60||R|
|Robert Turner or John Dickert*||A61||D|
|Mark Gundrum or Marc Duff*||A84||R|
|Roman Blenski or Patrick Farley or Tim Carpenter*||S03||D|